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Should the NHTSA's authority be transferred to the NTSB?

We have previously written about many efforts undertaken by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on behalf of American travelers. This federal agency is directly tasked with preventing auto accidents when possible and improving auto safety generally. The NHTSA has initiated many valuable programs, including those aimed at curbing distracted driving practices, and many valuable investigations into defective auto parts. These efforts have almost certainly saved American lives.

However, the NHTSA has also recently come under fire for failing to execute its authority properly during the recent General Motors defective ignition switch scandal. Dozens of injurious and fatal auto accidents have been linked to the scandal and the American public is understandably outraged that the NHTSA failed to identify the defect during the full decade it was affecting models on the market.

Some are questioning whether certain investigative authority currently delegated to the NHTSA should be transferred to an organization like the National Transportation Safety Board. Unlike the NHTSA, the NTSB is not a regulatory body. Its primary purposes are to investigate certain travel-related accidents and to provide federal bodies with recommendations on how to improve safety for the nation's travelers.

The logic behind this proposed policy shift is relatively simple. It does not serve the best interests of the public to have a body creating the nation's auto safety regulations enforcing them while simultaneously monitoring itself as an effective body. Someone higher than the regulator needs to monitor the regulator's effectiveness. This proposal would require a restructuring of the U.S. Transportation Department, but it is a proposal worth considering nonetheless.

Source: USA Today, "How to clean up the mess at NHTSA: Column," Jim Hall and Peter Goelz, Nov. 11, 2014

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