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Inside the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Legal Determinants of Bureaucratic Organization and Performance (with D.L. Harfst), 57 University of Chicago Law Review 443 (1990)


In an earlier article we described how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was established to force the design of safer automobiles through the promulgation of national safety performance standards.' By the mid-1970s, however, it had become a consumer complaint bureau whose massive recall activities had no discernable effect on motor vehicle safety. We attributed NHTSA's shift in regulatory strategy to the external legal culture. In particular, the agency had adjusted to a proceduralized form of judicial review that had burdened, dislocated, and ultimately paralyzed its rule making efforts. By contrast, the judiciary reacted so favorably to NHTSA's recall efforts that manufacturers soon viewed legal resistance to recalls as counterproductive.

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