Tag Archives: NHTSA

See recent Public Comments to NHTSA. You, too, can speak up to end preventable truck underride.

You, too, can let NHTSA know what you want them to do about the problem of preventable truck side underride. In addition to signing the Side Guard Petition which we have launched online, you can also post a comment directly to NHTSA on the Federal Register.

Although the official Public Comment period is closed, comments will still be posted and taken into consideration by NHTSA, as they have not yet put together a Final Rule on truck underride protection.

I have received notifications the last few days regarding new postings to the Federal Register of Public Comments from people asking DOT/NHTSA to mandate side guards! I am assuming that this is in response to my request for people to do so to help bring about change. 🙂 See the recent Public Comments here:

You can do it, too! SUBMIT a Public Comment to DOT/NHTSA here: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NHTSA-2015-0118 After you get to this site, click on the COMMENT NOW button.

Don’t forget to sign the Side Guard PETITION

Auto Safety Advocates Tell Obama To Stop Rush To Get Self-Driving Cars On Road

So, here’s a real-life scenario. What might a Traffic Safety Ombudsman do in this situation?

Auto Safety Advocates Tell Obama To Stop Rush To  Get Self-Driving Cars On Road; Pull Back Autonomous Vehicle Technology ‘Guidance’ Expected Next Week http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/auto-safety-advocates-tell-obama-stop-rush-get-self-driving-cars-road-pull-back-autonomo

A coalition of auto safety advocates today called on President Obama to stop his “administration’s undue haste to get autonomous vehicle technology to the road” until enforceable safety standards are in place.  They said the administration’s autonomous vehicle “guidance” expected next week should not be issued. . .

“If the manufacturers, including the high-tech companies, lack the confidence in their products to stand behind them and assume responsibility and liability when the systems they design are in control, and innocent people are injured or killed as a result, those vehicles do not belong on the road,” the letter said.

“The administration should not succumb to Silicon Valley hype about the miracles of autonomous vehicle technology. Autonomous vehicle technologies hold the promise of improving safety. But that promise can only be realized after thorough testing and a public rulemaking process that results in enforceable standards” the letter concluded. 

Consumer Watchdog Letter to Obama:  http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrobamaav071316.pdf

Indeed. Make SAFETY a priority. Once someone dies in a crash, they never come back.

2 crash deaths

SIGN  & SHARE the TRAFFIC SAFETY OMBUDSMAN Petition:  https://wh.gov/i6kUj

PLEASE NOTE: If you sign the petition, be sure to go to your email. We the People will send you an email which will say this in the subject line:  “Almost done! Verify your Petitions.WhiteHouse.gov account.” Follow the instructions to verify your signature.


Strick to recall 2005-2009 van trailers for faulty rear impact guard. Discovered in 2014. Recall in 2016.


Strick Trailer is recalling certain single-axle 28-foot van trailers for a rear-impact guard issue, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration document.

More specifically, 2005-2009 van trailers manufactured July 25, 2004, to Feb. 3, 2009, and equipped with rear-impact guards using gussets 55997 and 55998 are affected. Gussets on affected trucks can increase the chances of injury during a crash, thereby violating Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 223, “Rear Impact Guards.”

In March 2014, Strick discovered that the gussets may not have been verified using prescribed test procedures, according to the NHTSA document. Tests conducted in April 2014 confirmed that the gussets violated FMVSS 223.

Owners will be notified by Strick to have reinforcements installed to the rear-impact guards at no cost. For more information, contact Strick’s customer service at 260-692-6121. The recall will begin on June 17.

– See more at: http://www.landlinemag.com/Story.aspx?StoryID=31159#.VzsfwfkrK70

Okay, I am glad that this is being taken care of, but I only hope that it will be done thoroughly and completely and without delay. And, by the way, if the problem was discovered in March 2014, why is the recall only beginning on June 17, 2016? What took so long?

Trip North May 2015 031

A grieving dad got the attention of the trucking industry & made a difference.

