New Lou Harris Poll

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Bill Bronrott, 301-652-6016 or 202-270-4415
Monday, July 12, 2004 or Debra Kubecka, 202-408-1711 or 443-226-4744

AS TRAFFIC FATALITIES HIT 13-YEAR HIGH, NEW LOU HARRIS POLL SHOWS
NEAR UNANIMOUS PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR U.S. GOVERNMENT ACTION TO IMPROVE VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS TO STEM RISING TIDE OF DEATHS

Crash Survivor Activists Urge Congress to Adopt Auto Safety Provisions in S.1072,
Senate-Passed SAFETEA, to Curb Deadly Rollover Crashes, Occupant Ejections,
Vehicle Roof Crush, and Violent Mismatch of SUVs and Cars in Crashes

Average American Burdened with $792 Annual "Crash Tax" from Death and Injury Toll;
Safety Advocates Say Auto Safety Improvements Will Saves Lives and Taxpayer Dollars

 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 12, 2004) - With highway fatalities hitting a 13-year high and rollover crashes on the rise in 2003, nine of ten Americans say they support the federal government setting stronger uniform auto safety standards, according to a new Lou Harris Poll released today.

The Harris Poll found that 84 percent of the American public, including 8 of 10 SUV owners, favor the U.S. government requiring manufacturers to make all motor vehicles, including SUVs, more stable and less likely to roll over in crashes.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death of Americans from ages 1 to 34. An estimated 43,220 people died in traffic crashes in 2003, the highest since 1990 and the fourth consecutive year that traffic deaths have risen. Deaths from vehicle rollover crashes also are on the rise, including a 10 percent jump in fatalities resulting from SUV rollover crashes last year.

The Harris "Survey of the Attitudes of the American People on Highway and Auto Safety" comes as Congress nears a vote on a long-awaited six-year $318 billion transportation bill known as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act (SAFETEA). Vehicle safety provisions in SAFETEA passed the U.S. Senate in February, but were not included in the House bill. House and Senate conferees are meeting to work out differences in the two versions, and a decision could come before Congress goes on summer recess this month.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (www.saferoads.org) is urging Congress to stem the rising tide of highway deaths by adopting the Senate-passed motor vehicle safety provisions that would reduce deadly rollover crashes, occupant ejection, vehicle roof crush, the violent mismatch of crashes between SUVs and cars, improve child safety and at the same time provide consumers new vehicle safety rating sticker information at the point-of-purchase in dealership showrooms.

"The specific technologies to address these problems are available right now. They don't have to be invented," said Judith Lee Stone, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "These features should be standard equipment for all car buyers, not mere options for those who can afford it. The question is will Congress move forward or take yet another detour or U-turn? This is a matter of life or death for thousands, and Congress holds the key."

The annual economic cost of motor vehicle crashes is $230.6 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Stone said that in effect "the average American is saddled with a 'Crash Tax' of $792 and the typical family of four is burdened with a 'Crash Tax' of $3,168 every year."

Rollover crashes resulted in 114,819 deaths in the U.S. from 1991 through 2002. The top ten states with the most rollover deaths during that time period were California (11,874), Texas (10,051), Florida (5,424), North Carolina (4,149), Missouri (4,104), Georgia (4,091), Tennessee (3,686), Alabama (3,511), Illinois (3,441), and Pennsylvania (3,293).

"The Harris Poll shows that the American public is way ahead of government in terms of wanting greater safety standards in their automobiles and their willingness to pay for it," said Stone.

Other key findings from Harris Poll:

  • 9 out of 10 of adults surveyed want the government to step in and set auto safety standards.

  • More than 90-percent of adults surveyed said they'd be willing to pay $200 to $300 more for safety improvements to new cars.

  • 83% of adults surveyed favor requiring stickers to be placed on the windshield of all new cars indicating the likelihood of that vehicle to roll over.

  • 55% of adults surveyed favor the government to require Electronic Stability Control (ESC) devices to be installed in new cars to help prevent rollover.

  • Only 31% are aware of a government website that contains customer information about how likely it is for various types of vehicles to roll over.

  • Improved Seatbelts--An 82% to 17% majority nationwide would like to see the government require improvements in seat belts to better protect passengers during rollovers.

  • Stronger Roof Standard--An 83% majority "wants the government to require a major upgrading of roof safety standards to withstand the weight of the car when it rolls over."

  • Among the public as a whole, 83% are concerned about severe crashes that occur when mismatched vehicles like SUVs collide with smaller vehicles. This is an increase over the 74% response in 1998.

  • 81% favor "stronger vehicle roofs so that windshields don't pop out of the frame so easily during a crash."

  • 81% support safer door locks and latches so that doors do not fly open in crashes.

  • 78% also favor "stronger side door window glass, like that in windshields, that won't crumble in a crash."

  • 70% support "side air bag curtains that drop from the vehicle roof and come between the person and the side door and window."

Survey respondents were asked how much more money they would be willing to pay for vehicle safety improvements. Back in 1996, when Harris asked the same question of the American public, 75 percent said they would pay the extra money. The 2004 survey found 91 percent willing to pay up to $300 more for safety improvements.

Also addressing today's National Press Club news announcement to urge Congress to approve the Senate-passed bill were:

Patrick Parker of Childress, Texas, who at the age of 37 became a quadriplegic from a rollover crash near his home on August 29, 2001. Parker was injured when he swerved and avoided a deer, and then while correcting, hit a second deer on the front corner of the truck. The truck rolled immediately upon impact, with the cab crushing and breaking his neck. Parker was accompanied by his wife Dena Parker.

Beverly Taylor of Raleigh, North Carolina, whose daughter Lauren Braddy, age 21 and a graduating senior at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa died in an SUV rollover crash while on spring break in Florida with three of her friends and sorority sisters on March 28, 2004. Ms. Taylor was joined by Carrie Thornton, 20, of Marietta, Georgia, who was a sorority sister of the crash victims. She spoke of her friends, Lauren, Christin Lancaster of Tuscaloosa, who also died in the crash, and Hannah Jones of Dothan, Alabama, and Mary McGinness of Lookout Mountain, Georgia, who were injured.

Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen (www.citizen.org) and board member of Advocates said "On these critical auto safety matters the government has delayed for years, even decades. This has resulted in thousands being maimed and slaughtered on our highways. The American public is paying for these crashes with their lives and their wallets and they want government action now."

Another Advocates board member, Alan Maness, Federal Affairs Director and Associate General Counsel for State Farm Insurance Companies, said, "These child safety provisions will go a long way toward improving the auto safety environment for child passengers throughout the nation, and we call for their adoption."

On behalf of Louis Harris, the Peter Harris Research Group completed a total of 1003 telephone interviews with randomly selected adults aged 18 years and older between May 14, 2004 and June 3, 2004. At the 95 percent level of confidence, the margin of error for a representative, national cross-section survey of 1003 respondents is approximately ±3.1 percentage points.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads and vehicles safer. Advocates encourages the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that we know will prevent death and disabling injuries. Additional information may be found on their web page at www.saferoads.org

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