Established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was created to promote safer national roadways. In the past three decades, the NHTSA has been instrumental in developing safe driver initiatives, advocating tougher traffic regulations and influencing manufacturers to design safer vehicles. The NHTSA’s Priority Plan for 2010 establishes the agency’s significant programs over the next four years.
In July 2003, the agency published its first Vehicle Safety Rulemaking and Supporting Research Priorities Plan. This plan outlined various initiatives, including programs on alternatively fueled vehicles, big truck safety and crash-avoidance technologies. Since this first Priorities Plan, the NHTSA has held summits on preventing distracted driving, updated its five-star safety rating system and monitored some of the largest recalls in automotive history.
As a result of the NHTSA efforts, most states have enacted laws that promote safer driving habits. New figures indicate that highway fatalities and injuries are on the decline. While more than 2.2 million people were injured on our nation’s roads in 2009, national crash fatalities dropped 9.7 percent, to 33,308. Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities declined by 7.4 percent from 2008 to 2009. The marked drop in traffic fatalities has been a 10- year phenomenon that culminates in the NHTSA reporting the lowest human loss since 1950.
The NHTSA recently offered its Final Vehicle Safety Rulemaking and Research Priority Plan for 2010-2013. This Priority Plan is an update to the Agency’s Final Vehicle Safety Rulemaking and Research Priority Plan 2009. In this newest incarnation, old issues will be addressed, and new technologies will be considered. Among ongoing programs, rollover crashes, child safety and fuel economy remain. Of the 56 projects in the proposed Priority Plan, almost half include priority initiatives for the agency. One such priority includes plans for mandating anti-lock brakes for motorcycles.
Members of the automotive and insurance industries, which include the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers and the American Trucking Association, applaud the NHTSA’s aspects of the Priority Plan.
Accountability and awareness are crucial components of the NHTSA’s current Priority Plan. The success of the NHTSA’s newest safety road map will depend on the continued support of and compliance from the public, law enforcement and industry stakeholders. It is the hope and intent of this plan to reduce the number of motor vehicle accidents and injuries, thus improving safety on our roadways.