Rather than wait for a stronger underride rule to be proposed, Jerry Karth, in early 2014, determined to challenge the truck industry to voluntarily step up and strengthen underride protection on trucks.

He wrote letters, first of all, to the major trailer manufacturers — some of whom had been tested earlier by IIHS. He told them about our crash story — how AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13) through no fault of their own were killed by truck underride which might have been prevented if the truck they collided with had had better underride guards.

Then, soon after those letters were out the door, Jerry had several more lists of trucking companies, who either purchased or leased trailers. He proceeded to write letters to those companies — again telling them our crash story and making sure that they understood the inadequacy of guards designed to satisfy the current U.S. underride standard, or even the Canadian one for that matter.

Jerry asked them to look into the matter — even providing them with copies of the IIHS Status Reports which had articles on the underride issue. He asked them to make sure that they were getting their trailers from manufacturers which provided the best protection possible. He received letters, emails, and phone calls indicating that the companies were appreciative of the information provided to them.

Then, several months ago, Jerry got a call from Greer Woodruff, VP of Safety, Security, & Driver Personnel at J.B. Hunt a transport company. Greer was calling to tell Jerry that JB Hunt had purchased 4,000 new trailers in January 2016 from Wabash who had recently manufactured safer underride guards–having passed the IIHS 30% overlap crash test.

Underride Roundtable TimelineUnderride Roundtable May 5, 2016 141Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 169Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 007

See my posts with exciting developments on this front:

And later, during the afternoon panel discussion at the Underride Roundtable at IIHS on May 5, Jerry asked Mark Roush from Vanguard (a trailer manufacturer) what had motivated them to produce their recently-strengthened underride guards. This was what he found out:

“We had no idea if there would be a safety marketplace for large trucks when we began our crash tests,” Matthew Brumbelow, an IIHS senior research engineer who has extensively studied truck underride crashes, shared with the audience. “We at the Institute have been really encouraged by the response from trailer manufacturers.”

Mark Roush, vice president of engineering with Vanguard, participated in the afternoon panel discussion. Vanguard is one of the trailer manufacturers that voluntarily improved their underride guards. Roush credited IIHS research and the Karth family’s advocacy for raising awareness of the underride problem and ways to address it.

“As far as we knew we were producing trailers to what we thought was the highest regulatory standard, and then the IIHS test came in and made us aware of what was happening,” Roush said. “Three of our largest customers forwarded letters from you [Karth] asking us to do more.” The Karths personally wrote the largest trailer makers seeking their help in building better rear guards.

David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer, wrapped up the day with a call for continued cooperation and research.

“The one thing I hope everyone takes away from this is that there has been a lot of progress in recent years on underride crashes, and there will be more ahead. We heard from Virginia Tech students who are about to graduate and are already thinking about how to make underride guards better. And you heard from Matt Brumbelow about how guards are being designed to prevent types of underride crashes that weren’t addressed before. We are optimistic that we can solve this problem working together.” See more at: IIHS: Truck underride roundtable addresses problem of deadly crashes

It needs to be said, as I have stated before, that the positive progress made by the trailer manufacturers voluntarily — though it should be appreciated — should, nevertheless, not be allowed to stand as the end of the line. Unless they pass crash tests at higher speeds, the manufacturers need to get back to the drawing board and find ways to make their trucks safer all around (including on the sides and at the front) and at higher speeds.

And, unless trucks currently on the road are retrofitted and Single Unit Trucks become included in underride standards, way too many people will continue to die on our roads from preventable underride.

Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy ALMFTS facebook banner

I think that it would make Mary & AnnaLeah smile to think that their lives were the impetus for saving others from an untimely end and untold heartache.

Never forgotten

To read additional posts which I wrote as a follow-up to the Underride Roundtable, go here:  Underride Roundtable Follow-up Posts

From 1994-2014, 5,081 truck underride deaths (on average, 4/week) recorded by NHTSA.

April 19, 2016

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:


Marianne Karth asked NHTSA for information on Truck Underride Deaths.


NHTSA provided a revealing and disturbing set of data.


