Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Sept. 9 Marks 50th Anniversary of Highway and Auto Safety Laws

  • September 8, 2016
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Contact: Allison Kennedy, 202-408-1711, akennedy@saferoads.org

MEDIA ADVISORY

TOMORROW, SEPTEMBER 9, MARKS THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF THE NATIONAL TRAFFIC AND MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY ACT AND THE HIGHWAY SAFETY ACT

Safety Standards, Programs and Interventions are More Important Now than Ever as Recently Released 2015 Traffic Fatality Data Shows Largest Percentage Increase in Deaths in Nearly 50 Years

On September 9, 1966, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Highway Safety Act were signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson (photo and statement available here). These laws were an important step in curbing needless deaths and injuries on our roads and highways from motor vehicle crashes. Enactment of the laws resulted in the establishment of safety standards, a coordinated national highway safety program and the creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency was first led by Dr. William Haddon, a physician and leading expert on crash research and prevention. In 1966, when the bills were signed into law, over 50,000 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes.

During President Johnson’s 1966 State of the Union address, he urged that the highway safety agency be created.  Both bills passed Congress with nearly unanimous votes.  For the first time in history, the federal government took a proactive role in setting uniform motor vehicle safety standards, highway safety requirements and other safety measures.

Since this lifesaving agency was created, the fatality toll has steadily decreased with some ups and downs in the number.  Laws and programs administered by NHTSA are estimated to have saved over 453,000 lives since 1975.[1]

However, there is still a major unfinished safety agenda and the new 2015 data clearly indicates that motor vehicle crashes continue to be a serious and significant public health and safety problem. Research and experience have shown that uniform vehicle safety standards and strong traffic safety laws save lives. For example, in 2015 almost 14,000 lives were saved by seatbelts for passengers five years of age and older. Further, electronic stability control saved almost 1,600 lives in 2014, and last year frontal airbags saved more than 2,500 lives. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) urges all states to pass laws that will reduce the death and injury toll on our streets and highways. The 2016 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, published annually by Advocates, identifies more than 300 laws necessary for all states to adequately protect motorists. The report can be found online at www.saferoads.org.

Joan Claybrook, the fifth Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during the Carter Administration and Consumer Co-Chair of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, is available for interviews. She attended the bill signing ceremony in 1966 and can be reached at:  (202) 364-8755.  Please also contact Advocates for further information and interviews.

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[1] Traffic Safety Facts 2014: A Compilation of Motor Vehicle Crash Data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System, NHTSA, DOT HS 812 261.