Witness Panel 1
Mr. Ron MedfordSenior Associate for Vehicle SafetyNational Highway Traffic Safety AdministrationStatement of Mr. Ronald MedfordSenior Associate Administrator for Vehicle SafetyNational Highway Traffic Safety Administrationbefore theSubcommittee on Consumer Affairs, Insurance and Automotive SafetyCommittee on Commerce, Science, and TransportationUnited States SenateregardingVehicle Safety and ChildrenFebruary 28, 2007Mr. Chairman, my name is Ron Medford, and I am the Senior Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). I appreciate the opportunity to appear before this subcommittee to discuss the important issue of improving vehicle safety for children. I regret that NHTSA Administrator Nicole R. Nason could not appear before you because of a prior commitment to testify at a House subcommittee hearing.The mission of NHTSA is to reduce fatalities and injuries on our Nation’s roads. In 2005, the last year for which complete data are available, there were 43,443 highway-related fatalities and 2.7 million injuries. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for the age group of 4 to 34.While every highway-related death is a tragedy, the loss of a child is particularly devastating.Administrator Nason, the mother of two young daughters herself, has made protecting children one of her top priorities. Earlier this month, Administrator Nason hosted a public meeting with industry leaders and consumer advocates to discuss ways to increase the use of Lower Anchorages and Tethers for Children, or the LATCH system. LATCH is a system of anchorages built into newer vehicles that is specifically designed to make it easier to properly install child seats. This meeting came about as a result of a new survey conducted by NHTSA which found that 40 percent of parents with LATCH-equipped vehicles still rely on seat belts to secure their child seat. The survey also found that many parents are unaware of either the existence or the importance of the LATCH system.As a result of this meeting, NHTSA is working with vehicle and car seat manufacturers, child seat installation instructors, and consumer advocates to develop a national education campaign to better inform parents on proper child seat installation. Installing a child safety seat should not be a daunting task for parents, and NHTSA is committed to making LATCH better known and easier to use.Additionally, NHTSA is currently working to revise its ease-of-use ratings for child seats. We believe this new rating system will serve as a strong incentive for child seat manufacturers to make proper installation of car seats easier for parents.Another area of concern that NHTSA is active in addressing is backover crashes. Last November, NHTSA released a comprehensive study on this problem. This study estimated that backover crashes cause at least 183 fatalities and up to 7,419 injuries annually. Thankfully the majority of these injuries are relatively minor, meaning that the victims are treated in the emergency room and released.As part of this study, NHTSA tested several systems currently available to evaluate their performance and potential effectiveness in mitigating backover crashes. Our tests found that the performance of ultrasonic and radar parking aids in detecting children behind the vehicle was typically poor.Our study also looked at camera-based systems and found that they provide drivers with the ability to see pedestrians in the majority of rear blind spot zones. However, we found that rain, fog or glare from the sun can significantly reduce the camera’s ability to show drivers a clear view of an object in back of the vehicle. The cameras are also not effective at night. Finally, our research showed that even if the camera can clearly discern the object, preventing the crash is still dependent on the driver observing the video display and reacting quickly enough.Although our study showed that cameras have limitations in preventing backover crashes, NHTSA believes this technology holds promise. Accordingly, we are continuing our research in this area.Regarding the entrapment hazard posed by power windows, the Subcommittee may recall that in April 2004, NHTSA finalized a rule mandating that all vehicles sold in MY 2008 have recessed window switches to prevent their inadvertent activation. Last year, NHTSA added to this rule pursuant to a mandate in SAFETEA-LU requiring that power window switches not only be recessed, but have to be pulled “up or out” to work. We were pleased to be able to meet this mandate nearly a year ahead of the deadline set by Congress. Although a child fatality due to a power window is an extremely rare occurrence (approximately one to two children a year on average) we believe that once in effect, these rules will significantly reduce the likelihood of these incidents.Mr. Chairman, it is the worst fear of every parent to lose a child. The good news is child safety has come a long way. A generation ago it was not uncommon for children of all ages to be sitting anywhere in the car, completely unrestrained. Through our educational efforts, and the passage of Anton’s Law and other similar legislation, now 98 percent of children under one year old are buckled up.More important, these changes in law presaged a change in society towards child safety in vehicles. Apart from being illegal in all 50 states, most parents now would never consider not buckling up their child. This focus on child safety by parents is paying dividends, as NHTSA data shows that children nine years of age and younger have the least amount of fatalities among any age group.NHTSA is committed to making additional safety improvements to further protect children. Of all the lifesaving work NHTSA does, I consider this our most important duty.Thank you for your consideration, and for this Subcommittee’s ongoing effort to improve highway safety. I would be pleased to answer any questions.
