Senators Edward Markey, D-Massachusetts, Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut and Bill Nelson, D-Florida, sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday urging reform of NHTSA's "safety mission."
The president is expected to name a new permanent NHTSA administrator soon.
"NHTSA must alter its practices to require automakers to publicly release more information about accidents that could be caused by safety defects, upgrade its own safety databases, and do a better job of enforcing compliance with transparency measures intended to provide early warnings about potentially dangerous defects to the public," the letter said.
The senators say they want to end regional recalls, a hallmark of the Takata airbag inflator recalls. Those recalls have been limited to Gulf Coast states.
"The recent safety actions related to more than 7 million vehicles with recalled Takata airbags have largely been limited to four states that have continuously hot and humid climates," the letter said. "These actions may not account for states that experience seasonal high heat and humidity, and they fail to acknowledge the potential for drivers to permanently or temporarily move among the states."
Regional recalls have the "potential for overlooking so many affected customers," the senators said.
They are also calling for safety regulators to "take dangerous cars off the road."
"Despite the fact that the GM ignition switch defect has been linked to at least 32 deaths and more serious injuries, NHTSA allowed impacted cars to continue to be driven as long as drivers followed GM's warnings not to make the key chains too heavy," the letter said.
"And while Toyota has warned owners of some vehicles that contain passenger-side Takata airbags to disable them and cease allowing passengers to sit in the passenger seat until the airbags are repaired, NHTSA has not required other automakers that contain Takata airbags on the driver or passenger side to issue similar warnings."
Earlier this month, Blumenthal and Markey called on the Department of Justice to open an investigation of Takata.
Edmunds says: The calls for a crackdown on NHTSA grow louder, reflecting consumer worries about auto safety.