Posts Tagged ‘NHTSA’

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This is my car. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My car is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me, my car is useless. Without my car, I am useless. I must drive my car true. I must drive faster than my enemy who is trying to pass me. I must pass him before he passes me. I will …

My car and I know that what counts in driving is not the gas we burn, the noise of our exhaust, nor the smoke we make. We know that it is the speed that counts. We will speed …

My car is human, even as I, because it is my life. Thus, I will learn it as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strength, its parts, its accessories, its accelerator and its wheels. I will keep my car clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. We will …

Before God, I swear this creed. My car and myself are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of the highway. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until there is no traffic, but peace. Amen.


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Over the years there have been some pretty bad pedestrian safety PSA’s. But this one from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is stupendously bad. No kid should ever have to worry about giant monster trucks blasting down a neighborhood street. What makes this ‘educational’ video especially bad is that the NHTSA has broad regulatory powers in this area, but chooses not to outlaw dangerous vehicles.

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A good first step, but this really needs to be implemented nationally as a Federal safety mandate:

At least 200 municipal trucks will be outfitted with side guards this year as city officials try to cut down on pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. The side guards — actually rails — to be installed between the trucks front and rear wheels help keep people involved in a collision with a truck from being dragged underneath, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said in a news release.

While trucks make up less than 4 percent of vehicles on city roads, collisions with trucks account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of bicyclist fatalities, city officials said.

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NHTSA Punts on Truck Sideguards

Trucks are one of the greatest hazards for bicyclists and pedestrians. The problem not just the poor visibility, but also the lack of protection around the wheels. Sideguards would greatly reduce that vulnerability, by deflecting bikes and peds away from the truck in a collision. Most trucks in Europe and Japan are required to have sideguards, but no such regulation exists in the United States.

In April 2014, the NTSB issued a recommendation for sideguard regulation. The NTSB is only an advisory body, however, so any regulation must be implemented by the NHTSA. On July 10, 2014, the NHTSA published its response to the NTSB recommendation:

NHTSA is planning on issuing two separate notices—an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to rear impact guards and other safety strategies for single unit trucks, and a notice of proposed rulemaking focusing on rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers. NHTSA is still evaluating the Petitioners’ request to improve side guards and front override guards and will issue a separate decision on those aspects of the petition at a later date.

When the NHTSA says it needs more time to study a problem, it usually means the agency will not take action. In this case, I would be happy to be proven wrong, but it does not appear that the NHTSA is interested in the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.


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Last year, the NTSB studied several safety issues with tractor trailer trucks. The NTSB proposed measures to reduce blind spots, and a requirements for side guards on new vehicles. The good news is that the NTSB has now officially adopted those safety measures.

The need for these safety measures is clear.  Bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to truck accidents. They are not visible to the driver up in the cab, and they have no external protection:

The NTSB analyzed data from vie states (Delaware, Mayland, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Utah) that linked hospital records with police reports under the auspices of NHTSA’s Crash Outcome Data Evaluation System (CODES). Data from these states showed that death rates of vulnerable road users involved in collisions with tractor-trailers were high: 152.8 per 1,000 involved pedestrians/cyclists and 119.5 per 1,000 motorcyclists. In comparison, death rates were 2.0 per 1,000 involved tractor-trailer occupants and 10.9 per 1,000 involved passenger vehicle occupants.

The NHTSA has 90 days to respond to the NTSB safety recommendation.


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A disproportionate number of fatal bicycle collisions involve large trucks. Blind spots and right-hook accidents at intersections are two main culprits. But another reason is the lack of wheel guards.

Wheel guards (also known as sideguards and underride guards) can protect bicyclists from getting dragged under the large wheels. It is one reason the UK and Europe have required their use by law since the 1980’s. Indeed, the Mayor of London wants to take the regulations further:

Fines of £200 will be imposed on lorry drivers whose vehicles are not fitted with basic safety equipment under measures to cut the number of cyclist deaths. The “safer lorry charge” will initially be levied on tipper trucks, cement mixers and refuse lorries without side guards to prevent cyclists being crushed under the rear wheels. Officials say it is likely to be extended to include additional front- and side-view mirrors and electronic sensors to pick up cyclists in the vehicles’ blind spots. The charge will initially be applied to the London region but will be extended to other cities if it saves lives.