Witness Panel 2
Dr. Greg GulbransenPediatricianTestimony ofDr. Greg GulbransenonVehicle Safety for Childrenbefore theConsumer Affairs, Insurance, and Automotive Safety SubcommitteeSenate Committee on Commerce, Science, and TransportationFebruary 28, 2007Mr. Chairman, Good morning. I am Dr. Greg Gulbransen and would like to start by saying thank you for taking on this challenge. I wish to thank you and the members of the Consumer Affairs, Insurance, and Automotive Safety Subcommittee for inviting me to appear before you today to testify on the important issue of child safety as it relates to the vehicles we drive. I am here today speaking to you as dad, a Pediatrician, a board member of KIDS AND CARS, and a concerned citizen in an attempt to make vehicles safer for the American family. My wife Leslie and I, along with hundreds of other families are determined to prevent our tragedy from happening again and again to so many other families.On October 19th, 2002 a preventable but unthinkable tragedy struck our family. It was 9:30 pm and I stepped outside to move my SUV into the driveway. Inside my home were the babysitter, Leslie, and my two young sons; or so I thought. It was a habit of mine to back the SUV into the driveway in the evening because in the morning the streets were congested with children playing and people walking their dogs. Cameron was not in the driveway when I got into my SUV. While driving in reverse I remember looking over my shoulder and using the rear view and both side mirrors and backing slowly into my parking space. I thought I was driving a safe vehicle and was doing the right thing until I suddenly felt the front wheel go over a bump. I had no idea what I had run over. I knew I couldn’t have hit the curb. Out of concern I jumped out and there in the headlights was my 2-year-old son, Cameron, in his baby blue pajamas holding his blanket face up bleeding profusely from a massive head injury. I knew immediately it was too late but I did everything I could to save my dying son.I can’t begin to describe the sickening shock and devastation. How could this have happened? I looked where I was driving but yet I never saw him! I never had a chance of seeing Cameron because he was too small. Too small for the large blind zones that are built into the design of our vehicles.While SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks have become more popular they pose a greater danger for our children. These vehicles have huge blind zones that have led to tragedies for many families because drivers simply cannot see who or what is behind us when we drive. These tragedies will continue if something isn’t done. I learned later that there are technologies, like cameras and sensor systems that would have warned me that my son was behind my vehicle. As a pediatrician who advocates for children’s safety and as a father who has lost a child, I can’t stress enough how important it is to get these life saving technologies into all vehicles.