For twenty years about 4 people every average week an American motorist died of their injuries according to NHTSA’s FARS data.  From 1994-2014 the total amounting to 5,081 deaths were recorded by NHTSA.  See attached.


Year after tragic year the number has remained almost constant at more than 200 deaths each year.

See http://annaleahmary.com/2016/04/truck-underride-fatalities-chart-from-the-fars-1994-2014/

Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) have access to such data, so why don’t we see more stories?  See DOT and NHTSA databases available at IRE at


Let’s get the media focusing on our clear and present dangers here at home in the U.S.A. today.


Let’s get the media to produce change for the better with news we can use.



NHTSA Driver Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety Conference wraps up today. Live streaming NOW

See the second day of this conference here:

Tapes might be available this afternoon.

Yesterday can be seen here:

What will it take to make a significant reduction in the number of people who die on our roads?

Today, I watched some of  the live streaming of NHTSA’s conference, Driving Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety. As I listened to the various speakers and panel discussions, many thoughts and questions went through my mind. . .

Driving Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety Conference being Livestreamed at DOT

The basic question is: What will it take to make a significant reduction in the number of people who die on our roads?

  • It will take all of us working together.
  • It will take facing the problem head on.
  • It will take acknowledging that there is a problem–and the full extent of it.
  • It will take recognizing that we are all a part of the problem.
  • It will take talking about it openly.
  • It will take understanding that crash deaths are not just an expected risk of driving on the road but are to a great extent preventable.
  • It will take accepting that risky driver behavior is not a personal right but a violation of other people’s right to be protected from reckless behavior.
  • It will take calling risky driver behavior what it is: RECKLESS.
  • It will take classifying a vehicle as a weapon and reckless driver behavior as an act of violence.
  • It will take enacting laws that prohibit a full range of reckless driving behaviors and then enforcing those laws with stiff consequences.
  • It will take understanding  that changing personal behavior is not the only way to reduce crash deaths and learning how to work with others who are addressing vehicle and environment risk factors.
  • It will take recognizing and embracing that preventing crashes from happening is not the only thing which needs to be addressed but that we can also reduce the severity of those crashes so that death is not the end result.
  • It will take manufacturers and employers and consumers and law enforcement and engineers and countless others to recognize how their individual decisions and actions contribute to not just crash statistics but to the unnatural ending (or saving) of life for people with names and faces and hopes and dreams and other people who care about them whose lives will be changed forever.
  • And it will take us all realizing that someday soon one of those names and faces could very well be ourselves or someone whom we love and will miss dreadfully. And that it could have been prevented.
  • It will take listening to the hundreds of thousands of families who have lost loved ones due to traffic crashes and apologizing, as a society, for letting them down–for not addressing it as the priority it should be. Bringing healing and hope that their frustrations and anger and grief are being heard and that their petitions for change are being taken seriously. Giving them a voice and channeling their zealous energy in positive ways which can in fact be a powerful tool for changing the future and moving us more surely Toward Zero Crash Deaths, Serious Injuries, and Fear of Traffic.
  • And beyond that, I firmly believe that, in order to move as a nation Toward a Vision of Zero Crash Deaths, it will take take a commitment to a National Vision Zero Goal and a coordinated endeavor of government, private industry, workers of every skill imaginable, and informed citizens. Anything short of this will be disjointed and less effective, which translates into — not simply unmet project goals but — people dying. It is not an impossible dream but it will require sacrifice and will be well worth the effort.

