FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, November 5, 2021
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety / firstname.lastname@example.org / 301-442-2249
Joint Statement on U.S. House of Representatives Passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3684)
Safety and Consumer Advocates, Public Health Experts, Business Leaders and Families of Crash and Hot Car Incident Victims Urge Action by the Biden Administration to Advance Proven Safety Solutions
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (the Senate Amendment to H.R. 3684) (IIJA), multi-year transportation and infrastructure legislation passed by the U.S. Senate on August 10. While numerous safety advances were included, some fell prey to the negotiation process. It is now time for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to act with urgency to implement and exceed the Congressional directives to address the nearly 40,000 deaths and 2.8 million injuries occurring on our nation’s roadways annually.
Last year, motor vehicle crash deaths increased by seven percent from 2019, the largest projected number of traffic fatalities since 2007. Early data for the first six months of 2021 show crash fatalities increased nearly 20 percent and further revealed a rise in risky driving behaviors including lack of seat belt use and speeding. The steep traffic fatality surge during this period, the highest ever recorded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), suggests that other dangerous behaviors, such as impaired driving, continue to prevail. Additionally, nearly 5,000 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks in 2020, and 159,000 people were injured in large truck-involved crashes in 2019. Statistics show that in fatal crashes involving a large truck and a passenger vehicle, 97 percent of those killed are the occupants of the car.
We thank all of the Members of Congress and their staff who pushed for safety improvements including the sponsors of stand-alone safety bills. For more information about safety issues in the legislation, please visit SafeRoads.org.
Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates): “Today Congress reauthorized surface transportation programs with the House’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. While we welcome the inclusion of provisions aimed at reversing the deadly motor vehicle crash trend, prompt action must be taken on comprehensive, commonsense and confirmed solutions to steer our nation toward zero crash fatalities. For example, Advocates worked hand-in-hand with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to advance a requirement for impaired driving prevention technology which has the potential to save thousands of lives each year. Advocates also worked with crash victims, including first responders, to get an automatic emergency braking (AEB) requirement for new large trucks and cars included in the bill. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found AEB reduces front-to-rear crashes of cars by 50 percent and of large trucks by over 40 percent. Additionally, needed upgrades for limousines will safeguard people’s happiest days from becoming their worst nightmares, and provisions to advance a Safe System approach and the use of automated enforcement systems will help protect road users. Advocates will continue to press Congress and the Biden Administration to address many of the persistent contributors to the annual physical, emotional and economic toll of crashes on our roads. Proven solutions are at hand; it’s time to take action.”
Joan Claybrook, former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Chair of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH): “For decades, crash victim and survivor advocates heroically have pushed for commonsense safety advances to prevent others from experiencing similar losses. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act requires federal adoption of some of these long-overdue safety issues, but more work is to be done. The legislation charges the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) with undertaking a number of initiatives, including a requirement for automatic emergency braking (AEB) for new large trucks and cars. Like airbags, which I worked on in the 1970s and 80s as Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, AEB is a game-changing, life-saving technological advancement. The U.S. DOT must view the directive in the bill as a floor and not a ceiling for what can be achieved. The agency’s mission ‘to ensure America has the safest, most efficient and modern transportation system in the world’ must guide its leaders to issue the strongest and soundest safety standards to protect all road users.”
Amy Cohen, Co-Founder, Families for Safe Streets (New York): “Losing a loved one due to traffic violence is a life-altering experience no one thinks they will have to endure. Yet, it happens every day to 100 families, friends and communities. The members of Families for Safe Streets have turned our tragedy into tireless advocacy for impactful vehicle and infrastructure safety solutions. While this legislation makes some incremental improvements, it did not go far enough. We desperately need a commitment and roadmap to achieving the goal of zero traffic deaths. Exempting small and medium trucks from the requirement to have automatic emergency braking (AEB) is an unconscionable travesty. My son, Sammy, was a pedestrian when he was struck by a commercial cargo van on our street and AEB may have saved his life. With proven preventions to these types of crashes readily available, each passing day of inaction leaves children, pedestrians, bicyclists and other vulnerable road users in harm’s way. We call upon the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to take swift action on requirements and performance standards for technologies such as AEB and to make them mandatory in all new vehicles.”
Janette Fennell, President, Kids and Car Safety: “More than 1,000 children have died in hot cars since 1990. Kids and Car Safety is encouraged that Congress acknowledged the need for technology as a solution to the hot car issue. Unfortunately, the hot cars language passed in the infrastructure bill sets a very low bar and is not an effective solution to save the lives of children. It is now incumbent upon the U.S. Department of Transportation to take swift action and require systems which will solve the tragic problem of children unknowingly left in or independently climbing into unoccupied cars. Occupant detection and alert systems are a comprehensive, effective solution that is readily available and cost efficient at less than $20 per vehicle. Without detection and alert systems, children will continue to die in hot cars.”
Jack Gillis, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of America, and Author, The Car Book: “The U.S. New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) more than 40 years ago, was designed to spur vehicle safety improvements by giving consumers access to critical safety assessments of the cars and trucks on showroom floors. The Consumer Federation of America and its over 250 member organizations throughout America were hopeful that a long-overdue, comprehensive, and needed update of NCAP would be included as part of the infrastructure bill but the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act unfortunately didn’t hit the mark. The responsibility to advance this urgently needed modernization now lies with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). We urge Secretary Buttigieg to end U.S. NCAP’s current status as a laggard on the world stage and revitalize its potential to significantly improve auto safety.”
