National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to run the auto whistleblower program created by the Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act. Although the law places authority in the Secretary of Transportation to determine whether a reward is paid, the NHTSA seems like the most logical agency within the Department of Transportation to run the program.
 
Before the NHTSA whistleblower rules are announced, we thought potential whistleblowers would like more information about the agency which will administer the program.
 
The NHTSA was created by the Highway Safety Act of 1970. It is responsible for setting and enforcing safety standards for motor vehicles in order to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from crashes on America’s highways. The NHTSA investigates safety defects in cars, enforces fuel economy standards, provides consumer information on vehicle safety, and promotes the use of safety measures such as seat belts and child safety seats.
 
NHTSA got its start as the National Highway Safety Bureau (NHSB) in the 1960s. After five years of increasing fatalities related to motor vehicles, the federal government stepped in to set and regulate standards for motor vehicles and highways. The NHSB became the NHTSA in 1970.
 
NHTSA is a part of the Department of Transportation. The Department of Transportation was created only a few years before the NHTSA in order to ensure safe, fast and convenient transportation in the country. It’s transportation functions were previously housed within the Department of Commerce. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was also put within the supervision of the Department of Transportation.
 
NHTSA has been involved in a number of important initiatives in the country related to motor vehicles. It has been at the forefront of education efforts to increase seat belt usage to decrease the number of deadly fatalities resulting from motor vehicle crashes.
 
NHTSA also provides recall information for cars and motor vehicle equipment dating back to 1966. If an auto manufacturer fails to report unsafe vehicles or delays their recall notice, the NHTSA is the primary agency responsible for enforcement. In this role, it has issued hundreds of millions of dollars in fines in recent years. As part of the FAST Act, Congress boosted the maximum fine to be levied for a violation by the NHTSA to $105 million. In larger cases, the Justice Department may investigate and pursue a criminal prosecution under other laws, such as the prohibition on wire fraud.
 
The latest challenge for the NHTSA is the regulation of autonomous vehicles, otherwise referred to as self-driving cars. It is both promoting the benefits of the technology, such as autonomous emergency braking, as well as creating rules to ensure that the technology guiding passengers on the roads is deemed safe.
 
Although the NHTSA hasn’t previously had a whistleblower office, it did put out a call for information during its investigation of the defective Takata airbags. NHTSA urged whistleblowers to call its hotline with information about possible defects or wrongdoing by the company.
 
For additional information about the reward program, please contact our auto whistleblower lawyers at 1-800-590-4116 for a confidential consultation.