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National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act

The National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (NTMVSA) and the Highway Safety Act (HSA) were passed by an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress and signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966. The NTMVSA empowered a new federal agency, the National Highway Safety Bureau, now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), to set and monitor safety standards for automobiles. Automobile manufacturers were required to institute these safety standards in order to protect the public from “unreasonable risk of death or injury” related to the design, construction, or operation of automobiles. The HSA made the federal government responsible for safety standards for highways.

Prior to the NTMVSA, the government regulated brake fluid quality, lap belts for front outboard seating, and little else. Although automobile accidents were, by ...

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