We have been reporting on the rising deadliness of wall-like SUVs and trucks for years now, and it seems regulators and lawmakers are finally sitting up and taking notice of all the blood in America’s streets.
New York State Senator Andrew Gounardes introduced a bill that would create a pedestrian safety rating system for motor vehicles which would rate new cars using a 5-star system similar to the one used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These ratings would need to be displayed on cars at dealerships as a sort of warning label for vehicles more likely to mangle humans. New York is especially interested in pedestrian and cyclist safety; in 2019, 25 out of 29 New York City cyclist fatalities were riders hit by large vehicles, according to Bloomberg.
But pedestrian deaths across the nation have been on the rise for a while now. In April of 2020, the Government Accountability Office release a study with the chilling title “NHTSA Needs to Decide Whether to Include Pedestrian Safety Tests in Its New Car Assessment Program.” Despite the dire title of the GAO’s report, NHTSA did nothing. The GAO report found that, in 2018, 6,283 pedestrians were killed. That’s a 3.4 percent increase from the previous year. Estimates from the Governors Highway Safety Association for 2019 shows another spike, with 6,590 pedestrians killed — a five percent increase in deaths despite Americans driving significantly less during lockdown. GHSA also found 846 cyclists were killed, with 4,900 injured. Reports since then place at least partial blame on the popularity of giant vehicles like SUVs and trucks, which are not tested for pedestrian safety.
Speaking of NHTSA, the government oversight organization will be updating its badly out-of-date New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). What they did not say specifically is if that update would include pedestrian crash ratings. This is all via a report in Bloomberg:
But apart from voluntary agreements with automakers to include technologies such as automatic pedestrian braking, which aren’t available on many vehicles, federal regulators have done little to respond to these issues. A 2020 Government Accountability Office report found the National Highway Safety Administration has dragged its feet on collecting detailed pedestrian injury data and has still not decided on whether to include pedestrian safety tests in its New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). European countries and Japan require pedestrian safety testing as part of their five-star vehicle rating systems.
President Joe Biden — who experienced the loss of his first wife and daughter in a 1972 car crash — and transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg have touted traffic safety as a key transportation priority. A NHTSA spokesperson said that the agency plans to announce upgrades and improvements to NCAP later this year.
I’m not sure if the NY bill will cure America of hulking trucks (just ask smokers who still buy packs with warning labels and graphic images of rotting bodies on them) but as someone who believes that roads belong to all of us, this is the most pumped I’ve ever been over a regulatory body promising to update it’s assessment testing! The growing popularity of giant trucks and SUVs is a danger to everyone, including drivers of more modest, older and less technologically advanced vehicles. It’s high time they were reined in.