FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 18, 2022
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / email@example.com / 301-442-2249 (C)
Statement of Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), on Updated Safety Standard Permitting Adaptive Driving Beam (ADB) Technology
Action by U.S. Department of Transportation only “partially illuminates the path” toward ensuring all new vehicles are equipped with the most effective headlights that can prevent crashes and save lives.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has amended the more than 50-year-old performance standard for headlamps on passenger vehicles, allowing auto manufacturers to install adaptive driving beam (ADB) technology. ADB headlamps actively modify a vehicle’s headlamp beams to provide more illumination while limiting glare projected onto oncoming drivers. While this action is overdue and much needed, the lack of a requirement for ADB in the final rule means widespread deployment will be unnecessarily protracted and automakers can continue to upcharge for the safer headlamps limiting access to those who can afford the additional expense. More than 50 percent of crash fatalities (18,429 people) occurred at nighttime in 2019, according to NHTSA. Seventy-six (76) percent of pedestrian fatalities and 47 percent of cyclist fatalities happened when it was dark out that same year. Proven solutions, such as ADB, should be standard equipment in new vehicles to address this preventable death toll.
It is important to note that additional headlight safety standard upgrades were required in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, Pub. L. 117-58) enacted last November. They include the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) improving the overall headlight standard by increasing visibility and decreasing glare with the issuance of a final rule by November 2023. Nonetheless, these improvements must serve as a “floor,” and not a “ceiling,” for what the U.S. DOT promulgates. Especially considering the recent skyrocketing of motor vehicle crashes, the U.S. DOT must take swift and thorough action.
Headlight technology has experienced dramatic improvements over the last half-century, but the absence of a modernized Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS), including the prohibition of ADB technology, has resulted in automakers installing poorly performing headlights. The range of systems has been demonstrated in ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) which found that the nighttime crash rates are nearly 20 percent lower for vehicles earning the organization’s “good” rating for headlight performance versus those earning a “poor” rating. Recognizing the potential safety benefits, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommends upgrading headlight standards.
The result of needed improvements lying dormant is crashes killing tens of thousands of people and injuring millions every year. The “crisis” of preventable crash deaths, identified by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, requires delivering on proven solutions without delay.
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.