While the government is responsible for collecting accident data and recognizing safety issues affecting our daily lives, at the present time the government hasn’t even set up a database to collect information about non-traffic injuries. Without data collection how can we expect the government and the automobile industry to appreciate the need to make the necessary safety improvements in our vehicles? I find it curious that it has taken the efforts of a nonprofit agency, KIDS AND CARS, to bring this issue to public attention. If not for their efforts to inform the public about these dangers, I’m certain we would not be here today trying to work together to solve this grave public health and safety issue. Yes, the ultimate responsibility for operating a vehicle lies with the driver. I feel the pain of that every day. However, the automobile industry is responsible for designing safe vehicles, and the government has both the duty and the obligation to protect children in and around motor vehicles by setting reasonable standards for safety. The truth is that when drivers are backing their vehicles they are forced to put blinders on that prevent them from seeing large areas behind their vehicle. Parents and other drivers should not be required to bear the burden for this problem alone, especially when motor vehicles come equipped with large blind zones as standard equipment. Blind zones that cannot be eliminated by mirrors and cannot be made safe by educational messages alone. Only technology that provides drivers with visibility behind their vehicle can shine a light into the blind zone and ensure that our children are protected.I am not talking about futuristic, pie-in-the-sky developments that are years away, I am talking about existing technology that is already offered either as standard or optional equipment on many current production vehicle models. Until government acts to provide that technology in every vehicle, drivers will have little chance of preventing backover crashes, and our children will remain at risk even near their own homes.That’s why the Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007 is so important. While Cameron’s name is on the bill, let’s remember this isn’t just about Cameron. This bill is about every single child that has been backed over, inadvertently left in a vehicle or accidentally trapped in a power window. This legislation honors all of them and shows how much we are trying to make vehicles safer for the American family.Thank you for your time and giving me the honor to crusade here today for the safety of children. I thank you for your past support for this legislation and your efforts to get it enacted last year before Congress adjourned. I hope that passage of the legislation will be a priority of the subcommittee and I want to help in any way I can. This is my fifth trip to Capitol Hill to urge passage and I will come as often as you like to see this important bill enacted.I am happy to answer any question you have. I also have included attachments to my testimony that illustrate the enormous blind zones behind some vehicles, a fact sheet on the major provisions in the legislation and information about the growing number of child deaths and injuries.Please remember the motto from KIDS AND CARS when you get behind the wheel of your vehicle today,“Be sure you can see before you turn the key.”
Mr. W. Packy CampbellFormer RepresentativeState of New HampshireTestimony ofPacky Campbell,onVehicle Safety for Childrenbefore theConsumer Affairs, Insurance, and Automotive Safety Subcommittee,Senate Committee on Commerce,Science, and TransportationFebruary 28, 2007Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Consumer Affairs, Insurance, and Automotive Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, for the opportunity to provide this testimony on the need for improved efforts to protect children from vehicle-related injury.My name is Packy Campbell. I live in the small town of Farmington, New Hampshire with my lovely wife Brenda, and our children Ryan, Sarah, Adam and our infant child Sean. Also in that town is the grave of my son Ian Joseph, who tragically died at our house on April 14, 2004 just shy of his second birthday.I am a politician by choice, an advocate by circumstance. I served two terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. It was during my first term in the house that my son Ian was killed in a non-traffic non-crash incident in our driveway. Ian was killed when his then four your old brother was able to knock my company’s F-350 pick up truck out of park without either turning the vehicle on or touching the brakes, a feat believed to be impossible due to the fact that the vehicle was equipped with brake transmission shift interlock (BTSI). When purchasing that vehicle I intentionally sought to buy one with safety features that would keep myself, family and others safe.However, although equipped with some safety features, my four year old son Adam was able to put the truck key in the ignition and, without starting the vehicle or touching the brakes, shift the truck out of park and into either neutral or reverse. That nearly 8,000 pound truck then rolled in our driveway and crushed Adam’s best buddy, our toddler son Ian, who died in my arms on the front porch of our home.I have become aware of that our family’s tragic accident is not all that unusual. On April 12, 2005 Milan Richard Hedmark died in a startlingly similar