Clarence Ditlow, an unrelentingly fierce auto-safety advocate who crusaded for airbags, seatbelts, crash avoidance systems, numerous recalls, and other life-saving measures, died on Nov. 10 at the age of 72. Lawyers in our firm had very good personal and professional relationships with this man. The American people owe Clarence a tremendous debt of gratitude for all that he did during his lifetime. He fought the good fight and did so against tremendous odds. Interestingly, Clarence was both an engineer and a lawyer, having graduated from Harvard Law School, and he used that combination effectively in his work.
“He was the nightmare of the misbehaving auto industry and the dream of safety-conscious motorists,” Ralph Nader, who mentored Clarence and collaborated with him on a number of safety campaigns and projects, told The New York Times. “He was also honest, ethical and self-effacing.”
Clarence, who died at George Washington University Hospital in Washington D.C. from cancer, leaves behind a legacy that will continue to shape the auto industry and save lives for years to come.
As head of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington D.C., Clarence played a critical role in tackling some of the deadliest defects and scandals to rock the auto industry in the past 40 years. These issues included sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles, Ford Pintos with gas tanks prone to exploding, and General Motors pickup trucks with flawed gas tanks that also exploded in crashes.
“With a budget of less than half the cost of one General Motors Super Bowl commercial, Clarence took on auto industry giants in lawsuits that tightened standards for ignition systems, airbags and fuel efficiency. He lobbied government agencies to ban driving while texting or using cellphones. Clarence also helped to bring about ‘lemon laws’ in all 50 states that made it easier for buyers to return defective vehicles,” The New York Times reported. Clarence’s work also “called attention to vehicles prone to roll over, slip out of gear from park to reverse, and experience a complete loss of power during operation.”
In a 2014 article in The New York Times, Clarence and Ralph Nader jointly wrote, “When regulators sleep and auto companies place profits over safety, safety defects pile up.” These two consumer advocates stated in the article:
A record number of vehicles – more than 50 million – have been recalled this year, a result of congressional hearings and Justice Department prosecutions, which exposed a mass of deadly defects that the auto industry had concealed.
We will all miss our friend Clarence Ditlow, a great American, and a good man in every respect. His tremendous work benefited this country and its people beyond measure.
Source: The New York Times
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