FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, January 29, 2020
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / firstname.lastname@example.org / 202-408-1711 / 301-442-2249 (C)
Statement of Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates),
On the Release of House Democrats’ Infrastructure Plan
With today’s release of the U.S. House of Representatives Democrats’ infrastructure plan, “Moving Forward Framework for the People,” Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) looks forward to working with members on both sides of the aisle to ensure that any infrastructure or surface transportation legislation includes comprehensive and much-needed highway safety improvements. Historically, these major policy bills have included strong safety titles including most recently the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act (P.Law 114-94) and Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21 (P.Law 112-141). With 100 people on average dying in crashes each day and thousands more injured, proven safety solutions must be enacted by our Nation’s leaders.
Advocates calls upon Congress to include the following priorities as part of any infrastructure or surface transportation legislation this year:
- Advanced vehicle technologies to prevent and mitigate crashes in all new vehicles (including S. 2700/H.R. 4871, H.R. 3773, S. 2278/H.R. 3959): Congress must direct the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to require that all new vehicles be equipped with proven safety technology including automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW) and blind spot detection (BSD). In addition to requiring them as standard equipment, the agency must set minimum performance requirements for these technologies to assure they operate safely and reliably. Moreover, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found that while nighttime visibility is essential for safety, few vehicles are equipped with headlights that perform well. The standard should be upgraded to improve headlight performance.
- Alcohol and drug-impaired driving countermeasures (including S. 2604, H.R. 4354, H.R. 3888, H.R. 3890): Congress must take action to address the deadly behavior of impaired driving on our roadways including by requiring passive alcohol-detection technology in new cars. Further, Congress should incentivize states to reduce the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit to .05 percent, sanction states that have failed to enact an all-offender ignition interlock device requirement by a date certain, allocate increased funding for law enforcement training programs to help identify impaired drivers and improve enforcement, and direct funding for research into marijuana-impaired driving and roadside impairment testing.
- Occupant and child passenger protection (including S. 1601/H.R. 3593, S. 2278/H.R. 3959, S. 543/H.R. 3145, S. 2947, S. 2605/H.R. 4709, S. 2606/H.R. 4708 and S. 2611/H.R. 4697): Congress should take necessary steps to protect vehicle occupants, including child passengers, by passing legislation to: require a detection and alert system for occupants unknowingly left in vehicles, direct school bus safety improvements, prevent against the risks associated with keyless ignition technology, increase safety for passengers of limousines, and a number of other upgrades.
- Consumer information (including S. 2182): Consumers must have access to adequate information and data regarding vehicle safety. To that end, Congress should pass legislation to immediately upgrade the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), require the collection and accessibility of on-road performance data through the use of mandatory event data recorders (EDRs), and update early warning reporting requirements to improve transparency.
- Agency resources and authorities (including S. 1971): Considering the unacceptably high number of fatalities and injuries on our Nation’s roads, numerous Congressionally-mandated overdue rulemakings, the prevalence of recalls, and the new responsibilities incumbent upon the U.S. DOT as autonomous vehicles (AVs) are developed and deployed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) must have additional resources and authorities to effectively oversee vehicle safety. NHTSA should be provided imminent hazard and criminal penalty authority, and the cap on civil penalties should be removed. Additionally, it should be required that all used and leased vehicles with an open recall are repaired before being sold or loaned.
- Commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safety (including H.R. 3773, S. 2700/H.R. 4871, S. 2033, S. 665/H.R. 1511): Crash fatalities involving large trucks have increased steadily since 2009, reaching nearly 5,000 deaths in 2018 alone. This needless carnage on our roadways could be reduced through the enactment of a number of bills that would require NHTSA to conduct rulemakings and issue minimum performance standards for proven safety technologies, require the use of comprehensive underride guards, ensure entry-level drivers have adequate training, restore public accessibility of safety data and require the agency to complete withdrawn or overdue rulemakings.
Advocates also strongly supports improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists, curbing dangers on rural roads (H.R. 4338) and combatting distracted driving through safety grants (H.R. 2416). All of these safety improvements should be prioritized as Congress begins contemplating legislation following today’s release of a proposed framework. Furthermore, any legislation that facilitates the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles (AVs) must set minimum performance requirements for this still-experimental technology.
According to NHTSA, 36,560 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018. This unacceptable toll can and must be reduced by enacting commonsense countermeasures contained in legislation introduced in this Congress, among other safety advances.