Advocates Lauds Congressional Leadership Upon Passage Of Extensive Highway And Auto Safety Advances

CONTACT: Jeremy Gunderson
July 29, 2005 (202) 408-1711 x27


ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY (ADVOCATES)
LAUDS CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP UPON PASSAGE OF EXTENSIVE HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY ADVANCES

Conference Committee Agrees To Groundbreaking Safety Provisions on Rollover, Roof Strength, Occupant Ejection, Backover Incidents, Seat Belt and Booster Seat Grants; Rejects Anti-Truck Safety Attempts

Washington, D.C., July 29, 2005 -A nearly three-year effort by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, in coalition with other groups, culminated in an agreement among highway bill conferees in Congress to require numerous vehicle and driver safety measures, as well as to protect motorists from amendments that would have severely weakened the truck safety environment.

H.R.3, the Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, is a five-year, multi-billion dollar bill that addresses every mode of transportation and highway and auto safety programs. Under the terms of the legislation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) agency with responsibility for regulating the auto industry, must issue rules requiring rollover prevention technology, an upgrade of the roof strength standard, a new ejection prevention standard, an improved door lock standard, and an improved side impact standard. The bill also requires testing of 15-passenger vans for rollover safety, a study about how to improve effectiveness of seat belt use reminders, a study of technology to prevent backover crashes, data collection of non-crash, non-traffic incidents, safer power window switch designs to protect children, vehicle window labels with government safety rating information, and a study of tire aging. In addition, the bill includes two important state incentive grant programs that will encourage adoption of primary enforcement seat belt laws and booster seat use laws.

"Today's announcement of the agreement to include the Senate's auto safety provisions in the final highway bill is an enormous victory for the highway safety advocacy community, and for the entire nation," said Judith Lee Stone, president of Advocates. "This bipartisan effort produced a bipartisan victory for the safety of every American."

Jackie Gillan, vice president and lead lobbyist for Advocates, praised members of Congress for their tenacity on safety's behalf. "Without the strong leadership throughout the year and in the conference of Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Rep. Charles "Chip" Pickering
(R-MS); and Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN), our efforts to save thousands of lives and prevent millions of injuries due to motor vehicle crashes in the coming years would have been fruitless," she said.

In addition to the H.R. 3 conferees, key leaders such as Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) in the Senate, and Representatives on the House Energy and Commerce Committee - Mary Bono (R-CA), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Ed Towns (D-NY) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) - played important roles in advancing the safety provisions and ensuring they were included in the final bill.

"These Senators and Representatives are truly heroes in our book," Gillan said.

Alan Maness, associate general counsel for State Farm Insurance Companies, which is a member of Advocates and an active member of the coalition working for passage of the safety provisions in the bill, said "These provisions are an important step in advancing auto safety, and we were pleased to work with other insurers, businesses, consumer, medical, health and other groups to improve safety for all motorists. It's a significant achievement."

Also negotiated in the conference committee were a number of truck safety issues. One of the highlights was a successful effort to block inclusion of anti-safety measures that would have written into law the controversial hours of service rule overturned in 2004 by a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and would have gutted existing federal law that requires the U.S. DOT to protect the health of truck drivers.

Earlier in the week it was reported that the stronger Senate drunk driving provisions targeting high risk drivers were dropped from the bill in conference. Advocates and other highway safety groups had supported this measure.

The bill sets a comprehensive safety agenda for the next five years to address some of the leading causes of death and injury on our highways. Ultimate success depends on how the U.S. DOT implements the safety provisions in the bill.

Final passage of the conference report is pending resolution of a last minute disagreement between the House and Senate over non-safety issues.

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Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is a coalition of consumer, health, safety and insurance companies working together to advance highway and auto safety.

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