Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
In Memory of Clarence Ditlow III, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety

In Memory of Clarence Ditlow III, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety

Clarence M. Ditlow III, Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety, died on November 10th after a year-long battle with cancer. Allies as well as those he challenged united in praise for his 40 years of ceaseless fighting to keep the nation’s roads safer for everyone who used them. Safety Research & Strategies, Inc. noted his passing as a “big loss for the safety advocacy community,” while Senators Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., noted in a joint statement in the Congressional Record of September 29th that Ditlow was “A tireless champion for consumers, [whose] work has resulted in better government oversight of automakers, the installation of key safety features and the exposure of safety defects in millions of cars, SUVs, and other trucks.”

Mr. Ditlow first became the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety in 1976, and worked relentlessly to ensure the safety and quality of vehicles across the nation for four decades. He had a major and active role in numerous recalls, including 6.7 million Chevrolets for defective engine mounts, 15 million Firestone 500 tires, 1.5 million Ford Pintos for exploding gas tanks, and 3 million Evenflo child seats with defective latches. As noted by the Detroit Free Press, Ditlow “was known for relentlessly pushing automakers and the government to add safety features to cars and to recall vehicles when patterns of trouble emerged.”

The Center for Auto Safety released a statement about Mr. Ditlow’s passing: “His accomplishments included safety recalls of tens of millions of vehicles that saved untold thousands of lives, and lemon laws in all 50 states. Since the center was founded in 1970, the death rate on America’s roads has dropped dramatically, from 5.2 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 1969 to 1.1 per 100 million vehicle miles in 2010.”

In the past seven years alone, the Center was the primary force behind the recalls of 7 million Toyotas for sudden acceleration, 2 million Jeeps for fuel tank fires, 11 million GM vehicles for defective ignition switches, and more than 60 million faulty Takata airbag inflators.

“One of the things that stands out about Clarence was his willingness to take on those defects that exposed outdated or ineffective safety standards. In many instances it was clear that fixing the design flaw via a recall was unlikely, but Clarence’s advocacy advanced important issues that ultimately resulted in upgraded standards,” stated Sean Kane, president of Safety Research & Strategies.