Nearly 3,000 Comments to NHTSA About Considering Pedestrians in Vehicle Safety Ratings


Take Action
NCAP Share the Real Risk to Pedestrians in Vehicle Safety Ratings (1)
Share On Social!

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing to consider pedestrians in their vehicle safety rating system.

That is good news for a system that has ignored the safety of people outside the vehicle wherein “pedestrian fatalities have skyrocketed 77% since 2010, compared to 25% for all other traffic-related deaths,” according to preliminary data from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).

But the news isn’t all good.

NHTSA’s proposed changes to the vehicle safety rating system – the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) – are insufficient.

The changes do not differentiate between pedestrian injury risk and fatality risk, and they fail to fully inform consumers about the true risk to pedestrians from vehicles, lessening the potential impact of the proposal to better protect people outside the vehicle.

Use the following Salud America! model comment to tell NHTSA you want a vehicle safety rating system that better tests and shares the injury and fatality risk that vehicles pose to pedestrians.

August 2023 UPDATE: 390 Salud America! members submitted our model comment and were among over 2,800 comments to NHTSA about their proposal to consider pedestrians in the vehicle safety rating program. Hear what some experts have to say in this press release from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). 

The comment period ended July 25, 2023.


Submit a Comment to NHTSA for Better Testing, Sharing of Pedestrian Injury and Fatality Risk

Dear National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,

As US vehicles continue to grow in size and weight, I am concerned about the safety of people outside the vehicle, including pedestrians and bicyclists.

While I applaud the consideration of pedestrians in your proposed changes to the vehicle safety rating system (the New Car Assessment Program, or NCAP), I urge nine additional NCAP changes.

First, adopt a “pedestrian risk” framework, versus a “pedestrian protection” framework, for the NCAP’s crashworthiness program. A vehicle that collides with a pedestrian is not “protecting” the pedestrian. While some vehicle design features (i.e., smaller front ends) pose less injury risk to pedestrians, they do not “protect” pedestrians. A vehicle can only provide protection through crash avoidance.

Second, include these testing protocols: test speeds greater than 25 mph; a thorax test; and use of a 50th percentile female dummy in all tests. Roughly 13.2% of fatalities occur at or below 25 mph. Test speeds up to 35 mph should be considered, because an additional 20.2% of fatalities occur between 25 mph and 35 mph. Given that you state, “the head, legs, and thorax are the most common locations of serious injury” when a vehicle strikes a pedestrian, it warrants the addition of a thorax test. Your conclusion that “any countermeasure that is beneficial for a male pedestrian would also be beneficial for a female pedestrian” stands in contrast to your statement, “a female head may be more vulnerable than a male head for the same impact condition.” If female heads are more vulnerable, then countermeasures for males could miss additional vulnerabilities of females. NHTSA should acknowledge and mitigate the gender data gap by using female dummies in all tests.

Third, a pass/fail score is unacceptable. Like frontal crash star ratings, provide a five-star rating that details the chance of seriously injuring a pedestrian. For example, assign five stars for less than 10% chance of serious injury to pedestrians, four stars for 15% chance of serious injury, and down to one star for greater than 40% chance of serious injury.

Fourth, I am concerned that NHTSA fails to distinguish between injury risk and fatality risk. Please make this distinction and provide a five-star rating that also details the real risk of a vehicle killing a pedestrian.

Fifth, as part of the crash avoidance program, include intelligent speed control and think beyond advanced driver assistance system technologies to also consider visibility. Due to NHTSA’s claim that the impact dynamics of high-profile vehicles at higher speeds may reduce the relevance of countermeasures, intelligent speed control should be considered as crash avoidance technologies. Additionally, NCAP should include whether a vehicle can offer better direct visibility of pedestrians from the driver’s seat.

Sixth, conduct physical crash tests rather than rely on voluntary self-reported data from vehicle manufacturers. If NHTSA decides to only rely on self-reported data to select models for verification tests, NHTSA should require actual physical test results rather than predicted response data.

Seventh, do not wait to update the Monroney Label but begin reporting 5-star injury risk and 5-star fatality risk ratings on the NHTSA website and a supplemental vehicle sticker.

Eighth, ensure that no vehicle could earn a 5-star safety rating if it receives a failing grade for pedestrian crashworthiness.