I kept writing down  ideas as they came to me during the various presentations and discussions and emailing them to the event coordinator. I did not hear my questions being addressed. But I am going to record them (in their raw intensity) here:

After losing my 2 youngest daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13), due to a truck underride crash on May 4, 2013, I have been calling for a National Vision Zero Goal (along with over 20,000 Vision Zero Petition Signers):
Rebekah photo of crash
I am asking President Obama to:
  1. Set a National Vision Zero Goal (it is not listed as an issue on whitehouse.gov)
  2. Establish a White House Vision Zero Task Force
  3. Sign a Vision Zero Executive Order to authorize Vision Zero Rulemaking Policies
These are the questions which I have been sending to the event coordinator today:
  1. What are you doing to address the reality (which I learned in 1979 at the University of Michigan/School of Public Health,Health Behavior/Health Education) that fear is not always the best motivator? The attitude that “it will never happen to me”?
  2. Will the addition of more and more technology for collision avoidance give people the false idea that they don’t have to pay as much attention, i.e., counteract attempts to focus on driver behavior?
  3. How many lives would be saved if the 319 proven safety standards/laws which are not being adopted by states were mandated? http://annaleahmary.com/2016/01/why-on-earth-dont-we-establish-national-traffic-safety-standards-require-them-to-be-adopted-by-states/
  4. Drunk driving is one thing.  What about stopping people for texting or using their cell phones while driving?
  5. What about drowsy driving? Are there ways for it to become something which can be included in traffic enforcement? DWF Driving While Fatigued.
  6. How about an equivalent of Volunteer Firefighters? Can we train and deputize citizens to pull over unsafe drivers?
  7. For motor vehicle-related injury prevention. What about Second Collision problems? Like auto safety defects or truck UNDERRIDE deaths and serious injuries? Is the Task Force addressing this? What role could they play to prevent these preventable deaths?
  8. Not only does traffic safety involve the driver, vehicles, and environmental factors, but it does so in three phases–pre-event, event, and post event. Every one of these factors can be addressed to prevent or reduce the severity of the event. Remember Dr. Haddon’s matrix which Adrian Lund (IIHS) shared (similar to this one, Haddon Matrix) (also, see Care for Crash Victims): 
  9. How about requiring driver training programs to set up volunteer coaches or mentors for drivers with permits to aid parents in this vital life skill development?
  10. How about change DMV written tests for driver license and renewal? Ours in NC was FULL of numbers and statistics regarding DUI consequences . How about make it more graphic and stick-in-the mind friendly? I spent my time preparing for it by memorizing numbers.
  11. Take a tip from 1954 and Jimmy Stewart. Start training at elementary level only update it to use the technology that the youngest generation is immersed in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uj9Iuxw2_wk

    How about design electronic games to raise awareness and teach safe driving behavior?
  12. How about clear up the confusion about whether Marijuana IMPAIRS driving?
  13.  How can we find ways to remind people that driving choices can lead to forever results? Find ways to touch not only the head but the heart.

    Never Come Back Once a loved

    one becomes a motor vehicle crash statistic, it will be too late–they will

    Towards Zero; There’s no one someone won’t miss https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsyvrkEjoXI
  14.  How about using interactive learning methods of raising awareness?

    When I interviewed my 9 and 6 year-old grandchildren about how they thought underride guards could be stronger, they showed amazing awareness and creativity.
    Put people in situations where they are faced with thinking through the results of driving choices and also purchase of safe equipment and increase their demand for affordable safer vehicles from the automotive industry.


    In group settings. In game apps. Make use of church youth groups to address these issues.
  15.  REQUIRE phone manufacturers to advertise safe driving behavior
  16. Why not set a National Vision Zero Goal to raise American awareness?

    People need to know that Death by Motor Vehicle is a preventable problem but it will take us all to work together to defeat it.
    They should be just as concerned, if not more, about the Violent Weapon of Destruction that is put into the hands of drivers everywhere 24/7.
  17. What about the use of more electronic road signs to alert drivers to upcoming traffic situations? And more things like rumble strips?
  18. People need to know that they are not in control so that their driving behavior reflects that knowledge.

