Weaker Vehicle Safety Rules? Now Is Not the Time, Group Says

With U.S. traffic deaths on the rise, Center for Auto Safety says safety rules should be more strictly enforced.

Noting an increase in U.S. traffic fatalities during the past two years, the Center for Auto Safety is calling on federal regulators not to soften or get rid of safety regulations now under review.

In written comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Center for Auto Safety argued that “writing and enforcing mandatory rules is one of the best ways the government has to minimize or prevent road traffic crashes, save lives, stop injuries, and save money for all Americans.”

In its appeal, the non-profit group noted that there were 37,461 traffic deaths in 2016, a 5.6 percent increase from the year before.

The DOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are reviewing regulatory policies on roof crush resistance, ejection mitigation, occupant crash protection and electronic stability control systems for heavy vehicles.

“Where the benefits are greater than the costs, as they are for all of the safety standards subject to review, the Center for Auto Safety recommends they remain as written and we urge stricter enforcement to allow for the maximum benefit from these regulations,” said the group’s executive director, Jason Levine.

The consumer group maintains the rule on ejection mitigation, which prevents passengers from being fully or partially thrown from vehicles, creates $3.55 billion in net benefits annually. The regulation for roof-crush resistance, which prevents intrusion of the roof structure into the passenger compartment of a vehicle, continues to reduce rollover deaths and injuries, and creates $285 to $850 million in annual net benefits.

The benefits of occupant crash protection regulation, which can prevent up to 858 injuries annually, exceed the costs by $20 million to $475 million. Regulation for electronic stability control systems for heavy vehicles, which help prevent rollovers and oversteer and understeer conditions in trucks and buses, also create more benefits than costs. This rule saves lives and generates $267 million to $480 million in annual net benefits.

Now that the rules are in place, “the key to providing the maximum consumer benefit in exchange for the related societal costs is for NHTSA to zealously enforce these regulations, not repeal or weaken them,” Levine said.