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Motor vehicle 'safety' legislation sure looks familiar

The Senate Commerce Committee holds a hearing this afternoon on S. 3302, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act, legislation introduced in the wake of the Toyota recalls. We look at Title III and wonder which trial lawyer wrote these provisions?


Sec. 301. Public availability of early warning data.
Sec. 302. Improved NHTSA vehicle safety database.
Sec. 303. Consumer notice of software updates and other communications with dealers.
Sec. 304. Promotion of vehicle defect reporting.
Sec. 305. NHTSA hotline for manufacturer, dealer, and mechanic personnel.
Sec. 306. Whistleblower protections for motor vehicle manufacturer, part supplier, and dealership employees.
Sec. 307. Corporate responsibility for NHTSA reports.
Sec. 308. Anti-revolving door.
Sec. 309. Deadlines for rulemaking.

A database of public complaints, legal protection for people making accusations -- founded or unfounded -- an entire government infrastructure designed to promote the claims that motor vehicles are dangerous and manufacturers are legally liable. It's as if a congressional staffer took the early drafts of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, rubbed out a few words, and filled in the blanks with "motor vehicles."

It's really not that far-fetched. The first witness at today's hearing is David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At a May 6 hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) -- Strickland endorsed the draft legislation.

Strickland is a former committee staffer for Chairman Waxman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), sponsor of S. 3302, and as a Commerce Committee senior counsel, he wrote much of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Learning from all the damage wrought by that legislation, he now joins with his former Congressional colleagues to apply the litigious lessons of the CPSIA to the auto industry.

P.S. As we've noted previously, Strickland is also a former lobbyist for the American Trial Lawyers Association (now the NHTSA-lobbying AAJ), although that experience is not mentioned in his official NHTSA bio.

Correction (11:10 a.m.): Corrected and elaborated on Strickland's former staff position in Congress.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.