situation. It was this revelation that motivated me on my current course of action to seek legislation, as ITestimony of Packy CampbellPage 2realize my responsibility now is to protect children and families from experiencing this type of tragedy.Our accident involved a vehicle equipped with brake shift interlock. What is brake shift interlock? It is a mechanical or electrical design in a vehicle steering column that prevents a car from coming out of park unless the brake petal is depressed. Virtually every car made has these features. However some cars are designed so that the safety feature only works in four out of five key positions.This is the equivalent of handing someone a gun with only one bullet in it, telling them it is not loaded and then when someone gets shot say “Well, it was only loaded in one chamber so it is true that it was not loaded.”Since the accident occurred I have worked with NHTSA, with the automobile industry, and with advocacy groups like Kids and Cars, to make known the risks to children posed by cars that do not contain simple, cost effective safety measures proposed in the act, and to mandate such features in all vehicles sold in the US by 2010. In my discussions with NHTSA even some of their representatives were shocked to learn of what Mr. Keith Brewer at NHTSA called a “sweet spot” where a BTSI equipped car can be put into neutral without touching the brake.Through the combined efforts of those groups, and others, a voluntary agreement (NHTSA-2006-25669-2; “Reducing the Risk of Inadvertent Automatic Transmission Shift Selector Movement and Unintended Vehicle Movement; a Commitment For Continued Action by Leading Automakers”) was reached to promote public consciousness of the fact that brake transmission shift interlock (BTSI) is not foolproof right now, by disclosing which vehicles do or do not have BTSI safety features to prevent inadvertent rollaway accidents, and to work to make sure that all vehicles sold in the US by 2010 are fully protected against rollaway incidents such as the one that took the life of my son Ian, and hundreds of other children.When first presented with the agreement, I was hesitant to support it, as I thought that the Cameron Gulbransen 2005 bill should have been passed to mandate both disclosure and changes to vehicle design standards. I was convinced to support the voluntary agreement, however, by the promises of design changes by 2010 and immediate disclosure by the industry and NHTSA of vehicles that complied, and with a personal commitment to me by key members of NHTSA to produce a list of vehicles that DID NOT comply. At the time, I thought that doing something now to save some lives in 2010 was worth supporting the voluntary agreement. I wanted a list of non-compliant auto’s so that it could be provided as part of the law enacted by the New Hampshire Legislature and signed by Governor Lynch to mandate the disclosure of all vehicles that did not have complete brake shift interlock features.Testimony of Packy CampbellPage 3With all due respect, in regards to the agreement I quote Ronald Reagan who said “trust, but verify.” If there is a commitment on the part of industry what is wrong with holding industry accountable for that commitment.On a more personal level, my nine year old son said to me regarding this proposed law that “people are more likely to break their promises than they are to break the rules.”Frankly, and unfortunately, events have proven that to be true. When the list of compliant vehicles was released by NHTSA and industry in September, I contacted NHTSA for two reasons. The first was that the F-250 was on the list but did NOT comply with BTSI. Some six weeks later, Ford amended their list to delete the F-250. (See attached letter). This was presumably only done as a result of my contacting NHTSA about the problem with Ford’s list. The second was that I wanted to see what I was promised, namely what I call the “non-compliant list.” The response I received was that there is no such list, and that I would need to figure it out on my own. I therefore joined Janette Fennell of Kids and Cars in writing to NHTSA on October 2, 2006 requesting that NHTSA publish such a list, just as it publishes the list of compliant cars.On February 16th, just 9 short days ago, NHTSA finally produced the list. Is it any coincidence that the list was produced just days before this committee hearing???? I regrettably think not.Upon being advised of the newly created list this past weekend, it only took me a minute to confirm that the voluntary agreement is still insufficient. Specifically, the same F-250, and the F-350 that killed my son, are not on either list. Every vehicle manufactured and/or sold in the US are supposed to be on the list, and I found two that are not in just about a minute, approximately the time it took my four year old son to run into daddy’s truck only slightly ahead of my wife and I and get the vehicle to roll over his baby brother. I will not be surprised to find that other vehicles are, for whatever reasons, omitted from the list; for example, I am told that the Chevy SSR and Saab 9.2 are on neither list.Regardless of why these errors, and perhaps others, were made, the point is that this voluntary system is just not an adequate way for this nation to take reasonable steps to protect our children. When industry and the market place are unable to come to grips with a problem, it is sometimes necessary for the