The NHTSA has known about the problem for decades, but has done nothing to address the issue. The last major regulation was issued in 1998, but only applied to rear-guards. Rear-guards protect motorists (when they slam into the back of a truck) but don’t do anything for bike/ped safety. And even for motorists, the rear-guard protection doesn’t always help, because the Federal standard is so weak.

The good news: on June 17, 2013 the NTSB issued a safety recommendation for side underride protection, and other safety measures that would benefit bicyclists/peds:

Develop performance standards for visibility enhancement systems to compensate for blind spots in order to improve the ability of drivers of single-unit trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings over 10,000 pounds to detect vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, in their travel paths.

Develop performance standards for side underride protection systems for single-unit trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings over 10,000 pounds.

To improve highway vehicle crash compatibility, develop performance standards for front underride protection systems for trucks with gross vehicle weight ratings over 10,000 pounds.

The NTSB report is open and awaiting formal response from the NHTSA.


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SUV and small truck sales are booming again, and Detroit automakers have returned to their bad old ways. But when prices surpass the $4/gallon mark again, what plan do they have for the next gas crisis?

One simple answer: re-brand fuel-efficient cars they already sell in Europe. Believe it or not, both Ford and GM do quite well selling gas-sipping cars in Europe, where the price per gallon can easily double US prices.

But alas, it is not so simple. Under Federal “safety” regulations, it is illegal to sell European automobiles in the US market.

Back in 2008, an AP article went into all the difficulties:

But introducing the cars to the U.S. market isn’t as simple as changing the speedometer from kilometers to miles. Ford has to reconcile American and European safety regulations — everything from the color of rear turn signals to the positioning of crash test dummies — that will keep the cars from hitting U.S. highways anytime soon. Competing interests among automakers, governments and the insurance industry are hampering efforts to standardize safety requirements worldwide. That means extra engineering to make different versions of vehicles for different markets.

As noted in the article, there are dozens of minor differences in safety regulations. And those differences don’t necessary make vehicles any safer for the American consumer:

Medford said NHTSA’s test to make sure cars are safe for unbelted occupants is important in the U.S. market, where people who weren’t wearing seat belts make up 45 percent of all traffic fatalities. “The data that we have really drives the direction and the nature of the standards we develop,” he said. But car makers grumble that NHTSA’s requirement makes cars less safe for belted occupants, since protecting people without seat belts requires more powerful air bags and other changes.

Another major shortcoming in the American regulatory framework is in the design of bumpers. American bumpers only have to protect the car; whereas Europe bumper tests simulate crashes against pedestrians.

Smart car sold overseas for 9 years before reaching the US market

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Problem: SUVs and light trucks are booming in popularity. Because these vehicles have limited visibility in the rear, parents are crushing their kids while backing up out of the driveway.

Solution: A government mandate for rear backup cameras. As usual, this will be a one-size-fits-all regulation, applying to small cars too — even though the problem is mainly limited to hulking SUVs and light trucks:

When pickups and multipurpose passenger vehicles strike a pedestrian in a backover crash, the incident is four times more likely to result in a fatality than if the striking vehicle were a passenger car.

But the real question will be whether this regulation will be another test case for the theory of risk compensation. Proponents of risk compensation argue that drivers accept a certain level of risk. Rather than use safety devices to minimize risk, they instead use them to drive more aggressively. For example, exploiting anti-lock brakes to go faster down a snowy highway. This behavior has been observed on almost every safety innovation, even safety belts and motorcycle helmets.

The theory of risk compensation predicts that backup cameras will at best have no affect, and at worse cause an increase in fatalities. Once the camera shows the “all clear”, will drivers still take the time to look back and properly assess their surroundings? Or will they just go flying out of the driveway?

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