OF TESTIMONY OF
JACQUELINE S. GILLAN
VICE PRESIDENT, ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY
figures released by the U.S. Department of Transportation show
that in 2002 there were 42,850 deaths last year, the highest
number in a decade. Alcohol-related fatalities increased, there
was a 5% jump in rollover fatalities, more teen drivers were
killed, deaths for children ages 8 to 15 rose, motorcycle fatalities
increased for the fifth year in a row, and the majority of those
killed in motor vehicle crashes were not wearing a seatbelt.
The annual cost of highway crashes is $230 billion. The good
news is that effective, proven solutions and strategies are
already on the shelf and ready to be used. Congress has a unique
opportunity in the reauthorization of NHTSA's motor vehicle
and traffic safety programs to prevent needless deaths and injuries
on our highways. A 20% reduction in deaths and injuries would
more than pay for the total cost of DOT's surface transportation
bill. The NHTSA reauthorization bill should:
ADEQUATE FUNDING FOR NHTSA:
Nearly 95% of all transportation-related fatalities are the
result of motor vehicle crashes but NHTSA's budget is less than
1% of the entire DOT budget. Motor vehicle safety regulatory
actions languish and state enforcement of impaired driving laws
is inadequate. Under the Administration's authorization bill,
NHTSA programs are not adequately funded and this will jeopardize
efforts to bring down highway deaths and injuries.
A MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY REGULATORY AGENDA WITH DEADLINES FOR
ACTIONS SIMILAR TO THE TREAD ACT IN 2000:
Rollover fatalities in 2002 exceeded 10,600. Rollover crashes
represent 3% of all collisions but account for 32% of all occupant
fatalities. Require NHTSA to issue final rules on a rollover
stability standard and on a crashworthiness standard that improves
roof strength, advanced upper interior head impact protection,
ejection prevention and integrated seating systems with improved
trucks and vans, especially sport utility vehicles (SUVs) can
cause great harm to smaller passenger vehicles in a crash. Side
impact crashes are particularly dangerous. When an SUV hits
a passenger car in the side, the passenger car driver is 16
times more likely to die. The ratio soars to 26 to 1 when the
striking vehicle is a pickup truck. Require NHTSA to improve
vehicle compatibility between larger and smaller passenger vehicles.
the safety of 15 passenger vans by enactment of S.717, the Passenger
Van Safety Act of 2003, and extend all occupant protection standards
to passenger vehicles above 6,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight
consumer information by instructing NHTSA to require that all
new vehicles at the point of sale display a safety label indicating
overall safety performance.
ENCOURAGE STATE ACTIONS TO IMPROVE SAFETY:
Enact the DOT proposal for encouraging state adoption of a primary
seat belt law but include a sanction after a reasonable time
frame. Prohibit states subject to the redirection penalty of
the Highway Safety Improvement Program to shift traffic safety
funds back into highway construction.
funding for impaired driving programs.
increased NHTSA oversight of Section 402 state traffic safety
programs to ensure accountability and effectiveness.
THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN IN AND AROUND CARS:
Enact an incentive program to encourage state adoption of booster
NHTSA to collect and publish data on child fatalities and injuries
in parked and inoperable cars.
NHTSA to ensure that automatic window systems will not kill
or injure children.
NHTSA to enhance driver rear visibility to prevent backing up
crashes that kill children and adults.