government to step in and mandate such reasonable steps to promote the public safety, and especially the safety of our children, even if industry and its sometimes too cozy regulators disagree.These examples show that without an act of Congress industry and NHTSA will be unlikely to provide the type of information promised.Testimony of Packy CampbellPage 4Additionally, that agreement only deals with one of the issues addressed in the Gulbransen bill, namely the brake transmission shift interlock. It does not deal with auto reverse power windows, nor with rear visibility standards, both of which have caused death an injury, both of which are easily avoidable and equally deserving of action by Congress.As a parent who is a member of a group of parents who are forced to deal with the loss of their child, the principal is simple: safety features are not luxury items, nor should the be optional equipment. Further, the absence of safety features is not something that should be hidden from consumers. It is not the fault of parents that accidents, otherwise preventable, happen. Great parents suffer great tragedies. The only way to ensure that fatalities will not happen is to design them out. This proposed Act will design out, with reasonable affects to the cost structure on the industry, defect’s that costs the lives of children.PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT MY SON IAN WOULD BE ALIVE IF HE AND HIS BROTHER HAD JUMPED INTO THE OTHER VEHICLE IN MY DIRVEWAY AT THE TIME OF THE ACCIDENT. That vehicle, a 2002 GMC Envoy, was equipped with BTSI in all key positions, making the rollaway accident impossible for a four year old to cause. The fact that I purchased both of those cars with the expectation that they would behave in the same way shows why we need to congress to act on this bill.Finally, the agreement does nothing to require industry or NHTSA to compile statistical data of non-traffic, non-crash situations involving bodily injury or death. It will take an act of congress to change the reporting requirements of law enforcement across the company. NHTSA did a 2004 study of death certificates my sons death certificate was not reported in a way the it was calculated in that study. It will take an act of congress to make relevant statistics a possibility.When my little son Ian died in the little town of Farmington in the little state of New Hampshire in April, 2004, his death was not tracked, recorded or counted by any governmental agency in this country. His death, and hundreds of other deaths in such non-traffic non-crash situations, should not go un-noticed. They should be heard by this Congress, and NHTSA, and industry, as a call, or more appropriately a cry, to take reasonable steps to avoid such needless deaths and injuries in the future.NHTSA may suggest to this Congress that it is working on these issues through rulemaking. In fact, prior to offering the voluntary agreement NHTSA offered to put the issue in rule making, and asked me to petition for such a rule. I declined that request.Testimony of Packy CampbellPage 5Although NHTSA has the authority to make rules with the force of law when circumstances warrant, rulemaking requires NHTSA to perform a cost benefit analysis on any proposal to require a safety feature. However, without any accurate data on non traffic non crash related deaths, such an analysis is impossible.More importantly, it is a morally reprehensible analysis to do in the first place. One child’s death is enough when it can be so reasonably avoided by the common sense, reasonable and affordable safety measures proposed by this Act. Congressional action circumvents this morbid “cost benefit” analysis. Congressional action is needed now.It is only by enacting this law that the federal government will begin to collect data on such incidents, and will force the industry to implement reasonable measures to avoid the deaths of hundreds of children in the future. It is my hope, and my prayer, that my little Ian’s death does not go unnoticed by this Congress, but that instead you hear his cry, and the cry of his family and hundreds of family’s across this great Nation, and enact the Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007.I thank you for the opportunity to speak and submit testimony to you on behalf of my son Ian, his brothers and sister, my wife Brenda, and on behalf of the hundreds of other families who look to this Committee and this Congress to learn from our tragedy and do the best you can to prevent such needless deaths in the future.Peace,W. Packy Campbell
Ms. Joan B. ClaybrookPresidentPublic CitizenTestimony ofJoan Claybrook,President, Public Citizen,and Former Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,onVehicle Safety for Childrenbefore theConsumer Affairs, Insurance, and Automotive Safety Subcommittee,Senate Committee on Commerce,Science, and TransportationFebruary 28, 2007Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Consumer Affairs, Insurance, and Automotive Safety Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, for the opportunity to provide this testimony on the need for improved efforts to protect children from vehicle-related injury. I am Joan Claybrook, the president of Public Citizen, a national non-profit public interest organization with over 150,000 members nationwide. We represent the interests of consumers and ordinary citizens through lobbying, litigation, regulatory oversight, research, and public education.Child safety issues first gained the spotlight in the 1990s, with the discovery th
