At Least 13 U.S. Auto Safety Rules Are Years Overdue
As traffic fatalities spike in the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal agency in charge of auto safety is struggling with a growing backlog of safety rules ordered by Congress that are years overdue and could save thousands of lives, Hope Yen and Tom Krisher reported for the Associated Press (AP).
Photo Insert: Interstate traffic, South Carolina
A governors’ highway safety group says the US faces a “car crash epidemic” at the same time that safety rules languish. An AP review of rule-making by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration under the last three presidents found at least 13 auto safety rules past due, including a rear seat belt reminder requirement passed by Congress in 2012 that was to be implemented by 2015.
The rear seat belt rule, which it is estimated could save hundreds of lives each year, is now scheduled to start moving through the cumbersome regulatory process in January.
The agency has repeatedly missed past deadlines, even those promised in federal court. The ever-growing rules backlog is one of the biggest tests for the federal agency since its founding in 1970 when public pressure led by safety activist Ralph Nader spurred NHTSA’s mission to “save lives, prevent injuries and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes.”
Advocates worry that its mission risks getting bogged down under President Joe Biden, at a time of increasing road accidents during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In many cases, the delayed rules are opposed by powerful industries as expensive, outdated, or restrictive. Other pending rules have been slowed by bureaucracy or taken a back seat to other priorities.
President Donald Trump sidetracked at least four major road safety proposals in development, such as medical evaluations of commercial truck drivers for sleep apnea. Among the rules awaiting NHTSA’s action is one on side-impact standards for child car seats, originally due in 2014.
In July, a group of attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia wrote the Biden administration urging immediate action and calling the delays troubling and unacceptable.