Adopt regulations for autonomous vehicles. There should be no exemptions from safety standards that govern conventional vehicles, instead of a reliance on the industry to voluntarily do the right thing. At the same time, the agency must make sure it doesn’t become so focused on autonomous or electric vehicles that it ignores the automobiles most Americans drive, Mr. Levine said.
Require advanced safety technology on even the least-expensive vehicles. Examples include automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure and blind-spot warning. “I really think that would be a huge game changer,” said Cathy Chase, the president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.
Take a tougher stance on recalls. For instance, give the agency the right to bring criminal charges against corporate executives for knowingly violating safety standards. “Automakers continue efforts to minimize expensive recall costs by delaying the recall, narrowing the scope of a recall, or denying the defect,” the report says.
Also, prohibit the sale of used vehicles if there is a recall that has yet to be fixed.
Adopt new safety standards. These should include requiring improvements as varied as better headlights and designs to reduce the harm to pedestrians and bicyclists in a collision, something already done by the European Union.
Enact safety standards mandated by Congress. Safety groups, frustrated by what they see as NHTSA’s failure to act, have sometimes turned to Congress to pass safety regulations. But too many of the mandates have yet to be carried out, according to the report.
Significantly improve child safety. Like requiring foldaway child restraints built into the second row to eliminate problems with improperly installed child seats. Also, adopt standards that would warn parents if a rear-seat belt was unbuckled and warn if a child was left in a vehicle.
The report says safety regulation has worked. It estimates that 4.2 million lives have been saved since 1965, when Mr. Nader’s book “Unsafe at Any Speed” focused Congress’s attention on automotive safety, resulting in safety standards and the agency now known as NHTSA.