Safety, Consumer, and Public Health Groups, Transportation Officials, and Truck Crash, Hot Car Incid

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 1, 2021

CONTACT: Pete Daniels / Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety / pdaniels@saferoads.org / 301-442-2249 (C)

Safety, Consumer, and Public Health Groups, Transportation Officials, and Truck Crash, Hot Car Incident, Distracted Driving, Red Light Running and Seatback Failure Victims Respond to U.S. Senate’s Bipartisan Transportation/ Infrastructure Bill

Deadly deficiencies in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act must be fixed.  Meaningful safety advances in the House-passed INVEST in America Act must be part of final bill sent to the President.

Transportation and infrastructure legislation released today, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, fails to address the mounting physical, emotional and economic toll of motor vehicle crashes occurring every year.  The unique opportunity to enact transformative transportation policies occurs every five years.  Congress must capitalize on this moment and include proven solutions to the problems that persist on our nation’s roads.  The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would be a historic departure from past multi-year, bipartisan transportation and infrastructure bills which have included significant vehicle safety upgrades such as air bags, electronic stability control, roof crush standards, side impact standards and safety belts on motorcoaches.  In sharp contrast, the U.S. House of Representatives “set the bar for vehicle safety” with its bipartisan passage of the INVEST in America Act (H.R. 3684) on July 1 of this year.  The House’s tremendous efforts and innovative solutions must not be sidelined.  Congress must ensure that lifesaving vehicle safety technology mandates are included in any legislation that is sent to President Biden who personally has suffered the loss of loved ones in a motor vehicle/truck crash.

Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety: “The past year-and-a-half has been exceptionally deadly for motorists and other road users.  This alarming fatal upward trend must be met with the advancement of available, game-changing safety technologies and other upgrades.  The U.S. House of Representatives accomplishes that with the bipartisan passage of the INVEST in America Act.  Based on very conservative estimates, more than 70,000 lives could be saved over the five-year span of the bill if all new vehicles were equipped these improvements.  Unfortunately, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act leaves far too many proven safety solutions on the side of the road.  Without decisive action to reject the status quo, an estimated 183,000 crash fatalities, 14 million injuries and more than $5 trillion in costs are projected to occur over the next five years if current trends continue.  The U.S. Senate must act now to fix fatal flaws in this bill.”

Amy Cohen, Co-Founder, Families for Safe Streets (New York): “I lost my intelligent, curious and passionate 12-year-old son Sammy when he was run over by a multi-ton commercial van as he was walking to soccer practice.  Had the truck been equipped with automatic emergency braking (AEB), my Sammy might be alive today.  Preventable tragedies like this happen with alarming frequency.  Yet, lawmakers in Washington, D.C. allow proven policy solutions to languish for far too long.  This cannot continue.  Families for Safe Streets is a membership group no one wants to be a part of – volunteers who have lost loved ones or themselves been seriously injured in crashes.  We are united in our efforts to improve safety for all road users and call on Congress to make necessary improvements to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act before it is signed into law.”

Joan Claybrook, Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and Chair, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH): “Every day 100 people are killed and more than 7,000 are injured in motor vehicle crashes.  Distracted, drunk, drugged and drowsy driving are major contributors to this death and injury toll.  However, we have a proven solution – safer braking systems, also known as automatic emergency braking (AEB).  The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has demonstrated that AEB can reduce front-to-rear crashes in cars by 50 percent and in large trucks by more than 40 percent.  The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act must be improved to require AEB in all new cars and trucks by a certain deadline.  Currently, there’s an industry carve-out exempting small and medium size trucks, the ones increasingly traveling on our neighborhood streets delivering packages and other goods, from an AEB requirement.  With nearly 30 percent of all fatalities in large truck crashes involving these vehicles, this lethal loophole must be closed.  Now is the time for Congress and the White House to take decisive action that truly prioritizes the safety of all road users.  Absent this leadership, millions of preventable deaths and injuries will befall our nation.”

