May 16, 2023
WASHINGTON, DC – Representatives Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) led 27 colleagues in urging the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to prioritize pedestrian protection and visibility from the driver’s seat in federal vehicle safety ratings. The United States is a global outlier in traffic deaths, with pedestrian fatalities increasing nearly 18 percent between 2019 to 2022. As vehicles have grown larger, blind spots have also become larger, substantially increasing the chances they might strike a pedestrian.
“As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) works on updating the federal vehicle safety ratings program, also known as the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), we respectfully urge you to include pedestrian protection and visibility from the driver’s seat as key criteria for vehicles to score the highest safety star ratings,” wrote the lawmakers.
“NCAP has served to educate consumers about vehicle safety while also incentivizing new vehicles to incorporate the latest lifesaving vehicle safety features,” the lawmakers continued. “In recent times however, some consumer advocates have noted that the program has stagnated. Nearly all vehicles sold today earn four or five-star NCAP safety ratings—including the vehicles that are most likely to kill pedestrians. To achieve our shared goal of Vision Zero and reverse the alarming trend in road fatalities, NHTSA should strengthen NCAP by prioritizing pedestrian protection and driver visibility in new vehicles.”
“Larger cars and trucks are one reason why pedestrian fatalities have reached a ten year high in the United States,” said Mike McGinn, Executive Director of America Walks. “Their increased weight, towering front grilles, and poor visibility from the driver’s seat make these vehicles deadlier than the smaller ones they replaced. Larger cars and trucks are not the sole cause of the rise in pedestrian deaths, but the federal government has the direct ability to fix the known issues that make them lethal. We urge USDOT to use its authority over vehicle safety ratings and standards to regulate size, design, and visibility for the protection of people outside of vehicles.”
“Consumers deserve to know whether the vehicles they’re buying are actually safe, but NHTSA’s current definition of vehicle safety is dangerously incomplete,” said Corinne Kisner, Executive Director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO). “To reverse the staggering rate of fatalities and serious injuries for people walking and biking, federal safety standards must take into account not only passenger safety, but the safety of everyone who uses our streets.”
“Blind zones present an unacceptable risk to all vulnerable road users, yet this danger can be mitigated,” said Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “We urge NHTSA to update the NCAP ratings and make widespread visibility from the driver’s seat a priority. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) must complete the vehicle safety rulemakings mandated in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, Pub. L. 117-58), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, with great expediency. With motor vehicle crash fatalities skyrocketing, commonsense technological solutions must stop being sidelined.”
“All of us in Families for Safe Streets have lost loved ones or were, ourselves, injured in road crashes,” said Amy Cohen, Co-Founder Families for Safe Streets and Mother of Sammy Cohen Eckstein (12/8/00-10/8/13). “We fight to end all traffic violence because no death or life-altering injury is acceptable. The NCAP proposal offers a particularly muted response to the surge in pedestrian and cyclist deaths that USDOT has recognized as a national crisis. There is too much at stake to not take much more dramatic action. The United States was once a leader in automotive safety and started the world’s first NCAP program in 1979 over the objections of the automobile lobby – nearly two decades ahead of the European Union, Japan and Australia. Yet we are at least a decade, if not more, behind these nations in mandatory vehicle regulation and NCAP testing and rating protocols. USDOT must do more to strengthen NCAP, regulate the growing dangerous size of vehicles, and require that proven life-saving technologies are standard in all vehicles.”
“How many more people must die or get severely injured on our roads before we begin implementing the known solutions to prevent these tragedies?” said Triny Wellerton, President and Founder of It Could Be Me. “We need the right policies and political will. And unfortunately, we are doing everybody a disservice by not utilizing all available tools. Many people say I am lucky to have survived my crash. However, safety should never have to be about luck.”
“Across the United States, historic numbers of people walking and rolling are struck and killed by cars—and these preventable tragedies are even more prevalent for people of color,” said Beth Osborne, Director of Transportation for America. “NHTSA must institute stronger pedestrian safety measures for NCAP so that vehicle design does not impede the direct vision of people in front of cars and so that all people can get to their destination without fear of traffic violence.”
The letter is supported by a coalition of transportation safety organizations, including America Walks, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), the League of American Bicyclists, the Center for Auto Safety, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Families for Safe Streets, Kids and Cars, Vision Zero Network, It Could Be Me, Smart Growth America, Transportation For America (T4A) and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association.
Recently, NHTSA released new 2022 data on traffic fatalities, which demonstrates a continuing national crisis of traffic deaths on our roadways. In 2021, drivers struck and killed nearly 7,500 people traveling by foot—the highest number in forty years. Additionally, research indicates that Black and Brown pedestrians are more than twice as likely to be struck and killed compared to white pedestrians. The lawmakers encouraged NHTSA to incorporate safety assessments that improve pedestrian safety for people of color.
Representatives Raskin, Schakowsky, Norton, Cohen and Blumenauer were joined by Representatives Suzanne Bonamici, Jamaal Bowman, Tony Cárdenas, André Carson, Sean Casten, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Mark DeSaulnier, Lloyd Doggett, Adriano Espaillat, Dwight Evans, Jesús “Chuy” García, Raúl Grijalva, Jared Huffman, Sheila Jackson Lee, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Susie Lee, Stephen Lynch, Seth Magaziner, Jennifer McClellan, Jerrold Nadler, Mark Pocan, Ayanna Pressley, Mike Quigley, Mike Thompson, Dina Titus, and Jill Tokuda.