Trump May Let Big Auto Hide Ped Safety Records

Photo:  Rebranding Driving
Photo: Rebranding Driving

The Trump Administration may be poised to quash new regulations that would have — for the first time — held automakers accountable for their performance in crashes with pedestrians.

An Obama-era reform called for a 1- to 5-star pedestrian safety rating for all new cars — a move that would have been quite timely, given that pedestrian deaths are hovering near three-decade highs and SUVs, studies show, are one of the main culprits.

But the Trump Administration’s National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has been dragging its feet — and trimmed the 71-page Obama Administration proposal down to just four pages. There’s hardly any information about how safety will be judged, or how the crash tests will work.

“They have effectively backpedaled,” said Shaun Kildare, research director at the consumer watchdog group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “They’re not necessarily moving ahead with anything.”

Is NHTSA caving under pressure from auto companies? Many auto companies were initially supportive of the Obama’s Administration’s proposal. But not all.

General Motors objected to the establishment of a separate category for pedestrian safety. Big Auto is, of course, heavily invested in SUVs.

“Generally speaking automakers do not like regulations,” said Advocates’ Director Cathy Chase. “They do not like to be told what to do.”

Some auto makers were supportive however. Toyota said it was pleased NHTSA was pursuing “global harmonization” of its safety tests. In other words, the company supported bringing the U.S. pedestrian safety standards in line with Europe’s.

European automakers are required to consider pedestrian safety features. Those companies have adapted by altering hood design so that it gives way when a pedestrian is hit. They have also redesigned bumpers to reduce injuries to the lower limbs, says Kildare.

Right now, American SUVs with their high, bunt from ends are “are basically like being hit with a brick wall,” said Kildare.

NHTSA’s own data shows that pedestrians struck by SUVs are 2.5 times more likely to be killed than those struck by cars. And for children, the fatality rate is worse. More than 12,000 pedestrians have been killed since NHTSA issued its intent to update the New Car Assessment Program in 2015.

A five-star rating on pedestrian survivability in crashes “would definitely cause the industry to take pause and figure out what are the impacts of putting these vehicles on the roads when people are starting to walk more and bike more and use scooters more,” Kildare said.

But now it is far from assured.

NHTSA also appears to be stopping short of requiring other basic safety features that research has shown has promise in protecting pedestrians. The combination of automatic emergency braking and forward collision warning systems, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates, could reduce “front-to-rear” car crashes by 50 percent [PDF].But car companies prefer to offer them only in luxury cars rather than as standard features, and so far, NHTSA hasn’t forced their hands.

NHTSA is accepting public comments about the New Car Assessment Program, which it says will be used to make a final decision, through Nov. 14.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Sounds like Detroit is going to let Japan (or should I say Tennessee and Kentucky) eat its lunch again.

    BTW, disaster worse than this was predicted years ago for the time when the most dangerous SUVs got old enough to be passed down to new teen drivers.

  • Kevin Withers

    Yawn. Chapter 75, in the authors’ personal war on SUVs…

  • TakeFive

    Unfortunately, Pres Obama set a bad precedent when he started creating lots of ‘rules’ via Executive Orders to please Dem donors on his way out. It opened up Pandora’s Box; now look at the crap being put out via Executive Order.

  • Edward

    And SUVs war on pedestrians.

  • Kevin Withers

    Yeah, those soccer-moms are really agitated.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Anyone who thinks executive orders and legislation by the Supreme Court are substitutes for a functioning Congress that people pay attention to and hold accountable are wrong.

    As in NYS, where people think voting for Governor and Mayor can solve problems that continue to get worse due to the state legislature.

  • thielges

    Isn’t this a situation where the insurance industry can exert pressure to produce safer vehicles? If they know that a car with a hood height of 4.5 feet results in double the insurance claims as one with a 2.5′ height, the insurance premiums should be higher to reflect the additional danger that large vehicles bring to the street. The five star rating system would be great but money seems like a greater motivator.

  • HamTech87

    Toyota is already making automatic braking standard in all their cars.

  • Joe R.

    SUVs and pickups should be illegal to drive or own in large cities, period. These are farm vehicles whose place is in rural areas. The closest a city dweller gets to going off-road in an SUV is when they park with their wheels on a sidewalk.

