NCAP testimony for NHTSA

A safety crisis is unfolding on America’s streets. Pedestrian and bicyclist deaths have increased by 50% over the past decade, and overall motor vehicle deaths last year increased by the largest percentage in US history. This is a phenomenon unique to the United States; since 2010, US road deaths increased by 31%, while EU road deaths DECREASED by 33%.

Clearly, what NHTSA has been doing has not been enough. Many of these deaths could have been avoided with better car safety standards and in particular an improved New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). Every other NCAP program elsewhere in the world has long evaluated safety for road users outside of the vehicle. Indeed, the UN’s 2011 Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety specifically highlighted “application of pedestrian protection regulations” within vehicle safety regulations (Pillar 3, Activity 6).

I commend NHTSA for finally taking the first steps to stem this wave of preventable deaths and injuries. What’s proposed is not nearly enough, and does not meet standards accepted elsewhere in the world that protect people on foot, on bikes, and using mobility devices from the increasing threat of large vehicles.

I join America Walks, the National Association of City Transportation Officials, and other organizations to ask that NHTSA protect people outside of cars with an NCAP that measures and rates:

  1. Smaller and safer hood and bumper designs to reduce fatalities and serious injuries for people outside vehicles;
  2. Features capable of sensing and protecting people outside vehicles, including children, bicyclists, people using mobility devices, and people with darker skin tones;
  3. Intelligent speed assistance systems that automatically limit unsafe speeds;
  4. Direct visibility requirements that allow drivers to see people outside of vehicles, especially children. Cameras, mirrors and sensors cannot replace the need for direct sight.

Critically, vehicles that score poorly on pedestrian protection, direct visibility, or that allow dangerous speeding should be ineligible for 5-star ratings. Even the most advanced ADAS technologies have proven insufficient at preventing deaths.

NHTSA also must move to incorporate the same technologies and designs into the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).

Vehicle safety standards that save the lives of people outside cars shouldn’t be left to consumer choice. NHTSA mandates equipment like seatbelts and airbags that protect vehicle occupants; it needs to update the FMVSS to protect everyone on our streets, not just those in vehicles.

[Adapted from America Walks]