    Use Cass Sunstein’s idea for example for phone usage. Default Setting. Turned off when in a moving vehicle. Not sure if that is technologically possible but something like that.
    Default RULE/traffic law. If caught texting or talking on cell phone while driving, get a point on record.
    Set up a  Consequence. Have their TICKET posted on social media.
    Loss of Reputation/Respect.
  19. Make salient and visible  How can we give visibility nationally and locally the extent of the Traffic Safety Problem?
  20. Electronic signs on highway to alert drivers to traffic conditions
  21. Choice architecture: use existing social groups to create localized indication of traffic safety norms, church youth groups, MOPS groups, Preschool parent groups LET them hear from families of crash victims. Give these people visibility.
  22. Savings of not losing a loved one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsyvrkEjoXI
  23. Can we get TRAFFIC SAFETY as an issue on whitehouse.gov?
  24. Can we get President Obama to set a Vision Zero Goal, establish a White House Vision Zero Task Force which would include an interdisciplinary group, and sign a Vision Zero Executive Order?
  25. Have we made Vision Zero a National Priority? http://annaleahmary.com/2016/03/tell-obama-you-are-standing-with-us-in-this-family-continues-fight-for-trucking-safety/
  26. Why not set up Community Vision Zero Activist Groups?
  27. Are there strategies raising awareness about MICROSLEEP?
  28. MAKE IT A NATIONAL Vision Zero Goal!!!! Apply the resources.

  29. Put a face to the problem!!!!! Let the victims and their families be honored and remembered on a regular basis. We are ALL vulnerable.
    Create a National Vision Zero Goal using social media and modern technology.
    I know someone who could design immersive reality simulation models to show immediate negative consequences of reckless driver behavior choices (as suggested by Dr. David Abrams).
  30. Could this group of people gathered together in Washington at this conference please, please, please call upon President Obama to set a National Vision Zero Goal, establish a Vision Zero Task Force, and sign a Vision Zero Executive Order? If he does not do those things, who else will lead us in such a United Effort? Without such a vision, the people will indeed perish.

Driving Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety Conference being Livestreamed at DOT #VisionZero

Thursday and Friday, March 10 & 11

Thank you for your interest in the Driving Behavioral Change in Traffic Safety conference that is taking place Thursday, March 10 and Friday, March 11 in Washington.  The event will run from 8:30 – 4:30 on Thursday and from 8:30 – Noon on Friday.

NHTSA will be streaming this event live  at http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/symposiums/index.html.  The link within that page for the webcast should be live this afternoon.

You may access the agenda by following this link: http://www.nhtsa.gov/nhtsa/symposiums/march2016/index.html

Please share these links with any of your colleagues who might be interested in watching this event.  Thank you,

Gertie reaching for Mary ...Susanna's film

Importance of uniform legislative standards in reducing accidents cannot be overestimated, July 31, 1934

I can’t get this out of my head: why are we waiting for states to adopt their own traffic safety standards instead of establishing National Traffic Safety Standards which states are required to adopt? What is this–the Wild, Wild West? We are the united states of America–are we not?

Why on earth don’t we establish National Traffic Safety Standards & require them to be adopted by States? (Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety held a press conference which I watched live-stream. They released their 13th Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws–outlining the 319 proven safety laws which many states have not adopted, including such things as seat belt usage, motorcycle helmet laws, impaired driving, child passenger safety, teen graduated licensing laws, and distracted driving.)

Should not proven safety standards be applied universally?

Note this statement from the 1934 National Conference on Highway Safety:

The importance of uniform legislative standards in reducing accidents and facilitating the movement of traffic cannot be over estimated, and the adoption of these standards by all States and municipalities is earnestly recommended.

Daniel C. Roper, Secretary of Commerce, Chairman, National Conference on Highway Safety, Washington, DC, July 31, 1934  ACT III – UNIFORM MOTOR VEHICLE CIVIL LIABILITY ACT

Later, Uniform Gudelines for State Highway Safety Programs were released by NHTSA. Where are we with that? Have we moved away from mandating states to adopt specific traffic safety standards? Is it optional? What is working and what is not working at this point?

National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act

Highway Safety Program Guidelines:
Section 402 of title 23 of the United States Code requires the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate uniform guidelines for State highway safety programs. These guidelines offer direction to States in formulating their highway safety plans for highway safety efforts that are supported with section 402 and other grant funds. The guidelines provide a framework for developing a balanced highway safety program and serve as a tool with which States can assess the effectiveness of their own programs. NHTSA encourages States to use these guidelines and build upon them to optimize the effectiveness of highway safety programs conducted at the State and local levels.