Janette Fennell, President, Kids and Car Safety: “Since 1990, more than 1,000 children have died in a hot car.  Kids and Car Safety is calling on the Senate to adopt the language that has already passed in the House INVEST in America Act to protect unattended children from hot car deaths and injuries.  This requires an occupant detection and alert system that covers the entire passenger compartment.  Unfortunately, the Senate bill does not require occupant detection. Without detection, a system will not prevent the majority of hot car deaths and injuries. We must detect to protect.”

Michelle and Jason Fraser, Parents of Catastrophically Injured Jayden Faith Fraser – Seatback Collapse Victim (Texas): “On behalf of our daughter Jayden Faith, and the thousands of families that have suffered catastrophic injuries or deaths as result of preventable seatback failures, we continue our call to Congress to modernize the seatback standard that for 54 years has failed to protect families like ours.  Far too many families will never see their children or loved ones again after they died because of a seatback collapse.  We hope the Senate will act quickly to finish what the House has started to help spare even one more family from suffering what my family, and too many others like ours, have had to suffer.”

Jena Frost, Truck Safety Coalition Volunteer (Maine): “The horrific crash that took the life of my five-year-old son Wyatt proves that delivery trucks can be just as deadly as larger trucks, and they are moving by the many thousands through our streets and neighborhoods at all times of the day.  I didn’t think my heart could break any more, but this callous piece of legislation is insult on top of deep grief.  I ask Congress to please do whatever is necessary to require that all new trucks are equipped with life-saving automatic emergency braking to protect us from all trucks, not just some.  The costs of doing so are estimated to be less than $300 per vehicle.  After required, this one-time cost will likely drop even further due to economies of scale.  This pales in comparison to the lifelong suffering experienced by families like mine.”

Jack Gillis, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of America: “The infrastructure/transportation bill provides a real opportunity to ensure consumers have access to the safest cars.  Right now, families are often priced out of buying vehicles equipped with the latest safety technologies because they are bundled with non-safety features in high end models or expensive trim packages.  It is critical to make proven safety systems standard equipment so that all consumers, regardless of the price tag of the new car they are purchasing, can be protected.  There is no excuse for this not to be the case.  The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) places the value of a life at $11.6 million.  Comparatively, the expense of technology that detects unattended children in vehicles and engages an alert is negligible.   Fixing seats to prevent collapse during a crash could cost as little as five dollars, yet the standard hasn’t been upgraded in over 50 years.  And, risks from keyless ignitions causing carbon monoxide poisoning and vehicle rollaways could be mitigated for pennies.  Without necessary changes, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will prioritize industry profit at the expense of public safety.”

Stephen W. Hargarten, MD, MPH, Society for the Advancement of Violence and Injury Research: “As an emergency physician, I am frequently reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s old adage, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’  Modern auto safety innovations could be preventing untold numbers of crashes, fatalities and injuries if required in all new vehicles.  For example, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that one of these technologies, automatic emergency braking (AEB), could prevent 1.9 million crashes, nearly 900,000 injuries and more than 4,700 deaths annually if installed on all cars, pickup trucks, vans, minivans, and SUVs.  This is the kind of ‘vaccine’ for traffic crashes that must be advanced with strong language as included in the House-passed INVEST in America Act.  I call on the U.S. Senate to do the same.”

Angela Jones, Kids and Car Safety Advocate, Mother of Hot Car Incident Victim Charly Jones (Arizona): “Our hearts were broken in so many pieces when we lost our beautiful little girl.  You can’t even imagine how every ounce of my being was crushed when we learned that existing, affordable technology to detect and alert to children unknowingly left in a hot car would have saved her life.  It’s too late for us, but we plead with the Senate to require the same detection and alert technology required by the Hot Cars Act and included in the INVEST in America Act.  America’s families are counting on you to protect our precious children.”

