Jonathan Douglas White, 51, a passionate champion for auto safety who stood between consumers and defective vehicles, died Oct. 19 in a three-car collision near Suitland as he was headed home to Prince Frederick after working late at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Mr. White worked for the Department of Transportation for 28 years, most recently as chief of the NHTSA's defects assessment division, where he led investigations that preceded many of the agency's recalls.

"Jon was an indefatigable protector of the American public's right to have safe, defect-free vehicles, tires and child safety seats," said Jeffrey W. Runge, NHTSA administrator.

During his time at the agency, more than 300 makes of vehicles and 150 million types of vehicle safety equipment were recalled. He was known inside the agency for his exhaustive knowledge of recalls and his finesse in getting the cooperation of business.

He was born in Highland Park, Mich., and received a bachelor's degree in metallurgical engineering at Michigan Technological University. He also attended graduate school at Texas A&M University. After a year at the Defense Department, he went to work for the NHTSA, where he stayed.

He enjoyed the outdoors, working with wood and beachcombing.

Survivors include his wife of 30 years, Jeanne White of Prince Frederick; three daughters, Jennifer, Katherine and Annalisa White, all of Prince Frederick; his mother, Arden White of Royal Oak, Mich.; three sisters; and two brothers.

Jonathan White's work at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration prompted recalls.