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September 11, 2015 – Remarks at Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Expansion Celebration Ceremony, Ruckersville, VA
T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, MPH
Ruckersville, VA

​Ladies and Gentlemen, Honored Guests,

Good afternoon! It is inspiring to be here with you, today, beneath this beautiful dome in the new facility of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety – a facility and an institution with the noble mission of keeping us safe on the roads.

My agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, shares this mission of keeping people safe. The NTSB is charged with investigating transportation accidents in all modes, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims and their families. You may be most familiar with our work in aviation safety, but highway safety is an important and ever-growing part of our efforts…and the Insurance Institute has been our steadfast and courageous partner for decades -- steadfast in providing relevant data and research, and courageous in supporting, publically, our safety recommendations on a wide variety of subjects ranging from child passenger safety to impaired driving to truck safety.

In addition to our common mission, I like to think that the NTSB and the Insurance Institute also share many of the same traits. We are independent. We are not regulators, but instead, we rely on our credibility and good name to advance safety. We are relatively small – but we have had a proportionately big effect on safety. We believe in the philosophy of “continuous improvement” because we always believe that transportation can be made even safer.

This new expanded facility we are in today is just the latest example of the Insurance Institute’s philosophy of continuous improvement, of never being satisfied. As cars began getting better and better star ratings, Insurance Institute crash tests also became more and more rigorous and extensive – from offset crash tests to roof strength to head restraints to small overlap crash tests. And with this continuous improvement, came a safer and safer fleet of cars for the American public.

And true to their tagline “Highway Safety Research & Communications,” it wasn’t enough for the Insurance Institute to do the testing or to do the epidemiological research, but they also effectively communicated the results of their work – and that made all the difference. They had unforgettable images and videos, they worked closely with news media, they created a demand by the public for safe cars, by simply (although it wasn’t actually simple) sharing their findings.

They took us from an environment where people thought that safety didn’t sell to now, when automakers compete on safety features and even voluntarily make their vehicles safer – as they have done with the announcement today. The Insurance Institute spurred a kind of revolution – a safety revolution.

We all toured the impressive facilities today, facilities that will no doubt help advance crash avoidance technology. But the Insurance Institute is more than its test tracks or robotics or crash test dummies or testing labs or even the crash hall. It is the dedicated and highly competent people who work in Ruckersville and Arlington, people who are very, very passionate about continuously improving safety.

On a personal note, I have known Dr. Adrian Lund for many years. Before I was Vice Chairman of the NTSB, I worked at the FIA Foundation, a philanthropy focused on global road safety, which included the development of the Global New Car Assessment Program, or Global NCAP, to promote cooperation among all NCAPS to encourage safer cars globally especially in developing countries. Adrian Lund came, asked hard questions, actively participated, and – often behind the scenes – helped nurture this program, which is now an established and essential part of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety.

Thanks to this type of leadership and hard work by everyone at the Insurance Institute, countless people – people of diverse backgrounds and incomes – will be able to travel more safely, around our nation and around the world. What better work could they be doing?

Congratulations to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and thank you for your tireless work to keep us all safe.