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Abstract

Created in 1966 primarily as a rulemaking body empowered to force the
technology of motor vehicle safety, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) had by the mid-1980s largely abandoned rulemaking in favor of aggressively recalling defective vehicles.
Devastating losses in pre-enforcement judicial review of rules combined with judicial embrace of recalls to drive that first-period adaptation. Congressional reaction mimicked the signals from the courts, and the Reagan administration' s regulatory reform and relief programs of the 1980s further solidified NHTSA's rulemaking retreat. Prodded by congressional mandates, beginning in 1991, but
largely of 21st century origin, NHTSA returned to rulemaking in the last two decades, but in a radically revised form.

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