The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and 18 automakers have announced a commitment to improving car safety and catching safety defects before they turn into extensive recalls.

Automakers have recalled more than 100 million vehicles over the past two years. Likewise, a record number of civil penalties were issued during that time by NHTSA to spur industry action. Clearly, the collective auto industry can and should do better.

More than 94 percent of the 32,000 fatalities that happened on U.S. roads in 2014 were a direct result of human error. Making advanced safety features such as forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking more widely available and even standard equipment can significantly reduce collisions.

Autonomous cars also hold significant promise. In fact, just yesterday U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that President Barack Obama is proposing spending $3.9 billion dollars over the next 10 years to help accelerate projects related to the development and safety of self-driving cars.

These back-to-back announcements show the government taking the wheel in driving manufacturers to be more proactive with implementing safety features, preventing defects, and, in cases when defects are found, hastening the repair process.

“It's vitally important to find and fix safety defects before, not after, consumers get hurt. These safety principles are a first step in that effort and we appreciate the consensus reached by NHTSA and the auto industry," says William Wallace, policy analyst for Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.

Also integral to the announcement is a pledge between industry and government to share data and analysis and collaborate to mitigate cybersecurity threats.

"Better dialogue and data-sharing between industry and NHTSA are part of the solution, but holding companies accountable when they don’t measure up is equally important. Going forward, we urge automakers to follow through by meeting and exceeding the commitments they have made today. NHTSA should hold them to their word and keep taking strong steps to protect consumers on the road," says Wallace.