Lives Could Be Saved With Proposed New Federal Vehicle Safety Rating System

It might surprise those old enough to remember the days when huge American-made land yachts – those big Cadillacs, Fords and Chryslers – ruled the road: today’s mainstream pickup trucks and SUVs compete with these mammoths in weight and length, and, of course, surpass them in height.

With that growth came a significant cost, say road safety advocates. Larger vehicles, with their sturdier pillars and increased height, make it harder for drivers to see pedestrians – and for pedestrians and cyclists to survive when hit by them.

But hidden in the bipartisan federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed last November by President Joe Biden, are a host of new recommendations aimed at making vehicles safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

If these recommendations become law, the changes would apply to all consumer vehicles, including SUVs and trucks, whose drivers are involved in a growing number of fatal collisions with pedestrians and cyclists, studies show.

We urge the federal government to take immediate steps to flesh out these provisions and make them law.

Trucks and SUVs are safer than before, unless you’re a pedestrian or cyclist

All classes of vehicles, along with poor road design, make things less safe for pedestrians. But a recent study from the University of Hawaii published in the journal Transport economics links the increased size and weight of SUVs and trucks to an increase in fatalities in cars compared to pedestrians.

Researchers looked at fatal car crashes in the United States between 2000 and 2019 and concluded that 1,100 pedestrian deaths could have been avoided if the driver had been behind the wheel of a passenger car rather than a truck or truck. of a mainstream SUV.

And one study 2020 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that pedestrians who were struck by SUVs traveling between 20 and 39 mph died in three out of 10 such collisions. Cars in the simplest crashes killed 5 pedestrians times out of 22, according to the institute.

IHS spokesman Joe Young said Car & Driver automakers have made SUVs safer in crashes with other vehicles, but “what this study tells us is that these efforts did nothing for the pedestrians”.

Current vehicle safety ratings only consider passengers. But the infrastructure law could expand vehicle safety ratings to also include those outside the car, as regulations in Japan and Europe do.

And if enacted, the law could also require automakers to redesign vehicle bumpers and hoods to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety in the event of a collision.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers across the country are asking their own states to adopt rating systems similar to those outlined in the federal infrastructure bill.

State Senator Andrew Gounardes of New York introduced a bill in 2020 that would rank and publish pedestrian safety ratings online for all vehicles for sale in the Empire State. Dealerships would be required to post rankings.

The bill is currently in the transportation committee of the New York General Assembly.

“We hope this [bill] will help educate people in a way that will help them see the consequences of their choices,” Gonardes told Bloomberg CityLab last year.

Now is the time to start

U.S. auto buyers since 2018 have purchased more trucks and SUVs than passenger cars.

They’re so popular that Ford ditched its entire line of passenger cars – except for the Mustang – four years ago to focus on making trucks, SUVs and crossovers.

And large vehicles have grown significantly in size over the past decade. Vice News reported last summer that modern trucks and SUVs are almost as big as the M4 Sherman tanks the US military used in World War II.

All of that is reason enough for the federal government to mandate making vehicles safer for pedestrians — and better educating buyers.

“Most people aren’t prepared to think about the impact their vehicle purchases have on the greater safety of people in the environment around them,” said Gounardes of New York.

But it’s time they did.

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