Strong Auto Safety Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Jackie Gillan
April 14, 2005 (202) 408-1711 x22

STATEMENT OF JACKIE GILLAN, VICE PRESIDENT
ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY (ADVOCATES)
ON
TODAY'S SENATE ACTION BY THE COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE TO ADOPT A HIGHWAY, AUTO AND TRUCK SAFETY BILL

April 14, 2005

Today's bi-partisan adoption by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee of a strong highway, auto and truck safety bill is a critical step toward bringing down deaths and injuries on our highways and a victory for every American family. Because of the leadership and commitment of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) and Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), "safety" has been added to the SAFETEA transportation funding legislation that is moving through the Senate. The legislation that these leaders proposed and guided through mark-up establishes an important, commonsense safety agenda that will save thousands of lives, prevent millions of disabling injuries and save American taxpayers billions of dollars in health care, medical and other social costs. It is a life-saving antidote to the public health crisis we face year in and year out because of highway deaths and injuries.

Unfortunately, when it comes to highway deaths and injuries we are stuck in neutral. Every year nearly 43,000 people are killed and 3 million more injured on our neighborhood streets and roads because of motor vehicle crashes. The human and economic costs are staggering - more than $230 Billion annually resulting in a "crash tax" of about $800 for every person in the United States. Highway crashes continue to be the leading killer of children, teens and adults up to age 33 and the major cause of brain injury, epilepsy and on-the-job deaths and injuries.

Advocates commends Sen. Stevens, Sen. Lott and Sen. Inouye for addressing all aspects of the highway safety problem in a balanced fashion. Provisions in the legislation will help combat drunk driving, encourage seat belt use, and advance state child booster seat laws. Other critical provisions set an agenda for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to move forward on long-overdue rules to prevent vehicle rollover and occupant ejection, strengthen roof crush resistance, require child safe power windows, and improve consumer information on new vehicles. NHTSA also will be required to evaluate technologies to eliminate rear blind spots resulting in tragic backover deaths and injuries to small children and others. In the past ten years more than 125,000 people have died in rollover crashes and the legislation directs NHTSA actions to address this vehicle safety problem.

The Committee leaders also addressed the growing problem of large truck crashes that result in nearly 5,000 deaths annually and more than 120,000 injuries. The legislation passed today requires the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to improve licensing procedures for commercial drivers, increase penalties for unsafe drivers and unfit motor carriers, and move toward completion of many safety regulations that have been languishing at the agency for years. The Commerce Committee also rejected a proposal by FMCSA to put into statute the new hours of service rule that was vacated by a unanimous Court of Appeals ruling last year because it did not protect the health of truck drivers.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer, is actively involved at the federal and state levels to reduce the terrible tragedy of crashes to families across the nation.

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