  1. Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection
  2. Motor Vehicle Registration
  3. Motorcycle Safety | PDF version for print
  4. Driver Education
  5. Non-Commercial Driver Licensing
  6. Codes and Laws
  7. Judicial and Court Services
  8. Impaired Driving (updated)| PDF version for print
  9. [Reserved]
  10. Traffic Records
  11. Emergency Medical Services
  12. Prosecutor Training
  13. Older Driver Safety
  14. Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety(updated) | PDF version for print
  15. Traffic Enforcement Service (updated) | PDF version for print
  16. Management of Highway Incidents
  17. Pupil Transportation Safety
  18. Crash Investigation and Incident Reporting
  19. Speed Management(updated) | PDF version for print
  20. Occupant Protection(updated) | PDF version for print
  21. Roadway Safety

Is this still operative today?  If so, why are there 319 traffic safety laws which have not been adopted by states? Is it the duty of the federal government to protect its citizens from crash deaths & serious injuries?

NOTE the connection with federal funds to states: 


The Secretary may waive the requirement of paragraph (1)(C), in whole or in part, for a fiscal year for any State whenever the Secretary determines that there is an insufficient number of local highway safety programs to justify the expenditure in the State of such percentage of Federal funds during the fiscal year.

(c)Use of Funds.—

(1)In general.—

Funds authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section shall be used to aid the States to conduct the highway safety programs approved in accordance with subsection (a), including development and implementation of manpower training programs, and of demonstration programs that the Secretary determines will contribute directly to the reduction of accidents, and deaths and injuries resulting therefrom. Title 23 › Chapter 4 › § 402 23 U.S. Code § 402 – Highway safety programs


Delayed adoption and implementation of proven safety standards inevitably results in unnecessary, preventable deaths.

gertie 2947

Does Joan Claybrook think that DOT is repeating history by expecting the auto industry to resolve safety issues VOLUNTARILY?

Is the U.S. Department of Transportation repeating history by expecting the automotive industry to resolve safety issues voluntarily (i.e., without being mandated to, do everything within their power to prevent unnecessary motor vehicle-related untimely deaths and serious injuries)?

To find out the answer, read Michael Lemov’s telling chronicle in his detailed, Car Safety Warshttp://www.ebooks.com/2000873/car-safety-wars/lemov-michael-r/. Or check out what Joan Claybrook, long-time safety advocate, said about this very thing in a Frontline interview in April 2001:  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/rollover/interviews/claybrook.html

Such an approach certainly never has led to the best possible underride protection being voluntarily produced. If it had, my daughters (and thousands of other Americans–face it, inhabitants of our planet) might not have died from truck underride. And it denies the possibility that someone should bear the liability for deaths due to SECOND COLLISIONS–other than the victims. (http://annaleahmary.com/tag/second-collision/)

In my personal opinion, DOT’s approach is not consistent with a national Vision Zero goal. Okay, America, do we or do we not want to do everything within our power to stop our citizens from senselessly being slaughtered on our highways and byways?!


Jeff Plungis’ Bloomberg News report on this:  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-15/auto-industry-u-s-regulators-agree-to-boost-safety-recalls

In response to the DOT’s recent announcement of “proactive” safety principles, this is what Joan Claybrook had to say in the following statement which she issued yesterday (pasted below in its entirety):

For Immediate Release. Contact Joan Claybrook: 202-364-8755, 202-422-6731



 January 15, 2016

Today’s announcement that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is collaborating with the auto industry to develop “Proactive Safety Principles” is a dramatic step in the wrong direction especially following a year of record recalls and an increase in motor vehicle fatalities.  The set of four principles is toothless, lacks any implementation authority and is worth only the cost of the paper they are written on. There is nothing preventing the auto industry from disregarding or outright violating these principles.  In fact they could be considered subterfuge to violate reporting requirements by doing “data dumps”.  The safety of the American public will not be best protected with a kumbaya between the federal agency charged with issuing regulation and the industry seeking to avoid regulation.  Also completely absent from this “Best Friends Forever (BFF) moment” between DOT and the auto industry are the people NHTSA was created to protect—car users.

