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With roads designed to favor cars and the growing size of megacars – SUVs and passenger trucks – it’s no surprise traffic fatalities are on the rise among drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
This makes vehicle safety a high priority.
But did you know that the U.S. vehicle safety rating system doesn’t consider people outside the vehicle?
Now is your chance to tell the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) to modify their vehicle safety rating system.
Submit the following Salud America! model comment to tell NHTSA you want a vehicle rating system that accurately reflects the dangers vehicles pose to pedestrians, bikers, and others outside the vehicle.
Comments are due June 8, 2022.
Update June 2023: Over 16,000 people submitted comments!
Submit the comment below, personalize it, or craft your own unique comment. If you lost a family member or friend, please share their story. If you would like to share your personal story with Families for Safe Streets to include in their reply to NHTSA, you can complete this questionnaire.
Dear National Traffic Highway Safety Administration,
I am writing because I think American consumers deserve to know the true safety rating of the vehicles they drive, to include the danger their vehicle poses to other road users.
When it comes to public health and safety, I feel like I am doing everything I can for myself and for my community. I follow the rules of the road. I opted for a vehicle with a high fuel efficiency and high safety rating. I keep my vehicle maintained. I don’t use my phone while driving. And I walk or bike rather than drive whenever possible, and/or for recreation.
However, I wince every time one of these new SUVs and trucks pass me. They are massive. Whether I am driving or walking, the bumpers of these monsters are at eye level.
I no longer feel safe walking in my community knowing that these humongous steel boxes are on the road, and I am scared of the damage they will do to my high-safety-rated midsized car and my family inside the car, or if we are walking or bicycling.
I am shocked that not only are these dangerous vehicles on our roadways, but that our government has given them high safety ratings.
People purchasing these giants might think they are making an informed decision about safety, but they may be unaware that they are robbing everyone else of safety, and that they are now the very thing from which people on the road need to be protected from.
I don’t understand why our government has such a narrow definition of vehicle safety to only consider those inside the vehicle, regardless of the death and destruction that can be caused by the vehicle to pedestrians and people bicycling.
I believe that high vehicle safety ratings should only be given to vehicles that are safe for all road users, including those outside the vehicle, such as people walking and biking.
We need a vehicle rating system that accurately reflects the dangers mega-SUVS and mega-trucks pose.
Why Is the Vehicle Safety Rating Important?
Driving is a daily danger to American life. And it’s getting more dangerous.
More Americans died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021 than any other year since 2005, according to the NHTSA. Pedestrian fatalities are up 13% and bicyclist fatalities are up 5% compared to 2020.
The blame is shared partly by drivers and car-centric transportation engineering.
But an increasingly important culprit is vehicle design and safety, particularly the growing size of American SUVs and passenger trucks, called “megacars.”
U.S. governmental vehicle safety regulations and crash tests do not account for the sizable growth of these vehicles, nor do they consider the people outside the vehicle.
“The physical design of megacars themselves may be increasing the likelihood of their drivers’ hitting walkers — and when that happens, those cars are generally about two to three times more likely to kill,” according to Kea Wilson with Streetsblog USA.
Read more about the rise of traffic fatalities.
Why Push Now for a Better Vehicle Safety Rating?
This year, NHTSA proposed major upgrades to its “New Car Assessment Program” (NCAP).
But many health and safety advocates found the proposed NHTSA upgrades insufficient. Many are sharing their thoughts via an open Request for Comments.
Advocates have some recommendations to improve the proposed NCAP:
- To receive an NCAP 5-Star Safety Rating, vehicles should also receive scores in: crashworthiness/survivability for people outside the vehicle; advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) features capable of sensing and protecting people outside vehicles; and direct visibility from the driver’s seat
- NCAP should consider public health and safe system approaches that adopt three levels of prevention strategies: primary, secondary, and tertiary
- Vehicle design: eliminate blind spots to prevent crashes
- Vehicle technology: add safety technologies to sense people outside the vehicle to prevent crashes
- Vehicle design: lower the height of and eliminating blunt bumpers/hoods to reduce damage in a crash; and reduce the size and weight of vehicles to reduce kinetic energy thus damage in a crash
Learn more from Families for Safe Streets NCAP Fact Sheet and Call to Action.
“NHTSA’s NCAP falls short in many egregious ways, including: vehicle weight/hood size, detection systems for vulnerable road users, Driver Monitoring Systems and Intelligent Speed Assistance, female and child occupants, and rating system,” according to the Families for Safe Streets.