at auto manufacturers were installing cut-rate airbags that were killing children. I had alerted manufacturers in 1980 of research pointing to the need to consider designs and technologies such as top-mounted, vertically deploying airbags, dual inflation, technical folds, and tethers in order to reduce risks to children and small-statured adults, but most automakers failed to follow through on this information. Although automakers had known for a dozen years that the child/airbag relationship was delicate, they neither warned the public against placing children in the front seats nor designed airbags to protect children. Instead, they exploited the discretion granted them by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) broad performance standard and abused it. It took congressional action to force NHTSA to require the automakers to accommodate children in airbag design. This story, unfortunately, is paradigmatic of the child safety issue.Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 3 to 14 in the United States. NHTSA reports that in 2005, 1,946 children were killed and 234,000 children were injured in motor vehicle crashes. That means that each day an average of 5 children are dying in motor vehicle crashes while another 640 are injured. Moreover, children are also at serious risk in and around motor vehicles in non-traffic related incidents, and these data are completely missing from state and federal safety databases. In the absence of government data collection, KIDS AND CARS, a national nonprofit safety organization, maintains a database of child fatalities from motor vehicle events other than crashes on the nation’s roadways. These non-traffic motor vehicle related events—which include children being backed over by vehicles, being inadvertently left in hot vehicles, being strangled by power windows, and setting cars in motion when left unattended in a vehicle—killed at least 226 children in 2005 alone. (We suspect these numbers could be even higher, because NHTSA does not currently collect non-traffic death and injury data; KIDS AND CARS is the only source for these data.)What is even more tragic about these bleak statistics is that many of these deaths and serious injuries could have been prevented. When I refer to preventability, let me be clear that I am not blaming parents; instead, I am referring to the failures of industry to design motor vehicles for children and of our federal government to use the resources at its disposal to gather data and set standards to protect children from needless harm. I am sure that we will undoubtedly hear today about the need to educate parents, or that many of the deaths and injuries we will discuss today are attributable to parental neglect. I caution you to reject these arguments, for they are simply the child safety equivalent of the “nut behind the wheel” argument that industry raised for years in order to avoid accepting responsibility for its design failures. We know that children must be driven to school, the doctor, and so on; we know as well that parents do not have fifteen arms or eyes in the backs of their heads, and that children can get into enormous danger in a split second. Vehicles must be designed with some recognition of these simple facts of life, and NHTSA must ensure that they are. As NHTSA and manufacturers continue their pattern of neglect, then we must turn to Congress to make sure children are protected.I. Child Safety is undermined by unnecessary information gaps.A core issue for child safety is how little information is available to guide policy makers and help the public hold NHTSA and the motor vehicle industry accountable. One problem is that information which NHTSA has at its disposal is not readily accessible to the public. For example, a researcher interested in learning the number of children killed in rear-impact crashes or side-impact crashes in a given year cannot find this information through the public interface for NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). NHTSA can and will generate reports from that data, but only upon request.NHTSA’s data gathering systems have focused on injuries and deaths from crashes on the nation’s roadways and have never tracked the deaths and injuries related to motor vehicles in non-traffic incidents. The invisibility of non-traffic incidents in NHTSA data has resulted in decades of neglect of several kinds of alarming yet preventable child deaths and injuries, such as backovers in driveways and strangulations in power windows of parked vehicles. Thanks to the enterprising work of KIDS AND CARS, we know much more about the gravity of these risks to children. NHTSA is only now taking the initial steps to begin gathering this kind of data systematically, thanks to Congress’s decision in 2005’s Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) to require NHTSA to do so.Meanwhile, the agency is undermining our ability to know about potential defects in child safety seats. Outraged by the revelation that NHTSA had known of the Ford-Firestone deaths but failed to act, Congress demanded in the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act of 2000 that NHTSA create an early warning system—a database to alert the public of trends suggesting a potential safety defect. NHTSA has created that system, but it has inexplicably opted in its implementing rule to keep