PRESS RELEASE: NEW POLL FINDINGS SHOW AMERICANS ACROSS ALL SOCIO-ECONOMIC INDICATORS AND POLITICAL PARTY SUPPORT SAFETY POSITIONS ON ISSUES NOW BEFORE CONGRESS

  • November 17, 2015
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Support Criminal Penalties for Corporate Auto and Equipment Executives who

Cover Up Dangerous Safety Defects

Support Car Dealers Being Required to Repair Recalled Used and Loaner Cars

Before Consumers Drive Away

Oppose Teen Truck and Bus Drivers in Interstate Traffic and

Oppose Oversized Double Trailer Trucks on Our Nation’s Roads and Highways

Washington, D.C. (November 17, 2015)- Right now, Members of the House and Senate are racing to finish negotiations on a multi-billion dollar six-year surface transportation bill, known as the DRIVE Act (H.R. 22) and the annual spending bill for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)(H.R. 3488). These critically important bills not only will set transportation policies and funding levels for the construction and repair of highways, bridges and transit systems but they will also have a deadly impact on safety if changes are not made. Decisions about how safe or how dangerous our roads and highways will be are being made this week. Even though the bills will be paid for by taxpayers, anti-safety special interests aided by their friends in Congress have succeeded in carving corporate earmarks, industry giveaways and special exemptions from safety rules, all at the expense of public safety.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) commissioned a public opinion poll to gauge public support and opposition for a few of the critical motor vehicle and motor carrier safety issues at stake in the DRIVE Act and transportation appropriations bill. The poll was taken this past weekend and shows very strong levels of public support for safety positions across all categories including age, gender, religion, race, income, education and political party affiliation. Below is a summary of the poll findings. The complete findings of the poll are available at www.saferoads.org.

Criminal Penalties for Corporate Executives who Cover Up Safety Defects:

There have been numerous hearings in Congress on vehicle safety defects in the past two years. Since 2014, over 100 million vehicles have been recalled for dangerous safety defects and hundreds of people have needlessly died because of auto industry cover-ups and misconduct. Nonetheless, the DRIVE Act does not include any provision subjecting manufacturers to criminal penalties for knowingly concealing vehicle safety defects even though many other federal consumer protection agencies have this authority. Criminal sanctions are needed to prevent manufacturers from viewing penalties as just another cost of doing business and the public strongly agrees.

The public supports the need to hold individual corporate officials criminally liable for concealing information about or selling a vehicle with a deadly safety defect by 84%, with 67% strongly supporting this view. Only 15% of those polled oppose such a law and just 9% of those respondents expressed feeling strongly in opposition. Among those polled who identified their political affiliations, 83% of Republicans, 88% of Independents, and 85% of Democrats support imposing criminal penalties in appropriate cases. 

Stopping the Sale of Used Cars and Use of Loaner Cars with Unrepaired Safety Defects:

Current law requires car dealers to repair new vehicles subject to a safety defect recall before sold to the public. Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement for car dealers to repair used cars before they are sold or loaner cars before they are given to a consumer. This loophole needs to be closed so that every consumer is protected for every car driven off the dealer’s lot, and the public agrees.

Poll findings show 86% of the public supports, with 71% strongly supporting this view, the need to have used and loaner cars that have been recalled for a safety problem repaired before they are sold or loaned to the public. Only 13% oppose such a requirement and just 8% of those polled hold strong feelings against such a requirement. Among those who identified their political affiliations, 87% of Republicans, 86% of Independents, and 83% of Democrats supported a requirement that used and loaner vehicles must be repaired before they are sold or loaned to the public. Among households with annual incomes between $35,000 and $100,000, support for the repair of used and loaner vehicles subject to a safety recall was over 90%. 

