Senate Committee Approval of Highway Bill Will Save Lives; Auto Safety Is a Bipartisan Issue

April 14, 2005

Senate Committee Approval of Highway Bill Will Save Lives;
Auto Safety Is a Bipartisan Issue

Statement of Joan Claybrook, President, Public Citizen*

Today’s approval by Senate lawmakers of key auto and truck safety provisions contained in the highway bill is to be commended and shows that auto safety is a bipartisan issue.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee unanimously approved measures that require the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue a minimum rollover propensity standard, which will help to ensure that vehicles are less prone to tipping over; an ejection mitigation standard, which will protect people from being tossed out of their vehicles during crashes; and a stronger roof crush standard, which will help prevent deaths and spinal cord injuries caused when roofs collapse during rollovers.

The bill also requires NHTSA to complete a rule requiring side impact air bags to be installed in vehicles (they are now optional equipment), requires 15-passenger vans – which are often used to transport children and community groups – to adhere to the same standards as school buses, and requires crash test ratings to be provided on the window sticker for vehicle buyers when they are making their purchase (currently the information is available only on NHTSA’s Web site). In addition, the bill would lead to the elimination of rocker power window switches, which enable children to trap their necks in windows.

We praise U.S. Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) for leading the effort on these critical measures. Their bill is built on legislation passed last year in the Senate and authored by U.S Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.).

The bill requires action by NHTSA concerning the biggest sources of vehicle-related deaths on the road. Safety on our nation’s highways is not a liberal or conservative issue, as today’s vote shows. When passed by the full Senate, the bill will go to a conference committee with the House version, which does not contain these requirements. We strongly urge House lawmakers to follow the lead of their Senate counterparts and adopt these measures, which will save lives and prevent injuries nationwide.

*Joan Claybrook was administrator of NHTSA from 1977-1981.

For a fact sheet about these measures, click here.

###