FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 3, 2020
CONTACT: Pete Daniels, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety firstname.lastname@example.org / 301-442-2249 (C)
Joint Statement: “INVEST in America Act” Advances Crucial Safety Improvements That Will Reduce the Carnage on U.S. Roadways
U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) today released a wide-ranging transportation package, the INVEST in America Act, which, if enacted, would reduce motor vehicle crash fatalities, estimated at more than 36,000 in 2019 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“Unfortunately, we do not yet have a cure for COVID-19. But, we do have proven and available safety solutions to address the preventable fatalities and injuries occurring on our Nation’s roadways year after year,” said Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates). “We commend Chairman DeFazio, Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) for sponsoring the INVEST in America Act and advancing important safety countermeasures.” Advocates looks forward to working with the Committee as our review of this legislation continues.
REDUCING LARGE TRUCK CRASHES AND FATALITIES
Newly released estimates show that in 2019 large truck crash fatalities increased for a fifth consecutive year to approximately 5,000 people killed. Verified safety technologies hold remarkable potential to reduce this deadly toll. Automatic emergency braking (AEB) could prevent more than 2,500 crashes each year, based on estimates of current technology. The legislation released today directs NHTSA to require AEB on new trucks as well as school buses and to set a minimum performance standard. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has long recommended this vital safety enhancement. We are also pleased to see progress on other school bus safety measures including seat belts, electronic stability control and fire prevention and mitigation. In addition to cosponsors of the INVEST in America Act, Advocates, the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), and Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) thank the sponsors of the Safe Roads Act (H.R. 3773), the Protecting Roadside First Responders Act (H.R. 4871/S. 2700), and the School Bus Safety Act (H.R. 3959/S. 2278) for initiating action to advance this lifesaving equipment.
“The damage inflicted in large truck crashes is devastating, drastic and deadly with thousands of people needlessly killed and nearly 150,000 more injured each year,” said Dawn King, President of TSC and daughter of Bill Badger who was killed by a tired trucker. “The truck safety provisions included in the INVEST in America Act are a positive step toward preventing these crashes and making roadways safer throughout the country.”
Further, horrific crashes in which a motor vehicle travels underneath the rear or side of a truck trailer can be prevented with the use of available technology known as underride guards. “Families should not be forced to endure the pain and anguish of losing a loved one in an underride crash when comprehensive underride protection can stop them from happening,” said Jennifer Tierney, Board Member of CRASH and daughter of James Mooney who was killed in a truck underride crash. “The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has shown that this proven solution to a persistent problem will give motorists a fighting chance at survival or avoiding severe injury in these violent crashes.”
Advocates lauds the tireless advocacy efforts of the families of truck underride crash victims and thanks the Congressional sponsors of the Stop Underrides Act (S. 665/H.R. 1511) for their leadership on this issue.
Daphne Izer, co-founder of P.A.T.T. and mother of Jeff who was killed by a truck driver who fell asleep behind the wheel, responded to the release of the INVEST in America Act, “In addition to the proven safety technologies of AEB and underride guards, the bill will help keep unsafe truck drivers off the road. By requiring transparency in truck driver safety records, rules on driver fitness and vehicle inspections, and assessing the impacts of exemptions from hours of service rules, the Committee is making progress toward assuring the safety of drivers during the course of their essential work transporting passengers and moving America’s goods.”
DECREASING DISTRACTED DRIVING
Another issue of critical importance is decreasing distracted driving, which according to NHTSA was responsible for 2,841 deaths in 2018 alone and is known to be under-reported. Strong state laws banning distracting behavior are necessary to combat this scourge on our roadways. In a January 2020 public opinion poll commissioned by Advocates, 90 percent of respondents favored passage of state laws to prohibit distracting activities behind the wheel while still allowing the use of phones for getting directions. And, 80 percent agreed with making grant money available to incentivize states to pass distracted driving legislation.
The bipartisan SAFE TO DRIVE Act of 2019 (H.R. 2416) seeks to provide states that have adopted certain distracted driving restrictions with increased funding for enforcement and education efforts, as well as improve transparency within the grant program. The legislation released today also seeks to provide clarity to the grant programs. “Enhancements to the grant program will help combat distracted driving, which dramatically increases crash risk and causes thousands of needless fatalities each year,” said Lee Fanshaw, Federal Government Affairs Director of American Family Insurance and Insurance Co-Chair of Advocates.
“Our first responders and emergency care providers are already over-burdened. By enacting INVEST in America Act, Congress will be advancing proven safeguards to reduce preventable crashes,” said Dr. Stephen Hargarten, Director of the Comprehensive Injury Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and Consumer Co-Chair of Advocates’ Board of Directors.
Chase concluded, “The INVEST in America Act outlines bold policy goals touching on many issues Advocates has identified as part of the unfinished safety agenda.” In addition to the topics above, we were pleased to see the Committee’s commitment to: reducing crashes involving vulnerable road users; improving limousine safety; enhancing highway safety grants focused on important issues such as occupant protection, child passenger safety, move over laws, automated enforcement, impaired driving, and rural roads; and, initiating vital research on the implications autonomous vehicles (AVs) will have on infrastructure and roadway safety. As the Committee heads into the June 17 mark-up, we will continue to offer recommendations and analysis on this commendable step forward.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer. Advocates’ mission is the adoption of federal and state laws, policies and programs that prevent motor vehicle crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and contain costs.