Interstate Teen Truck and Bus Drivers:

Both the House and Senate versions of the DRIVE Act include provisions lowering the minimum age to drive large trucks and passenger buses between states. The current age limit is 21. Teen truck drivers operating just within the borders of their home state have much higher fatal crash rates. Studies show that truck drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes, and those between the ages of 19-20 are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes. Overall, younger truck drivers are involved in a higher rate of fatal crashes until about age 27.

The public strongly opposes lowering the minimum age for interstate truck and bus drivers and allowing teens to operate a large truck or a passenger bus. Overall, 73% of the public opposes allowing teen truck and bus drivers in interstate traffic, with 56% of those polled strongly opposing this change in the law. Only 26% supported allowing teen truck and bus drivers in interstate traffic, and just 10% strongly supported this view. By a clear majority, even younger people oppose permitting teens to drive trucks and buses in interstate traffic. Those between the ages of 18 and 34 opposed changing the law by 62% to 37%.

Longer Double 33-Foot Trailer Trucks:

Provisions in both the House-passed Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) FY 2016 Appropriations bill and the version which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee will force states to allow longer double 33-foot tractor trailer trucks (both bills are H.R. 2577). However, more recently, Senate Republicans and Democrats overwhelmingly voted in support of a motion to instruct the DRIVE Act conferees to require the DOT Secretary to study the safety implications of allowing Double 33s before proceeding on a rule. The public stands with these Senators in opposing a mandate on states to allow these oversized trucks.

Longer, heavier trucks on America’s roads will degrade our nation’s already crumbling infrastructure and further endanger public safety. Double trailer trucks have an 11 percent higher fatal crash rate than single trailer trucks. Passing, especially on two-way, two lane roads will be more perilous for passenger vehicles. Longer double 33-foot trailers add a minimum of 10 feet to the length of current 28-foot double trailers, and are at least 84 feet long. Double 33s are the length of an eight-story office building. The poll results are clear and consistent with previous polling – Americans strongly oppose bigger trucks.

The public strongly opposes any change by Congress that would allow double trailer trucks to become even longer, pulling two 33-foot trailers instead of two 28-foot trailers, the current limit. The poll shows that 77% of the public oppose such a change and that 62% of those polled strongly oppose such a change in federal law. By contrast, only 22% support this change and of those only 8% feel strongly about it. Among those polled who identified their political affiliation large majorities oppose the longer double trailer trucks regardless of their political ties, with 71% of Republicans, 73% of Independents and 85% of Democrats opposing permitting longer double trailer trucks on our nation’s highways.

The highlighted findings reflect the safety view on the issue.

SHORT SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

  1. Support or Oppose Criminal Penalties for Cover-ups of Safety Defects by Auto and Equipment Manufacturers

Support: 84%                                                  Oppose: 15%

Strongly Support: 67%                                   Strongly Oppose: 9%

  1. Support or Oppose Allowing Teens to Drive Large Trucks and Passenger Buses Interstate

Support: 26%                                                  Oppose: 73%

Strongly Support: 16%                                   Strongly Oppose: 56%

  1. Support or Oppose Congress Requiring Car Dealers to Repair Used and Loaner Cars that have been Recalled for a Safety Problem before they are Sold or Loaned to the Public

Support: 86%                                                  Oppose: 13%

Strongly Support: 71%                                   Strongly Oppose: 8%

  1. Support or Oppose Congress Allowing Double 33’ Trailer Trucks on Roads throughout the Country

Support: 22%                                                  Oppose: 77%

Strongly Support: 8%                                     Strongly Oppose: 62%

(NOTE: This nationwide telephone study was conducted by ORC International on November 12-15, using two probability samples: randomly selected landline telephone numbers and randomly selected mobile (cell) telephone numbers. The combined sample consists of 1,011 adults (18 years old and older) living in the continental United States. Of the 1,011 interviews, 511 were from the landline sample and 500 from the cell phone sample. The margin of error for the sample of 1,011 is +/- 3.08% at the 95% confidence level. Smaller subgroups will have larger error margins.)

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