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More than 16,000 concerned Americans sent public comments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urging them to make changes to their vehicle safety rating system, known as the New Car Assessment Program.
Our team at Salud America! also developed a model comment asking NHTSA for a vehicle rating system that accurately reflects the dangers vehicles pose to pedestrians, bikers, and others outside the vehicle.
After all, more Americans died in motor vehicle crashes in 2021 than any other year since 2005, and the growing size and weight of vehicles is a contributor.
“Driving continues getting more dangerous despite almost every new vehicle getting a four- or five-star safety rating,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio, in NACTO’s press release.
“One reason is because our nation’s vehicle safety rating system does not account for the dangers that the growing size of SUVs and trucks pose or for the dangers posed to people outside the vehicle, like people walking, biking, and wheeling. This is particularly problematic for Latinos who walk and bike at higher rates. Now is the time to update the vehicle safety rating system. American consumers deserve to know the true safety rating of the vehicles they drive.”
The growing size of vehicles and pedestrian and bicyclist safety wasn’t the only concern, either.
Many people also submitted comments expressing concern about visibility from the driver’s seat, intelligent speed assistance, advanced driver assistance systems, and the size of crash test dummies.
“AARP believes that NHTSA should expand the range of mannequins used in crash tests to be more representative of the general population by using mannequins designed to better simulate the impacts of crashes on older adults,” wrote David Certner, AARP legislative counsel and legislative policy director, in their comment on behalf of AARP’s nearly 38 million members. “Current crash dummies are not designed to reproduce the injury responses of older motor vehicle occupants. Without a reliable crash dummy that accurately reproduces older occupant crash injury responses, NHTSA’s safety standards will continue to undervalue the need for improved protection for this age group.”
Now, we wait for NHTSA to issue their final changes to the New Car Assessment Program.
In the meantime, America Walks and NACTO are taking these public comments a step further and asking U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, and NHTSA Administrator, Dr. Steven Cliff, to take immediate action.
This includes urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to outline a timeline for responding to the comments and urging NHTSA to mandate safe designs and technologies, like they have in the past with seatbelts and airbags.
“The sheer volume of comments (over forty times the amount NHTSA received when it last proposed to update NCAP in 2015) demonstrates the public demand for safer vehicle designs that protect people on foot, on bikes, and using mobility devices,” according to a press release from America Walks.