There are several pleonastic terms in common use: burning fire, black darkness, tuna fish, hot water heater, unfair speed trap. Pleonasm is the use of redundant terms in a single phrase to describe something. The title of this article qualifies. A federal agency overreacting? That is simply “routinely normal.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been stung in recent months by accusations that it didn’t react quickly enough in forcing Toyota Motor Corp. to recall its vehicles after reports of sudden acceleration problems. NHTSA’s administrator, David Strickland, came out swinging in response to the criticism, and now he is pushing hard for Congress to afford his agency broader powers.
Strickland wants the head of NHTSA to have the authority to order the sales of a particular vehicle halted immediately if he feels that there is an “imminent hazard” to the public in not doing so. The car companies oppose Strickland’s proposal. In bypassing the current process of public hearings, they are concerned about extensive recalls being influenced by politics and public pressure, even if the evidence is sketchy.
The counter from Strickland: “If the threat to human life is truly imminent, [NHTSA] needs to act quickly and not be slowed down by a lengthy process.” He added that such authority would be used “very judiciously… only in those situations where the hazard was truly imminent and the manufacturer unwilling to cooperate.”
It is now eight months since the deaths of an off-duty California highway patrol officer and three others in an accelerating 2009 Toyota Lexus ES. NHTSA is still investigating the cause of the incident, and Toyota has recalled about 3.8 million of its vehicles. It is difficult to see how a NHTSA czar with absolute powers can provide further benefit to this kind of situation.
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