most of that data secret from the public. (In fact, when NHTSA created the database and starting gathering information from manufacturers in 2003, it kept all such data secret, pending the outcome of litigation challenging the agency’s first rule to exempt the data from public disclosure. After NHTSA lost in court, it returned to the drawing board and produced a rule that keeps most of this data secret.) In addition to monitoring NHTSA’s efforts to implement the data gathering requirements of SAFETEA-LU, I encourage Congress to hold the agency’s feet to the fire on its decision to keep the TREAD Act’s early warning data (including data on child safety) a dark secret. I also call on Congress to require the agency to close the information gap by compiling the latest safety data on children and other vulnerable populations (such as seniors and pregnant women) in readily available periodic reports.II. Children are unnecessarily at risk FROM INSUFFICIENT MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS.It is no easy task to try to catalogue all the vehicle-related harms that children face. Of course, there are all the risks that are specific to children, such as unsafe booster seats, inadequate child restraints, and vehicle backovers. There are also all the risks that adults face — frontal, rear, side impact, and rollover crashes — which may be magnified for children. I want to focus on a few of the most urgent risks, and I believe it would be useful to group them in three categories: risks children face inside the vehicle, those they face outside the vehicle, and those they face when they are entrusted to school buses.A. Protecting Children Inside the VehicleChildren face a range of harms while they are inside the vehicle—as passengers in cars on the road, and as occupants (often active occupants) in cars that have been parked. I want to focus on a few core issues that are most in need of oversight and legislative action.1. The Child Safety Gap in Motor Vehicle Safety StandardsFederal motor vehicle safety standards protect all of us, including children, every day. The increase in the number of passenger vehicles and drivers since 1966 is substantial, yet both the number of deaths and the death rate have declined dramatically in the last 40 years. NHTSA’s motor vehicle safety standards have played a large role in achieving these savings. Nonetheless, there are significant gaps in existing and developing safety standards: just as manufacturers fail to design vehicles to protect children, NHTSA is not doing enough to develop safety standards that will adequately address the particular needs of children.Side impact crashes. Perhaps the most important example is side-impact crash protection. The current side-impact crash protection standard (FMVSS No. 214) does not address rear occupants. NHTSA proposed in 2004 to amend the side-impact standard to include demanding new tests for front seat occupants, requiring the use of upper and lower interior side impact air bags. The proposed rule’s requirements for rear seat occupants, however, are far less demanding and can be met with foam padding instead of dynamic side-impact airbags, which offer greater protection. What does this inadequate proposal mean for children? Simple: parents are instructed to place children in the rear seats, precisely where the current and proposed side-impact standards fail to offer sufficient protection. Moreover, the proposed rule endangers children under 12 who are in the front seat of a vehicle, because side-impact airbags for front seat occupants that comply with the proposed rule still allow children to be ejected from the vehicle. In short, NHTSA’s new proposal offers no protection for children whether they ride in the front or back seat. Meeting the needs of children in side impact crashes should be a higher priority, given that side-impact collisions account for 42% of vehicle-related child fatalities for rear-seated children ages 0-8.Rollover crashes. The safety gap for children also means that weak standards will be doubly weak for children. A significant portion of vehicle-related child fatalities—around 30% of child deaths from motor vehicle crashes—is attributable to rollover crashes. Unfortunately, NHTSA has proposed a standard for roof strength in rollover crashes that will not adequately protect anyone, much less children. Among its problems: it maintains the static platen test, which fails to accurately replicate the damage and forces a vehicle is subjected to during a rollover crash, and its inadequacy will not mitigate the deaths and injuries specifically attributable to the cascading effects of a weak roof, which include the creation of ejection portals when the window glazing fails, belt failure, door retention failure, and injury from the violent intrusion of the roof itself. I look forward to this particular issue being addressed in more detail in the months to come, as this body conducts oversight of the administration’s implementation of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which requires NHTSA to issue roof crush and ejection mitigation standards.Seat backs. Unmet needs for adult safety protection can put children at particular risk. One case in point is the need for stronger seat backs. In a rear-impact crash, the vehicle’s front seats can collapse rearward. The result is not just back injury for the front-seat occupant: the rearward collapse of the back of the front seat injures