Ask The Best And Brightest: How Safe Is Safe Enough?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Yesterday’s Senate Committee On Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on the proposed Motor Vehicle Safety Act [full text of proposed Senate version S.3302 in PDF format here] was a surprisingly low-key affair. Discussion didn’t seem to move much beyond the battle lines drawn at House hearings two weeks ago. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland continued to argue passionately in favor of so-called “imminent hazard” powers, which are included in Henry Waxman’s House version of the bill, but not the Jay Rockefeller-sponsored Senate version. Meanwhile, debates over nearly every proposal in the legislation rage on, as the industry seeks to mitigate what it considers the bill’s most onerous and intrusive measures. But Strickland framed NHTSA’s mission in zero-tolerance terms: if one American dies on the road, he argued, NHTSA should be doing more to prevent it. This philosophy is underlined by the presence of hard-core safety advocates Joan Claybrook and Clarence Ditlow at nearly every DC hearing on auto safety since the Toyota recall. The flip side to this position is the argument that cars have literally never been safer, and that deaths per vehicle mile traveled are at all time lows. This yawning divide in perspectives towards automotive safety is begging for discussion, so let’s have it. Are cars safe enough? Which new regulations make sense, and which are more onerous than they’re worth? Where should the government define an acceptable number of roadway deaths? And are cars the problem, or are people?

Because this is a political topic, please make the extra effort to make your comment constructive. Complete prepared testimony from yesterday’s hearing can be found here.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Stephen Donaldson Stephen Donaldson on May 21, 2010

    NHTSA mission needs to change. The "not one death" is absurd. I don't want anyone to die on the roads any more than the next person, but we need to have some perspective here. There needs to be a cost/benefit for many of the rules they proposed. Further, I am getting really tired of the instrusiveness of the goverment in my cars. We can't keep trying to engineer stupitdy out of the car for every. Furter, they really need to get out of law enforcement in my opinion especially after the fiasco that has become the photo enforcement scam! Trying to tell people with a straight face that RLC or speed cameras are about "safety" when the Vast majority of "violations" are techincal fouls, not safety ones. In RLC case they are: non dangerous right turns on red, stopping over the stop line, and split second mistakes that have a lot more to do with AMBER times being too short! Something you think a "safety" organization would start pushing! No, we are catching cities trying to keep those ambers as close to 3 second as possible since that is where the MONEY is!

  • Willman Willman on May 21, 2010

    As the Brits are finding out with their government that's out to kill Rodney King, via their newly-proposed "Film a cop, 10 years in jail" law and their War on Photography, You will always have to balance individual liberties on one side of the seesaw and "safety" or other type regulations/lawmaking on the other. I say cars are safe enough already, and let Darwin sort out the rest. The cost of a few deaths that come out via natural probability, genetic crapshoot, alcoholism, low IQ, or just pure testosterone is fair payment for the liberties we all enjoy. . If anything, all interventionism or human-supplanting should be Voluntary, Optional and Switchable. (ex: Yes, you can Choose whether or not to put your robo-enabled-car on the automated high-speed tracks, and get back/forth to work at 200mph; but autopilot is not mandatory elsewhere and all the time.) . . I just hope that the Commies, Greenies, Gores and Latter-Day-Hippies (+ O'Reillys, and Murdochs ,too btw) of the world are all taken with a big grain of salt and we don't end up in a "Demolition Man" world.

  • Newfdawg Newfdawg on May 21, 2010

    I think cars are safe enough, thank you. What NHTSA needs to focus on are better roads and licensing procedures. There needs to be a cost-benefit analysis before any more regulations are imposed...they need to get out of the photo enforcement scam which has very little to do with safety and virtually everything with raising additional revenue.

  • Dcdriver Dcdriver on May 21, 2010

    One of the reasons for distracted driving (cell phones, eating etc.) is b/c people are so busy nowadays and don't have time to do everything they need to do each day. And a lot of this is because they're spending too much time in traffic. Can't get to the office on time b/c of traffic? What is the solution-- you start working in your car-- on your cell phone. Calling people, checking emails. If not for traffic maybe these calls/emails would be made in your office instead of in your car. Have to leave extra early b/c of traffic- therefore no time to eat breakfast or drink coffee at home so you take it with you and eat/drink it while driving.