Corinne Kisner, Executive Director, National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO): “Despite advances in research, technology, and practice, America continues to go the wrong way in traffic safety, with 50 percent more people killed while walking on our streets than a decade ago.  This unconscionable toll–40,000 total traffic deaths per year–is preventable, and the Senate must treat this as the crisis that it is.  This means ending the irresponsible practices of allowing states to set regressive safety ‘targets’ and dedicating token resources and small programs towards safety while still allowing the majority of federal dollars to fund unsafe, unsustainable infrastructure.  Commonsense steps, including ones written in the House’s INVEST Act, from green-lighting projects that improve safety, and dedicating real resources to multimodal safety and transit (the safest mode we have), will put America on track to progress on road safety instead of increased carnage.  The Senate should also mandate that NHTSA catch up to its international peers and evaluate the safety of new vehicles–increasingly larger and more deadly–based on their impacts to everyone using the streets, not just those driving them. In the face of alarming increases in traffic fatalities–out of step with the rest of the industrialized world–the Senate can and should do better.”

Jason Levine, Executive Director, Center for Auto Safety: “There is little question our nation is long overdue for critical updates to our infrastructure especially when it comes to vehicle safety and the rising tide of preventable car crash deaths, now numbering 40,000 per year.  The most comprehensive mechanism to reverse these crash deaths is employing existing technology like crash avoidance systems, automatic emergency braking, and driver monitoring systems.  An active and data driven recall system that quickly discovers defects and ensures effective repairs should also be a primary goal of the auto safety community.  Far too many have suffered from inadequate safety regulations like the 1967 seatback standard and the completely out of date 5-star crash ratings.  With the Senate infrastructure discussions finally emerging from closed door meetings we are looking forward to a robust legislative process, that includes the House of Representatives, which provides as much safety as possible for every driver, passenger, and pedestrian in America.”

Jennifer Smith, CEO and Co-Founder, StopDistractions.org (Illinois): “Since my mother was killed in a distracted driving crash in 2008, the public health crisis of distracted driving has pervasively worsened.  Phone features like apps, social media, games, video streaming, and even now video conferencing are dangerous and deadly behind the wheel.  Improvements to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act can change that.  Technology including automatic emergency braking (AEB) and driver monitoring have the potential to mitigate crashes caused by a myriad of factors including distraction, impairment, and drowsiness.  We cannot afford to wait for the next major piece of transportation and infrastructure legislation to see these sensible upgrades enacted into law.”

Russ Swift, Co-Chair of Parents Against Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.) (Florida): “Allowing teenagers to drive 80,000 pound commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) interstate is an ill-advised policy being pushed by segments of the trucking industry to address a driver retention problem of its own making.  Younger CMV drivers are notoriously more dangerous.  In fact, CMV drivers under the age of 19 are four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes and CMV drivers ages 19 – 20 are six times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.  Instead of putting kids and young adults behind the wheel of trucks, our lawmakers should be advancing safety solutions which have been ready but ‘on stand-by’ for the decades since my son Jasen was taken from us after a crash caused by a teen truck driver.  How many more of our children are these proposed 3,000 pilot program Teen Truckers going to kill before we stop this Terrible Idea?!  Congress must remove this ill-fated program from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.”

Melissa Wandall, President, National Coalition for Safer Roads (NCSR) (Florida): “When my husband Mark was taken from our family following a senseless red light running crash in 2003, I resolved to turn my agony into action by working to prevent future tragedies.  Today, I am asking Congress to choose progress over powerful special interests by ensuring that lifesaving safety technology is required in new vehicles as part of transportation and infrastructure legislation.  Automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning (LDW) and blind spot detection (BSD) have all been proven to reduce crashes, yet they are not required as standard equipment.  The House-passed INVEST in America Act would remedy this inexcusable safety gap.  I implore the U.S. Senate to improve the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act before it reaches President Biden’s desk to include these and other critical safety upgrades.”

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