Ninth, avoid comparative ratings for pedestrian risk. I can’t imagine anyone who cares about the risk of injury only compared to vehicles of similar size and weight; people care about the overall risk of injury.  Anything less contributes to asymmetry of information.

Again, thank you for proposing to update the vehicle safety rating system to consider people outside of the vehicle. That said, I think NHTSA can strengthen the system even further and do more to regulate the size, weight, and speed of vehicles.


Why Is a Change Needed for the Vehicle Safety Rating System?

Modified 5-Star Safety Rating
Our example of a potentially modified 5-Star Safety Rating to include risk to pedestrians.

As a federal agency, NHTSA regulates the design and technology of motor vehicles and equipment.

This includes performance requirements and test procedures for elements in and on the vehicle – fuel system integrity, fuel economy, braking system integrity, roof crush resistance, greenhouse gas emissions, laminated/tempered glass, lap/shoulder seat belts, air bags, child restraint anchorage integrity, automated driving systems, and the 5-Star Safety Ratings program, known as the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP).

Before now, the NCAP has prioritized the safety of people inside the vehicle.

The result is larger and heavier vehicles, many with reduced visibility from the driver’s seat, and a decade-long increase in pedestrian deaths.

Consideration of people outside the vehicle is a critically needed component for the NCAP.

Roughly 16,000 comments were submitted to NHTSA in June 2022 calling for improvements to NCAP, to include consideration of people outside the vehicle.

Read the comment submitted last year by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO).

What Do Experts Say about a Change to the Vehicle Safety Rating System?

As of June 27, 2023, 849 comments have been submitted to NHTSA, 605 of which are visible to the public.

Advocacy organization America Walks has created a model comment stating that “NHTSA needs to do significantly more to protect people on foot, on bikes, and using mobility devices from the increasing threat of large vehicles.”

This comment has been submitted to NHTSA by 443 people, including Donna Palatas, Javier Vargas-Johnson, Jessica Ramirez, Anna Melendez, Andres Garcia, and Matt Messina.

Here are some additional statements from public comments submitted to NHTSA:

  • “Where possible, this information & rating should also be included in a vehicle’s promotional & marketing material. Manufacturers should not be able to fail a pedestrian protection test without informing all buyers before purchase (even though a failure or bad result should be an automatic rejection from road readiness anyway),” wrote Aaron Dehn.
  • “Please do your job and regulate vehicles which are dangerous to other people,” wrote Alejandra X. Castañeda, Isabella Chu, Ellery Klein, and Raphael Wakefield.
  • “The system should not be simply a pass/fail score but an actual star rating,” wrote Edgardo Diaz Vega.
  • “We can put speed restrictors on electric scooters limiting them to 15mph but a 9,000 pound Hummer EV that goes 0-60 in 3 seconds is street legal? This makes no sense,” wrote Josh Graybill.
  • “Cars with low [safety] ratings should have insurance that costs significantly more, to the point of disincentivizing people from buying these hazardous cars,” wrote Gustavo Ornelas.
  • “If a car gets a bad rating, perhaps it should not be allowed to be sold,” wrote Jennifer Mendez, Edward Costello, Joshua Gonzales, Allison Mannos and numerous others.

While most of the comments urged further protections for pedestrians, our Salud America! model comment also addresses the gender data gap and recommended female dummies.


What’s Next for the Vehicle Safety Rating System?

The public comment period on the vehicle safety rating system will end July 25, 2023.

Public input is critical because it gives federal officials information about the potential impact of a proposed regulation, according to Unidos US. Participating in the rulemaking process allows you or your organization to shape federal programs and the rules that govern.

After this 90-day comment period, the NHTSA will review the comments and determine how to move forward with the update to the rating system.


UPDATE (June 29, 2023): The model comment previously stated, “Fewer than 15% of fatalities occur at or below 25 mph (…) and an additional 13% of fatalities occur between 25 mph and 35 mph.” We updated the model comment to reflect corrected statistics that 13.2% of fatalities occur at or below 25 mph, and an additional 20.2% of fatalities occur between 25 mph and 35 mph.

By The Numbers By The Numbers



of Latinos rely on public transit (compared to 14% of whites).

Share your thoughts