Increasing the burden on the car industry through government regulation is the last thing anyone wants right now, as it would undo the work being done in Detroit and Washington to realign current operations with future market conditions. That's why the NHTSA has decided to delay its introduction of a new crash safety testing regimen for a year, moving the date to 2011.

The new rules would revise the way the government determines its star-ratings for crash test safety in side, front and rollover crashes. Previous plans would have put the new rules into effect in 2010, but to give carmakers ample time to prepare for the new standards, they have delayed.

Roof crush standards have recently been under fire as archaic and inadequate to protect occupants, but the NHTSA has been slow to draft new regulations, in part because of the immense projected cost to the industry and the minimal impact such regulations are likely to have on actual real-world safety.

At the same time, a recent NHTSA survey of accident data reveals a record low rate for highway fatalities in 2008, down to 31,110 deaths from January-October from 34,502 deaths for the same period in 2007.