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Transportation Department

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was established by the Highway Safety Act of 1970 (23 U.S.C.A. § 401). The NHTSA carries out programs concerning the safety performance of motor vehicles and related equipment and the safety of motor vehicle drivers, occupants, and pedestrians. The administration conducts general motor vehicle programs aimed at reducing the damage that motor vehicles sustain as a result of crashes. It also administers the federal odometer law, issues theft prevention standards, and promulgates average fuel economy standards for passenger and nonpassenger motor vehicles.

Under the NHTSA program, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards are issued that prescribe safety features and levels of safety-related performance for vehicles and motor vehicle equipment. Damage susceptibility, crashworthiness, and theft prevention are studied and reported to Congress and the public.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act, as amended (42 U.S.C.A. § 6201), sets automotive fuel economy standards for passenger cars for model years 1985 and thereafter. The NHTSA has the option of altering the standards for the post-1985 period. The NHTSA develops and promulgates mandatory fuel economy standards for light trucks for each model year and administers the fuel economy regulatory program. The administration also establishes rules for collecting and reporting information concerning manufacturers' ability to meet fuel economy standards. This information is used to evaluate technological alternatives and manufacturers' economic ability to meet fuel economy standards.

The NHTSA maintains a national register of information on individuals who have had their licenses to operate a motor vehicle revoked, suspended, canceled, or denied, or who have been convicted of certain traffic-related violations, such as driving while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. The information obtained from the register assists state licensing officials in determining whether to issue a driver's license.

The Highway Safety Act provides federal matching funds to states and local communities to assist them with their highway safety programs. Areas of primary emphasis include impaired driving, occupant protection, motorcycle safety, police traffic services, pedestrian and bicycle safety, emergency medical services, speed control, and traffic records. The NHTSA provides guidance and technical assistance in all of these areas. The Highway Safety Act also provides incentive funds for encouraging states to implement effective impaired-driving programs and to encourage the use of safety belts and motorcycle helmets.

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