  • Kevin Withers

    “Period!”
    Try a bit harder to get out of your little bubble. Carpenters drive pickups in cities. Because they live there, and because they work there.

  • Joe R.

    There could be exceptions if you demonstrate you need the vehicle for business reasons, just as trucks are needed in cities. What we should put an end to is people using SUVs/pickups in lieu of a regular passenger car. Besides being more dangerous to pedestrians, it wastes loads of energy. For most SUV/pickup drivers, the only load they carry is their fat asses.

  • Sal Chiarelli

    What should people who regularly need the trunk space drive?

  • TakeFive

    You are welcome to promote a ‘police state’ if you wish. Best of luck with that.

  • Joe R.

    As I said, anyone who has a business which requires the cargo space an SUV or pickup has would continue to be a able to continue to drive such vehicles. Business reasons are the only exception we should allow. For anyone else, a large amount of cargo space is a want, not a need.

  • David Suto

    A station wagon? What did people do before the SUV was invented. Seriously I have seen a clawfoot tub placed inside a Suburu Forester with room to spare.

  • Joe R.

    Isn’t it almost the same as a police state when people who walk or bike have to constantly fear for their lives because some people insist on driving huge, dangerous vehicles? Or can’t safely cross streets because these monster vehicles block their lines of sight while they’re parked. While we’re at it, we should I have to breathe more polluted air because people can’t buy more sensible vehicles? Not to mention these huge vehicles make things much worse for those who do opt to buy smaller vehicles. SUVs started a stupid arms race on our roads for no good reason. They’re a stupid fad whose demise couldn’t come soon enough.

    People have all sorts of silly rationalizations for driving these behemoths. In the end though few of these reasons hold up.

    I’m also tired of “freedom” being shoved in my face as a reason to not regulate things. Sorry, but one person’s freedom ends when it interferes with my health or safety. Stupid, large, overpowered vehicles definitely do compromise my health and safety. Just as we banned smoking from most public places, despite the cries from smokers of “fascism”, we can have sensible regulations as to what is allowed to use public roads in major population centers. Besides an SUV/pickup ban, I would also eventually disallow anything with an internal combustion engine on urban roads.

  • Joe R.

    Not to mention the “need” for trunk space is often greatly exaggerated. Even compact cars have enough truck space to do weekly grocery shopping for a family. Most people only buy things requiring huge amounts of truck space very occasionally, like maybe when they do home improvement projects. In that case, delivery, or renting a larger vehicle, makes more sense. Other than people in certain types of businesses, very few people regularly need more trunk space than even a compact car offers.

  • Edward

    The number of fatalities among pedestrians struck has increased at a much faster rate than the number struck. The cause is the fact that pickups and SUVs have become the dominant form of auto. They tend to have a higher power to weight ration than sedans and are then, intentionally or not, driven faster. And they have a more vertical front, which causes the victims to be struck in the body rather than the legs and to be launched forward of the vehicle and then run over, rather than being tossed on the hood. A 10% increase in collisions has been accompanied by a 60% increase in fatalities.

    Now do you understand?

  • Kevin Withers

    The front height of pickups hasn’t changed in 50 years.

    Speed isn’t related to front height.
    Mass isn’t related to frontal height.
    Mass + Velocity = Force.

    Do you understand?

    “They tend to have a higher power to weight ration than sedans and are then, intentionally or not, driven faster”

    Unsupported speculation.

  • Kevin Withers

    Great point, and will definitely address this issue.

  • Stuart

    Thinking that car manufacturers should (as they have in other countries) reconsider designs that make them substantially more likely to kill people constitutes a “war on SUVs”?

    If you find a view mainstream enough that it’s standard practice in many countries and has been considered by the NHSTA so offensive that you call it a “personal war”, you’re probably reading the wrong site.

  • Stuart

    “War” was your choice of terms. How many SUVs has Angie Schmitt killed, and how many pedestrians have drivers of SUVs killed?

  • Stuart

    Did you not read the article before whining about it?

    But car companies prefer to offer them only in luxury cars rather than as standard features, and so far, NHTSA hasn’t forced their hands.

    A technology that US auto makers don’t want to put in most of their cars and aren’t being required to put in most of their cars isn’t going to meaningfully address anything.

