Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 13:13 EDT

Safety Advocates Praise Senate Passage of Bipartisan Surface Transportation Authorization Legislation

March 14, 2012

Comprehensive Safety Provisions will Result in Safer Vehicles, Safer Drivers and Safer Roads

WASHINGTON, March 14, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ – The Senate today significantly advanced highway and auto safety when it passed a two-year, $109 billion surface transportation authorization bill, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), S.1813. The strong, bipartisan safety legislation, if enacted into law, will prevent crashes, save lives, reduce injuries, and save billions of dollars.

In 2010, nearly 33,000 people were killed and more than 2.2 million were injured on our nation’s highways, making motor vehicle crashes a major public health epidemic. Motor vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for all Americans ages five to 34 and while overall traffic fatalities declined in 2010, large truck crash fatalities increased by nearly nine percent. The safety provisions included in MAP-21 will address the unfinished safety agenda and protect the motoring public.

“MAP-21 is comprehensive, commonsense, and cost-effective legislation that will dramatically improve safety for everyone on our highways–families sharing the road with large trucks, passengers riding intercity buses, and inexperienced teen drivers getting behind the wheel for the first time,” said Jackie Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates). “We commend Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), as well as Subcommittee leaders, Senators Pryor (D-AR), Toomey (R-PA), Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Wicker (R-MS) for including measures in MAP-21 that have public support and will reduce highway deaths and injuries.”

Legislative requirements in the bill direct action by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue vehicle safety standards such as brake override and pedal placement, as well as provide greater accountability and responsibility for government safety defects investigations by the agency and automakers.

Joan Claybrook, Consumer Co-Chair of Advocates and a former NHTSA Administrator said, “The Senate Commerce Committee held numerous hearings on the lack of adequate consumer safeguards and access to information on vehicle safety defects, and developed important highway and auto safety proposals to address these problems. The American public will benefit from their reaction and their sensible, lifesaving solutions.”

In 2010, more than 5,000 people were killed in crashes involving teen drivers, at an enormous emotional and economic cost to families and communities. Yet, state teen driving laws, often called Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) programs, vary greatly from state to state, creating a patchwork of laws in which some novice teen drivers are better protected than others. S.1813 will create an incentive grant program aimed at reducing the deadly consequences of inexperienced teen driving by encouraging state adoption of effective laws. “Including incentive grants to spur state adoption of comprehensive teen driving laws is a major step forward in addressing the number one killer of teens in every state. We commend Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and the leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee who championed the idea that every teen in every state should be protected by strong GDL laws that save lives,” said Paul Mattera, insurance co-chair of Advocates and Senior Vice President of Liberty Mutual Group.

The legislation also encourages states to adopt primary enforcement seat belt laws, child booster seat laws, and the installation of alcohol-ignition interlock device (IID) laws for convicted first-time offenders through federal incentive grant programs. S.1813 includes funds for distracted driving grants and high visibility enforcement programs as well. In addition, provisions requiring the testing of child safety seats in frontal and side impact crashes, improved child restraint systems, rear seat belt reminders and child reminder systems will significantly improve child passenger safety.

Strong motor carrier safety provisions in the legislation, put forth by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), will improve commercial motor vehicle (CMV) driver training and medical qualifications, strengthen registration requirements of motor carriers, increase oversight, and enhance enforcement and penalties. Additionally, he prevented any dangerous truck size and weight increases. Instead, the legislation directs a comprehensive study of the safety and infrastructure impacts of allowing bigger trucks on bridges and highways. Safety advocates also praised Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. Pryor (D-AR) for their successful adoption of language requiring electronic on-board recorders (EOBRs) on all CMVs to strengthen enforcement and reduce driver fatigue. This mandate has been a top priority of safety groups, truck crash victims and survivors, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for many years.

The legislation also includes provisions of the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act (MESA), S.453, sponsored by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), which will establish specific deadlines for the Department of Transportation to implement numerous overdue NTSB safety recommendations to improve passenger protection and industry oversight.

John Betts, whose son David was killed along with six others when their motorcoach carrying the Bluffton University baseball team plunged off a highway ramp in Atlanta, Georgia on March 2, 2007 stated, “If my son and his teammates had seat belts and other basic safety systems they would likely have been saved. The public deserves to be protected before they board the bus and after they take their seat with the same high level of safety they expect whether they fly or drive. While crashes may not be 100 percent preventable, deaths and injuries can be when the public is provided with available and affordable safety protections.”

Yen-Chi Le from Houston, Texas, whose mother was killed with 16 others in a motorcoach crash in Sherman, Texas on August 8, 2008 stated: “There are incredible personal and economic costs associated with allowing the motorcoach industry to treat safety as an option. The vehicle and operational safety improvements required in MAP-21 will go a long way toward reforming industry practices and preventing similar tragedies from occurring in the future.” An amendment added to the bill sponsored by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) requires DOT to develop safety ratings of companies that provide motorcoach services so that consumers can decide which companies are safer to ride or hire.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (www.saferoads.org) is a coalition of consumer, public health, medical, safety and insurance organizations working together to improve highway and auto safety policies in Congress, states and Executive branch agencies.

SOURCE Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Source: PR Newswire