In fact, a reader of the “Principles” document would not know that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was created in large measure to regulate the auto industry, with substantial authority to issue motor vehicle safety standards to protect vehicle occupants in a crash, conduct research independently of the auto industry on which to base such standards, to require the recall of vehicles with safety defects and that do not comply with NHTSA’s standards, and to sue companies that refuse to do so.

The “Principles” document emphasizes that 94% of all vehicle crashes are “attributable to driver choices and human error”, but amazingly it omits the fact that most vehicle crash DEATHS and INJURIES prevented result from the improved vehicle safety performance largely based on NHTSA’s many dozens of mandatory safety standards.   In fact, NHTSA estimates that over 600,000 deaths have been prevented by such safety rules since the 1960s when NHTSA was created.

Another contradiction is that NHTSA is now negotiating with the auto manufacturers to develop a “voluntary” (not mandatory) standard for Automatic Emergency Braking, rather than issue a required safety standard under its primary statutory authority.  This is the most important life-saving standard NHTSA could issue now. The crash prevention systems are already installed in a large number of higher end cars, showing it is feasible. Yet NHTSA is delegating the content of requirements to manufacturers under a process that is secret and excludes other  interested parties including consumers and suppliers; is not enforceable, under which any company can initially agree and then secretly discontinue compliance without informing car buyers or NHTSA; allows any company to charge additional prices for installation of the safety technology as optional equipment, often at high prices out of the reach of many consumers; undercuts the lower costs for standard equipment and faster deployment of a mandated regulation; and, also harms public confidence in NHTSA.

As to achieving the goals outlined in the Principles, and taking each one as listed, the agency has the authority to take many steps it has failed or ignored to implement that would improve safety without hoping the vehicle manufacturers will act:

  1. “Enhance and Facilitate Proactive Safety”: NHTSA already has numerous meetings and discussions with industry representatives on a regular basis in Detroit about key safety issues, at Society of Automotive Engineers and other technical group meetings, and hears industry concerns and issues both at NHTSA meetings with individual companies and in group meetings, and at Congressional hearings.   In addition companies submit detailed comments to agency rulemaking dockets, to the Early Warning Reporting of safety defects system, and through negotiations with NHTSA over submission of information about defective vehicles.
  1. “Enhance Analysis and Examination of Early Warning Reporting Data”: Early Warning Reporting (EWR) can be improved by industry complying with existing federal law and filing accurate and timely reports (rather than ones designed to confuse the agency) and NHTSA enforcing this key rule and fining companies that abuse it.  EWR information should also be made public and the reporting categories should be consistent with the reporting codes for consumer complaints so it can be used effectively.
  1. “Maximize Safety Recall Participation Rates”: The major steps companies can take to improve recalls is to conduct them on a timely basis (rather than covering them up and only publicly declaring a safety recall years later), sending strong and effective letters to consumers giving them the incentive to get their vehicles fixed (which NHTSA should monitor and enhance), and give priority to making replacement parts quickly rather than make them secondary to continued new vehicle production.  Also the DOT should encourage states to not issue new license tags to any consumer who has not complied with a defect recall correction notice sent by the manufacturer.
  1. “Enhance Automotive Cybersecurity”: NHTSA has new authority under the FAST Act of 2015 (the highway bill) (Pub. L. 114-94) to conduct cybersecurity research with other federal agencies – not the auto industry – and should do so independently of the industry.  Specifically, modal administrations of the DOT are charged with assisting in the development of cybersecurity research to “help prevent hacking, spoofing, and disruption of connected and automated transportation vehicles.’’



Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director

Center for Auto Safety

1825 Connecticut Ave NW #330

Washington DC 20009