Today, the American Highway Users Alliance released a new study, “Unclogging America’s Arteries 2015, Prescriptions for Healthier Highways.” Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) supports efforts to promote healthier highways and reduce congestion. Solving roadway bottlenecks involves adequate funding but also advancing laws, policies and programs to reduce highway crashes. A major source of roadway congestion is slowed or stopped traffic when a crash occurs. Serious truck and car crashes often result in deaths and injuries that require the immediate assistance of emergency responders on the scene, shutting down or re-routing traffic, and causing hours of delay for all motorists.
This is the reason our organization and coalition partners are deeply concerned about the anti-safety rollbacks and attacks contained in the DRIVE Act, H.R. 22, now being negotiated in a conference with House and Senate Members. In 2013, the most recent year final figures are available, there were nearly 5.7 million police-reported crashes across the United States resulting in 32,719 fatalities and over 2 million injuries. Early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) predict a 9.5% increase in crash fatalities for the first quarter of 2015, compared to the first quarter of 2014 projections. These crashes come with an annual cost of $836 billion, amounting to a “crash tax” of approximately $2,600 for every person in the United States. Congestion caused by crashes, including travel delay, excess fuel consumption, greenhouse gases and criteria pollutants totaled $28 billion (NHTSA). To make our roads truly “healthier,” we need Congress to advance safety laws and policies that will address the economic and emotional costs of crashes as they deliberate over the DRIVE Act.
Unfortunately, both the House and Senate versions of the DRIVE Act ignore available solutions that will prevent crashes and instead, include provisions that will set back safety. For example, both bills include a provision that will allow teen truck and bus drivers to get behind the wheel of an 80,000 big rig or passenger-carrying bus and operate in interstate commerce despite overwhelming public opposition and compelling research showing the unacceptable high crash risk of young drivers. A public opinion poll released last week shows that 77% of the public opposes this proposal (conducted by ORC International). Additionally, there is a lethal loophole in the bill that will allow car dealerships to provide loaner or rental cars to consumers even though they have safety recalls that have not been fixed. The public resoundingly rejects this idea, with 86% of the public opposing.
Furthermore, the bills provide exemptions from federal rules on the limits of working hours for truck driver hours and truck size and weights for certain industries such as logging, ready mix concrete, dairy and construction materials. It is time for Congress to get serious about reducing the growing carnage on our roads and highways especially when we have commonsense and cost-effective solutions at hand. To seriously unclog our nation’s arteries and achieve healthier highways, Congress needs to listen to the public, not to trucking and auto interests that prescribe remedies that jeopardize public safety. For more information, visit this link.