  • EnriqueEdwardFacundo

    Fact is if you want to buy quality products, DO NOT buy American. Americans don’t really have the ability to built quality, with a few exceptions.

  • Frank Kotter

    Boy, carpenters in Europe are going to flip when they find out they’ve been doing it wrong this whole time.

    But yes, tell us more about ‘bubbles’

  • Kevin Withers

    Please, move and do research! I’m in the trade and have some input. In Europe, they drive Sprinter vans. Maybe they also chew gum and blow bubbles…

  • Kevin Withers

    It represents a path. BTW, most SUVs are not American produced. The BMW, Volvo, Toyota, Hyundai, Nissan, etc, etc reflect global design, and thus are impacted by Euro NCAP safety standards regardless of what occurs under USA regulations.

  • Frank Kotter

    You: CARPENTERS NEED THEIR PICKUPS! YOU KNOW NOTHING!
    Me: Um…. carpenters in Europe do fine without pickups.
    You: YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT! THEY DRIVE VANS!!!

    Not sure where this went off the rails but anyway, yes, please tell us all about the absolute necessity for pickups while saying there are other options all in the same breath.

  • Kevin Withers

    Try going back to what the post was about, for relevance, context etc.

    “SUVs and pickups should be illegal to drive or own in large cities, period.”

    And perhaps work on unsticking your all caps key. Makes your post look like a rant.

    The idea someone deciding trucks, SUV, vans etc should be illegal… that’s quite the stretch.

  • Frank Kotter

    No one said anything about vans – that was my addition to let you know there are other, more appropriate options. And I use caps to paraphrase rants.

    Point is: Trucks and SUVs are dangerous in urban environments for people around those vehicles (you know, what the post was about). They should be – if not banned – then much more heavily regulated and taxed. (again, as stated in the post)

  • Kevin Withers

    Vans. “Appropriate options”.

    As far as frontal profile, weight and size, they are in the same category as SUV and pickups.

    Go ahead, split hairs. We all know what’s up.

  • Frank Kotter

    Splitting hairs https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/89b58d2a309da4a231990f467ddda203ebbf1574001ec601eff045d4e42feb90.gif https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fcb1cd9a6a74d7ad8f556ffcb907ba31c9caa7162c472298864653e692d080b3.gif

    I’m not sure “what’s up”. I’m just trying to figure out why so many Americans have to die due to drivers while this risk is so much lower in Europe and elsewhere. I think the two photos below are a good start to the explanation. You think they are irrelevant. Ok.

  • Kevin Withers

    You forgot to post that image where you are grasping at straws…

  • Stephen Simac

    what’s up with those bumpers? =kid killers.

  • Stephen Simac

    top speed, 0-60, chassis frame height, hood height, wheel width, total weight, driver distraction options, all could be factored in to adjust for greater injuries and fatalities, the problem is that motorists and manufacturers are rarely forced to pay for their dangerous choices. Drivers usually get a legal get out of jail card if they kill a pedestrian or cyclist, (police tend to blame the victims), manufacturers have never been successfully sued for damages from drivers using their products as designed ie exceeding speed limits, crushing smaller cars.

  • Stephen Simac

    Construction workers buy much larger (and noisier) trucks than they need to impress other construction workers. Ask them, they’ll admit they make fun of workers who drive mini’s. Then they park on sidewalks and tree roots around their work site, because their vehicles are too big to fit in available parking. When modular construction becomes standard, they won’t really have an excuse or a need for these oversized trucks and vans, but they will still demand their ‘freedom’ to hog space.

  • Kevin Withers

    You’re clueless. I’ve been a carpenter for 35+ years and have never even remotely encountered what you describe. But hey, you continue slaying your imaginary dragons and I’ll keep building housing.

  • User_1

    The down arrow doesn’t work? Why is it there?

  • Joe R.

    Vans:

    Sloped front = better aerodynamics, higher efficiency, greater safety for pedestrians

    No huge hood in front blocking the view = better safety for pedestrians

    Enclosed cargo space = better aerodynamics plus no chance of cargo falling out and injuring/killing people

    SUVs/Pickups:

    None of the above. They’re eyesores besides.

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