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  1. Ivan Barry Pless
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ivan Barry Pless, 434 Lansdowne, Westmount, Quebec, Canada H3Y2V2; barry.pless{at}

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NHTSA chiefs leave to work for auto industry

David Strickland, until recently the top administrator at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has left government to take a job with a law firm that lobbies for Chrysler. Then NHTSA announced that it was ending its probe of fuel tank fires in Chrysler SUVs. It seems trailer hitches on these models will suffice to protect tanks from rupturing in rear-end collisions. Coincidence? Strickland insists the decision was made based on ‘strong science, engineering and data’. Former NHTSA administrator Claybrook praises him for implementing ‘aggressive fuel efficiency standards’, but critics judge his term as a great failure. On the one hand, he imposed high fines on Toyota for sudden-acceleration problems blamed for many deaths, while on the other hand, NHTSA's reputation for having a cozy relationship with the automobile industry grew. Apparently 63 former NHTSA officials moved from it to the auto industry over the past 27 years. The New York Times report in which the possible conflict issue was highlighted notes that currently NHTSA is “severely underfunded and understaffed … its budget for vehicle safety was US$141 million in fiscal 2013 whereas the budget for aviation safety was US$1.25 billion”. Yet highway deaths are consistently far more numerous than aviation deaths. The Obama administration tried to resolve the revolving doors issue by barring former top agency officials from lobbying the executive branch or representing a client on a matter in which they were involved during their service for two years after departing government. But, as ex-Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's departure to become a ‘senior policy advisor’ in a ‘global law firm’ reveals, the Obama rule does not apply to him or Strickland because they are not going to be ‘lobbyists’—merely lawyers and policy advisors.

Quebecers horrified by seniors fire deaths

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  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.