Auto Safety Agency Looks to Aviation Industry to Reduce Road Deaths

By David Shepardson | April 20, 2016

The U.S. government is bringing together top airline and auto company executives to discuss aviation industry practices such as safety data sharing that automakers could adapt to help reduce car accidents, a leading cause of death in America.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have invited chief executives from major automakers and aviation industry leaders to an April 22 event, according to an invitation reviewed by Reuters that has not been made public.

NHTSA spokesman Bryan Thomas confirmed the event was taking place. General Motors CEO Mary Barra will attend, a spokesman for the automaker said.

U.S. regulators are urging automakers to consider an industry-wide collaboration to support safety, modeled on the aviation industry, where airlines share safety data to help identify possible defects in parts.

The meeting is the first of its kind and follows a voluntary safety agreement that 18 major automakers reached in January with the government after weeks of auto safety talks in the face of a series of massive recalls of faulty parts.

The highly public lapses include defective airbags produced by Takata and faulty ignition switches in General Motors vehicles.

Automakers have recalled a record number of vehicles since 2014 as regulators have taken a harder line on vehicle safety, imposing significant fines and requiring independent monitors to review some automakers’ safety efforts.

NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind touted new safety initiatives at a congressional hearing Thursday.

Among those scheduled to speak at the April 22 event at FAA headquarters are Ed Bastian, Delta’s president and incoming CEO; United Airlines Chief Operations Officer Gregory Hart; Captain Tim Canoll, president of the Airline Pilots Association; and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.

NHTSA officials told automakers in the email invitation reviewed by Reuters that the event is “an opportunity to hear first-hand the work it took to embark on a safety path similar to the one we’re just beginning.”

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told automakers in January that the safety management system agreement between airlines and the FAA had dramatically reduced aviation accidents.

In 2014, 32,675 people were killed and 2.34 million people injured in 6.1 million crashes on U.S. roads, and road deaths rose in the first nine months of 2015, according to the NHTSA. At least 94 percent of crashes are the result of driver error.

The Centers for Disease Control says traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans aged 5 to 24.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Fiona Ortiz)

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