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44 Senators Urge Passage of Critical Highway Safety Provisions

Sept. 14, 2004

44 Senators Urge Passage of Critical Highway Safety Provisions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Forty-four senators have signed a letter urging the passage of critical motor vehicle safety provisions contained in the pending highway bill. The group is remarkable both for its size and its bipartisanship.

In a letter to U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), bill authors and members of the House-Senate conference committee considering the legislation, the senators expressed strong support for provisions contained in Title IV of S. 1072, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 (SAFETEA).

The provisions include: vehicle rollover prevention, side impact crash protection, occupant ejection prevention, vehicle-to-vehicle crash compatibility, 15-passenger van safety, child safety measures and improved consumer access to safety information.  The provisions were reported out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation with overwhelming bipartisan support and subsequently incorporated into S. 1072 during floor debate.  They have been under consideration by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for years, and in some cases decades, but have not been implemented.

“If you add the number of conference committee members who support these measures, well over half the U.S. Senate is in favor of this bill,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “Many senators and their families, in fact, have experienced the horror of auto crashes and know how critical this legislation is to making our roads safer. This bill sets the agenda for safety for the next decade.”

In 2003, 42,643 people lost their lives and 2.89 million were injured on U.S. roads. Some NHTSA forecasts indicate that this death toll could rise to as high as 50,000 annually by 2008. Traffic fatalities remain the leading cause of death for Americans age 4 to 34. 

“These death and injury rates are, simply put, unacceptable,” the senators wrote. “The carefully crafted safety provisions in Title IV can help reverse this alarming trend, and save countless lives in the years ahead.”

“Last year more than 10,000 people died and 229,000 more were injured in rollover crashes,” said Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “A Lou Harris poll released in July shows that 84 percent of the public supports government action to make vehicles more stable and less prone to rollover, and 44 senators agree it’s time to act.  We cannot afford to delay while the death toll climbs.  It is time to pass the safety provisions in S.1072 and stop the highway carnage.”

Added Sally Greenberg, senior product safety counsel for Consumers Union, who noted that last year 91 children were killed by drivers who didn’t see them while backing up, “Americans want cars that are safer for their families that include such things   as backover warning devices, which this bill would address. The overwhelming support for this legislation should send a strong signal to Congress that the time has come to enact these forward-looking safety provisions.”

To read the letter, click here.