Tens of thousands of Americans die in motor vehicle accidents every year, yet the U.S. government is falling down on the job of determining what engineering advances such as vehicle designs are most likely to save our lives (let alone mandating such things). An American's odds of dying in a motor vehicle accident is substantially greater than 1 in a 100 (1 of 84, according to the National Safety Council, based on 2003 data), yet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration consumer-information testing program is "woefully inadequate, out-of-date and underfinanced," Joan Claybrok writes in today's New York Times. Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, was head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the Carter administration.
"[I]t still does not test to evaluate survivability in rollovers; it doesn't measure the effects of size differential when a passenger car collides with, say, a light truck; it doesn't test vehicle structure in frontal, off-center crashes; it doesn’t test fuel tank vulnerability in rear-end collisions; finally, it fails to test how badly pedestrians are injured when hit by vehicles. Most of these consumer information tests are performed, or are being developed, in Europe, Australia and Japan.
"What's more, the tests that are done are simply too weak. Cars are not tested at high enough speeds; sport utility vehicles are tested against insubstantial barriers. Take all this together, and consumers are ill served."
Remind me again why we pay federal taxes?