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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Founded in 1970, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, is an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation that works specifically to set safety standards for passenger vehicles and passenger vehicle accessories. Part of the administration's core mission statement is guiding highway safety programs that were enacted into law by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1966), the Highway Safety Act (1966) and the Motor Vehicle Information and Cost Savings Act (1972).

Headquartered in the nation's capital, the NHTSA operates 10 regional offices throughout America to help promote motor vehicle safety. From collecting crash data to publishing consumer reports about safety issues, the NHTSA works to educate drivers on safe roadway practices and reduce the number of injuries and accidents in America.

Knowing a vehicle's crashworthiness with the NHTSA

The NHTSA conducts crash tests at its research facilities to gauge a vehicle's ability to withstand a high-speed accident. Using a recently updated five-star rating system, the NHTSA awards stars to all types of vehicles in three general categories: overall frontal crash rating, overall side crash rating and rollover rating. Beginning with some 2011 models, the NHTSA will use female crash-test dummies in addition to male figures, and the administration will begin to evaluate emerging crash-prevention tools.

Some recent safety standouts from the NHTSA tests include the Dodge Challenger, the 2009 Volkswagen Routan and the 2009 Audi A4.

The NHTSA database of defects and recalls

As consumers have recently learned, issues with certain vehicles can cause widespread recalls. The NHTSA investigates these defects and posts a comprehensive list of all known recalls on its website.

Safety promotion with the NHTSA

The NHTSA is responsible for numerous safety awareness events that spotlight specific highway issues such as impaired driving, child safety and seat belt enforcement. From Motorcycle Safety Month to heightened efforts to curb drunken driving during busy travel times, the NHTSA advertises safe driving practices.

The NHTSA headquarters are located here:

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
West Building
Washington, DC 20590

To reach the NHTSA office, drivers can call the administration's toll-free line at (888) 327-4236.

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