Stephen W. Hargarten, MD, MPH, Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Research: “There is no question that the horrific impact of motor vehicle crashes is a major public health crisis. My fellow emergency physicians and many others on the front lines see the resulting carnage every day. It is especially frustrating that many of these fatalities and injuries are preventable with available solutions. Today’s passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act moved some of these solutions forward, such as an improved headlight performance standard which was first issued more than 50 years ago. This safety upgrade has been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as a remedy for the high proportion of pedestrian crash fatalities that occur at night. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) should swiftly finalize an update to this standard, as well as other improvements included in the legislation and additional data-driven ‘cures,’ especially considering the recent increases in crash fatalities.”
Dawn King, President, Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), (Michigan) and Daughter of Bill Badger who was killed by a tired trucker in 2004: “Too many people are needlessly dying in truck crashes while too few effective safety solutions are being implemented by U.S. DOT. Research and real world experience show that crash avoidance technologies like AEB will dramatically reduce the truck crash carnage on our streets and roads. Over the past decade, truck crash deaths have increased significantly, yet lifesaving technologies are being ignored or delayed. This must change and the AEB requirement is an important step forward. However, the legislation carves out a special interest exemption for medium-size trucks like delivery and box trucks that travel through our neighborhoods every day making millions of deliveries. Twenty-seven (27) percent of fatalities in large truck crashes involved these trucks (class 3-6 medium-duty). We urge the Biden Administration to aggressively move forward with a requirement for AEB to be standard equipment on all new trucks — no exceptions and no excuses.”
Jason Levine, Executive Director, Center for Auto Safety: “While our 51 years of fighting for consumer protection and safety from vehicle crashes has taught us that progress can be slow and painful at times, it is possible. Every year there are dozens of preventable, horrific deaths, not to mention catastrophic injuries in rear impact crashes, as a result of the industry’s abject failure to fix a known problem for less than $5.00 per seat. The IIJA finally starts the process of modernizing the safety of seatbacks to protect everyone in the vehicle, including rear seat occupants, which has been neglected since 1967. Refreshingly, in places, the IIJA uses existing technology and research to prevent tragedies. The bill requires an automatic shutoff feature in vehicles featuring keyless ignition – thus preventing carbon monoxide poisoning hazards and it requires action on hood and bumper standards to help protect vulnerable road users – who are dying in record numbers. However, each step forward for safety also highlights missteps where the bill neglects to save lives by leaving out proven technology. One example is the lack of a requirement for an available fix to prevent rollaway vehicles from killing as many as 140 people annually. Congress does not pass auto safety laws often, which makes it an even bigger shame this legislative vehicle left so many potential advancements behind to find their own ride.”
Alan Maness, Vice President of Federal Affairs, State Farm Insurance Companies: “Major transportation and infrastructure legislation provides a key opportunity not only to invest in our nation’s roads and bridges, but also to implement safety advances that will benefit all those who use them. With the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress took a step towards that goal. State Farm welcomes the inclusion of provisions in this legislation to combat numerous causes of crashes including the major and growing issues of driving while impaired and while distracted. Proven solutions including vehicle safety technology can address these challenges. As the largest automobile insurer in the United States, we are ready to work together with the Administration to expedite the rulemaking processes and other countermeasures to prevent crashes and save lives.”
Commander Chris Olson, Oro Valley, Arizona Police Department, and International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Highway Safety Committee member: “The Officer Down Memorial Page reports that 12 officers have died after being struck by vehicles, and 17 died as a result of ‘vehicular assault’ this year to date. Between 2005 and 2019, more than 200 officers have been killed in struck-by incidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, new dangers posed by unregulated automated driving systems have emerged, as evidenced by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) current investigation of 12 crashes involving Teslas and roadside first responder vehicles. Clearly it is time for proven crash avoidance technology to be regulated and required to prevent these tragedies. I commend Congress for beginning that process today, especially Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) for sponsoring the Protecting Roadside First Responders Act (S. 1386/H.R. 2867), components of which were included in the infrastructure bill. I also thank DOT for its investigation and urge Secretary Buttigieg and his team to prioritize the issuance of a comprehensive automatic emergency braking rule responsive to vehicles and people outside of vehicles with utmost urgency.”
Russ Swift, Co-Chair, Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) (Florida) and Father of Jasen Swift who was killed in a truck crash with a teen driver: Despite important truck safety gains, the bill also includes several special interest provisions that will allow teens to drive large trucks across state lines and expand an exemption from federal driving and work limits for livestock haulers. “Twenty-eight (28) years ago, a teen trucker making an illegal turn resulted in the violent death of my son, Jasen Swift, a Corporal in the United States Marine Corps. It is incomprehensible to me that Congress is advancing legislation allowing 18 to 20 year-olds to get behind the wheel of massive 18-wheelers on interstate highways throughout the nation. Research confirming the dangers and risks of young drivers is clear and compelling. Also, driver fatigue has been identified by the National Transportation Safety Board as a major contributor to truck crashes. These two provisions advance industry agendas at the expense of our safety.”
Jennifer Tierney, Board Member, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), (North Carolina) and Daughter of James Mooney who was killed 30 years ago in a truck underride crash: “Truck underride crashes, causing a passenger car to travel underneath the rear, side or front of a large truck, are often deadly or result in horrific head and neck injuries, including decapitation. For many years now, families of truck underride crashes like mine, have been pushing for a stronger federal standard for rear underride guards as well as a requirement for trucks to be equipped with side and front underride guards. Today’s passage of the infrastructure bill mandates the U.S. Department of Transportation to upgrade the current weak rear underride standard within a year of enactment. Additionally, the bill includes a directive to study side underride guards which we hope will result in a needed and long-awaited federal requirement. Effective truck underride guards will potentially save hundreds of lives annually.”