The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is the federal agency most directly tasked with ensuring that American travelers remain safe while navigating the nation’s roadways. In recent years, this agency has accomplished a number of important safety goals aimed at making vehicles, roads and motorists safer. Perhaps most notably, the NHTSA made significant efforts to stem the tide of distracted driving behaviors when the agency was led by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
However, the agency has become the subject of harsh criticism and intense scrutiny since shortly after LaHood left his post in 2013. Most recently, Congress, safety organizations and the media have questioned the agency’s effectiveness at responding to certain defect-related safety threats. “How is it,” many have asked, “could the NHTSA not have known about and acted upon the ignition switch defect that has affected many models manufactured by General Motors for a full decade?” This is a reasonable and proper question.