The two top officials from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “were steamed,” according to a person who discussed the meeting with both sides. As the meeting closed, NHTSA chief David Strickland hinted at using the agency’s full authority, which can include subpoenas, fines, and even forcing auto makers to stop selling cars.

Toyota had known about the gas-pedal problem for more than a year. Its silence with U.S. regulators, and other newly uncovered details from the crisis enveloping Toyota, reveal a growing rift between the Japanese auto maker and NHTSA, one of its top regulators.

The L.A. Times, by the way, ran its terrific expose on NHTSA back in early November:

Runaway Toyota cases ignored

Safety investigators dismissed numerous reports of sudden acceleration, then said data were lacking.

The broader point, though, is that it may be time to start connecting the dots on regulation.

Frontline last night aired a scary story about regional airlines that found, among other things, that the FAA can’t say how many inspectors it has devoted to the growing sector. The pre-crisis collapse of the financial regulatory system has been well-documented by now. Heck, The New York Times last month found problems with the oversight of linear accelerators.

News organizations with stretched resources can’t be everywhere, but with regulatory systems running out of control like so many Toyotas, some big-picture thinking might be in order. This is an area that clearly doesn’t lack for stories.

Dean Starkman Dean Starkman runs The Audit, CJR's business section, and is the author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, January 2014).

Follow Dean on Twitter: @deanstarkman.