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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is a federal agency of the United States government tasked with upholding regulatory safety standards in automobile manufacturing and the highway transportation system. It is a part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The NHTSA’s mission is to reduce injuries and fatalities related to auto accidents as well as resulting costs. The NHTSA's formation was a move by the U.S. Government to address mounting public concerns over automobile safety from the 1940s up to its creation in 1966. The creation of the agency was necessitated by public knowledge of negligent designs in automobiles. After the NHTSA's creation under founding President Lyndon Johnson, it had initial public recognition for improvements in safety.

In order to address the need for the public to be informed of safety issues the NHTSA conducts research on causes of accidents, puts public safety awareness messages out through various media channels and conducts educational campaigns. As the safety and economy of highway transportation depend on the qualities of traveling vehicles, the NHTSA also investigates automotive defects and manufacturing legislative compliance. NHTSA also conducts independent crash tests with cars it purchases from dealer lots. These tests check safety in collisions from numerous angles resulting in the familiar 5-star system.

This was last updated in March 2017

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