How the NHTSA Makes Driving Safer

  1. publishing
  2. March 1, 2013 3:29 am

How the NHTSA Makes Driving Safer

The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a U.S. government agency that is dedicated to reducing traffic accidents and the deaths and injuries they cause. Though its role is largely advisory in nature, the NHTSA has been credited with saving countless lives since its inception more than 40 years ago.

Fewer than 200,000 automobiles and trucks rumbled across the U.S. in 1910. The vehicles and the roads on which they traveled were not particularly safe, and some 1,600 Americans lost their lives that year in traffic accidents in the country. As traffic increased, so did fatalities. Annual traffic fatalities exceeded 30,000 in 1934 and 40,000 in 1963. By the mid-1960s, concern over traffic accidents and fatalities prompted hearings by the U.S. Congress, which led to the creation of the Department of Transportation. The NHTSA was created in 1970 as an adjunctive agency, and part of the executive branch of government.

Today, the NHTSA is primarily concerned with promoting safety issues as they relate to the operation of vehicles. Publications and videos produced by the agency cover such issues as aggressive and distracted driving, motorcycle safety and youthful drivers. Other publications outline the issue of occupant protection and the use of safety belts. Only about 20 percent of the agency’s budget is allocated to vehicle safety, although in the past the NHTSA was exceptionally active in this area.

In 1979, it launched a program to encourage manufacturers to build safer cars and to encourage consumers to purchase and drive safer vehicles. Standardized crash tests were begun that year to determined the effectiveness of new designs and safety features. One of the other functions of the NHTSA is its administration and promotion of fuel economy standards in vehicles.

The work of the NHTSA has shown promising results. Largely thanks to new safety features, the U.S. traffic fatality rate in 2011 was only about one-fifth that of what it was 50 years earlier.


Leave a Reply