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When it comes to auto safety, necessity may indeed be the mother of invention. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the federal agency most directly tasked with ensuring that non-commercial motorists remain safe on American roads. In order to keep drivers safe, the agency regulates certain aspects of auto manufacturing, launches educational campaigns and networks with safety-focused organizations. All of these approaches have positive results some of the time. However, the agency is increasingly relying on another approach to reduce the rate of car accidents in the U.S.

The NHTSA is beginning to rely more heavily on technological innovation than ever before in its quest to keep American motorists safe. As outgoing NHTSA Administrator David Strickland recently noted, “Ninety percent of all crashes have an element of human error. We really need to focus on what more we can do to address these risks.” Partially because humans are error-prone, the NHTSA is focusing less on influencing driver behavior and more on utilizing technology designed to compensate for human error and poor decisions by drivers.

The NHTSA is still investigating which technology-focused initiatives will provide the most safety benefits to drivers without increasing auto-related costs dramatically or infringing upon motorist privacy too broadly. Thankfully, both the auto industry and the insurance industry seem to be largely on-board with the NHTSA’s technology-related efforts. Though some initiatives, like mandatory back-up cameras, have stalled for too long, other initiatives are progressing nicely. Hopefully the public will soon benefit substantially from the NHTSA’s choice to embrace technology as an ally in reducing auto accident rates.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “Auto safety initiative seeks to reduce driver errors,” Jerry Hirsch, Dec. 9, 2013

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