Statement on U.S. Department of Transportation Rulemaking Changes

  • December 6, 2019
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
CONTACT: Pete Daniels / / 202-408-1711 / 301-442-2249 (C)


Statement of Cathy Chase,

President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety,

On U.S. Department of Transportation Rulemaking Changes

Overdue safety rules will be delayed further, costing lives and threatening the safety of all road users


Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) announced it will be codifying changes to the current rulemaking process that will stymie the process for issuing safety rules.  This action is ill-advised, irresponsible and perilous.  This drastic alteration will require the U.S. DOT to identify two regulations to be revoked before it can issue a new rule, regardless of its benefit to public safety.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 36,560 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018.  While the U.S. DOT is claiming these actions have saved $3.7 billion since the start of the current Administration, crashes impose a cost to society of nearly $1 trillion each year.  Impeding the implementation of commonsense, lifesaving auto safety regulations will only exacerbate this horrific death and economic toll.


A significant backlog of safety regulations awaits action by NHTSA on essential issues ranging from child passenger safety to motorcoach design improvements.  Approximately a dozen overdue safety rulemakings mandated by Congress in recent surface transportation bills (MAP-21 (Pub. L. 112-141) and FAST Act (Pub. L. 114-94)) could be saving lives if issued today.


Furthermore, NHTSA’s failure to require minimum performance standards for automated vehicles is endangering the motoring public and all road users.  The Agency has instead issued only voluntary guidelines that give auto makers and tech companies wide latitude to push this uncertain technology onto our roadways without adequate safeguards in place.  Recent findings by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in its investigation of a fatal 2018 crash in Tempe, Arizona involving an autonomous test vehicle underscore the need for strong federal oversight.


It is particularly confounding that the U.S. DOT claims these changes will improve transparency in the rulemaking process, yet these actions were done behind closed doors without public comment or review.  Saving lives, preventing injuries and reducing the economic costs of traffic crashes through safety standards must remain at the core of U.S. DOT’s mission.  Sadly, this action by U.S. DOT throws safety in reverse.


Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, medical, public health, 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.