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  Legislative Feature

Public and Private Focus on Vehicle Crash Deterrence Heightens

Posted 7/17/2006
By Robert L. Redding, Jr.

From a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report on Driver Cell Phone Use to an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report on electronic stability control (ECS), the public and private emphasis on the prevention of vehicle crashes is increasing.

This past spring, Norman Mineta, U.S. Transportation Secretary, highlighted the number of traffic fatalities on American highways. In a preliminary report, Mineta noted that there was an increase in traffic fatalities from 42,636 in 2004 to 43,200 in 2005. Although fatal crashes were up 1.9 percent, nonfatal crashes dropped 4 percent from 6,143,000 in 2004 to 5,897,000 in 2005.

Total property damage only decreased 4.3 percent from 4,281,000 in 2004 to 4,095,000 in 2005 respectively. Miles traveled and the number of vehicles in the United States continues to increase in line with population growth. Americans traveled 2,962,513,000 miles in 2004 and 2,964,381,000 in 2005. Registered vehicles grew from 237,961,465 in 2004 to 242,721,000 in 2005.

Mineta noted that highway crashes cost society $230.6 billion annually or approximately $820 per person. NHTSA also pointed out that motor vehicle crashes were the leading cause of death for ages 4 to 34 in 2003.

NHTSA has stepped up its crash analyses data as well as research interest in crash avoidance. At the end of 2005, NHTSA released a research paper regarding Driver Cell Phone Use. Specifically the report noted that at any given daylight moment, there were 974,000 vehicles on the road being driven by someone with a hand-held phone. Headset usage increased from 0.4 percent of drivers in 2004 to 0.7 percent in 2005.

Driver cell phone use is largely unrestricted by state laws. No states ban the use of cell phones while driving outright. Three states and the District of Columbia have banned the use of cell phones while driving without a hands-free device.

The increased data about driving and accidents has given impetus to new technologies and laws designed to diminish the number of accidents. This spring, in a research exchange with automakers, NHTSA heard from general automaker researchers regarding advanced crash avoidance.

The presentations noted the emerging technologies for crash avoidance:

  • Electronic stability control (ESC)
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Night vision systems
  • Curve speed warning
  • Lane departure warning
  • Alcohol monitoring
  • Brake assist systems
  • Pre-crash sensing

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a Status Report on ESC in June. IIHS commented in the report, "This technology could prevent nearly one-third of all fatal crashes and reduce the risk of rolling over by as much as 80 percent. The benefits are found in crashes involving one vehicle and more than one. An extension of antilock brake technology, electronic stability control is designed to help drivers retain control of their vehicles during high-speed maneuvers or on slippery roads."

The report noted that 40 percent of 2006 passenger vehicles have ESC. As an option, the costs range from $300 to $800 but can run more than $2,000 when packaged with other equipment. ESC adds sensors that monitor continuously how well a vehicle responds to steering wheel input.

The IIHS's affiliate Highway Loss Data Institute reported that losses under collision coverage are about 15 percent lower for vehicles with ESC than for models without it.

Through its volunteer division operations committees and the Automotive Service Association (ASA) staff, ASA will continue to monitor evolving technologies and federal agency regulations that address crash avoidance.

To learn more about state and federal issues impacting your independent repair business, please go to ASA's legislative Web site, www.TakingTheHill.com.

Bob Redding Bob Redding is the Automotive Service Association's Washington, D.C., representative. He is a member of several federal and state advisory committees involved in the automotive industry.

For more information about the legislative activities of ASA, visit www.TakingTheHill.com.

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