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NHTSAThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) held a public listening session in late February to gain input on the agency’s 2014-18 strategic plan and both the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) were quick to weigh in.

"Public feedback will assist the agency in preparing to meet the challenges it faces in the next five years on improving motor vehicle and traffic safety in the United States," said a NHTSA spokesman.

ATA submitted a list of recommendations and suggests NHTSA’s priority projects should include vehicle-to-vehicle communications, automated speed enforcement and increased environmental standards.

IIHS is recommending several priorities including in-vehicle technologies to increase seat belt use and increased efforts to enhance vehicle crashworthiness.

ATA supports the development of vehicle-to-vehicle warning systems and has reinforced that the technologies should be integrated to minimize driver distractions. It has also recommended that the NHTSA include automated speed enforcement equipment in its highway safety grant program. The ATA said that an expected rule mandating speed limiters in heavy trucks would fail without adequate speed endorsement measures.

In response to President Barack Obama’s recent announcement of new consumption and greenhouse gas emission standards, the ATA submitted a list of guidelines for NHTSA to use in its development of the rules:

  • Fuel consumption reductions must be based upon sound science and must be economically achievable.
  • Phase II standards should reflect real-world cost and fuel consumption benefits through the use of proper test methods using input variables those most accurately replicate real-world work applications of the trucking industry.
  • Phase II should not be based upon “technology-enforcing” standards.
  • Return on capital investments under Phase II should not exceed 18 months and should be based on real world benefits.
  • Phase II should not result in any “unintended consequences” involving safety or increases in emissions of other pollutants.
  • Any standards under Phase II should be harmonized with those of the California Air Resources Board.
  • Compliance and enforcement under Phase II should be expressly defined as being the responsibility of equipment manufacturers.
  • Ensure equipment manufacturers and fleets maintain flexibility in choosing technology paths and equipment purchases.
  • Provide equipment manufacturers sufficient lead time and stability for research and development.
  • Alternative-fueled vehicles should be considered in helping achieve the objectives.
  • Should only apply to new equipment purchases.

IIHS, in its statement to NHTSA, asked for more attention to in-vehicle technologies to increase seat belt use.

“The DOT strategic plan mentions further exploring in-vehicle technologies to prevent driving with illegal BACs, and we know NHTSA supports the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety project, which aims to hasten the development of technology that could be more widely used,” wrote IIHS. “However, there is no mention of efforts to explore in-vehicle technologies to increase belt use. The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) relaxed an earlier prohibition against requiring more aggressive seat belt reminders. We think NHTSA’s strategy to increase belt use should take advantage of this change by developing safety standards requiring more effective seat belt reminder systems.” 

IIHS also called on NHTSA to focus on vehicle crashworthiness.

“One of NHTSA’s important contributions to the downward trend in highway fatalities has been the promulgation of safety standards addressing vehicle crashworthiness. In 2012, the driver death rate in vehicles 1-3 years old was only 37 percent of what it was at the start of the 21st century, and this reduction is due in part to improved crashworthiness.

IIHS further noted that the DOT strategic plan does not mention efforts to improve vehicle crashworthiness despite research from both IIHS (Brumbelow and Zuby, 2009) and NHTSA (Bean et al., 2009) that identifies areas for further improvement.

“We hope that crashworthiness improvements continue to be part of NHTSA’s strategy to reduce injuries and deaths in vehicle crashes, even as new crash avoidance technologies offer new opportunities.”

IIHS closed its remarks with a plea for NHTSA to continue to encourage automated enforcement of traffic laws.

“The body of research evidence suggests that photo enforcement of traffic-light-controlled intersections and speed limits is effective in preventing these violations, which contribute to many crashes, and saves lives, as well. A recent IIHS study found that if red light cameras had been in place during 2004-08 in all 99 U.S. cities with populations of more than 200,000, a total of 815 deaths could have been avoided. Unfortunately, many state and local debates about whether to permit automated enforcement are tainted by considerable misinformation about its effectiveness. NHTSA, through its Driving Safety programs, could encourage state and local authorities to choose automated enforcement by promoting information about its effectiveness.”

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