any occupants behind it, in the rear seat. All too often, the rear seat occupants injured or killed in cases of seatback collapse are the vehicle owners’ own children. NHTSA does currently have a seat strength standard, but it remains so pathetically inadequate that some believe vehicle seats are held to a weaker standard than lawn chairs. Manufacturers are well aware of the dangers of seat back failures in crashes, and NHTSA is likewise aware—although it nonetheless aborted its proposalin 2000 to remedy the problem. Congress must insist that NHTSA make necessary updates to this important rule.2. Child RestraintsThe revolution that was supposed to fill, or at least bridge, this safety gap for the youngest children was the widespread use of child restraints and booster seats. Child restraints have definitely had a positive effect on child safety, even when they are misused. Nonetheless, there is much more NHTSA can do to improve child safety by focusing its safety and consumer information programs on child restraints.The Need for Safety StandardsUnder FMVSS 213, the only test child safety restraints must pass is a standard for 30 mile per hour frontal impact crashes. Children are at risk in all crashes, not just frontal-impact crashes. For example, side-impact collisions account for 42% of child fatalities for rear-seated children ages 0–8, and on average 32% of children killed in motor vehicle crashes die in rollovers. Federal motor vehicle safety standards are designed to ensure that our motor vehicles meet a very basic level of safety and are capable of protecting occupants from common crashes and other safety concerns. Is it unreasonable to expect these standards to require basic protections for children, the most precious cargo our vehicles will ever carry, in common vehicle crashes?In 2000, Congress instructed NHTSA in section 14 of the TREAD Act to initiate a rulemaking on side-impact crash test standards for child restraints, which was supposed to be completed two years later. After considering the issuance of such a rule NHTSA decided that more research was necessary and then promptly abandoned the rulemaking it was explicitly required to complete. Congress never authorized NHTSA to abandon this rulemaking. Congress must ensure that NHTSA does not continue to stall on this important issue but instead pushes forward with research and the timely issuance of a much needed standard.In addition to failing to issue safety standards for child restraints in even the most basic of vehicle crashes, NHTSA also fails to guarantee that child restraints are safe and appropriate for the many age groups and different sized children who rely on them, or are at the very least recommended to use them, every time they are in a vehicle. FMVSS 213, the only standard applicable to child restraints, which includes booster seats used by older children, is severely limited because it tests safety seats only for children weighing up to 65 pounds, even though booster seats are recommended for children up to 80 pounds.Finally, it is essential for NHTSA to issue standards for child restraints for the crash types discussed above, while including a full range of representative child test dummies, including the 10-year-old child test dummy for children up to 80 pounds which the agency has developed but not included in performance standards. Currently, the one standard test required for child restraints only requires child restraints to perform adequately in frontal crash tests at 30 miles per hour. This is dangerously inadequate. NHTSA must also test child safety seats in side-impact, rear-impact, and rollover crashes in order to guarantee that children are properly protected.The Need for Built-In RestraintsProperly installed child restraints can reduce the chance of a child dying in a vehicle crash by 71 percent. A recent NHTSA study that evaluated the effectiveness of a new standardized installation method, however, found that many parents still improperly install child restraints in vehicles. Child car seats are the only consumer product mandated by law that requires a 32-hour training course to learn how to install correctly.In 2002, a new safety technology known as LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) became mandatory in new vehicles. NHTSA mandated these new child restraint attachment standards in order to end confusion about installation methods and to help parents safely install restraints for their children. In December 2006, however, NHTSA released a final report on the study it conducted to evaluate the LATCH system. The results show that many parents and caregivers are not properly using the system, and the need for education about the system is great.To NHTSA’s credit, the agency has acknowledged that there is a widespread problem with poor child restraint installation, and it has promised to work to eliminate this confusion so that all children can be properly restrained in vehicles. Working to educate people about proper installation methods, however, does not go far enough to address the many installation difficulties and confusion surrounding child restraint systems. Only with built-in child restraint systems can parents avoid the problem of mis-installation.Built-in child restraint systems, also known as integrated child restraints, when combined with 5-point harness systems are the most effective way to safely restrain children in motor vehicles. Currently, integrated child restraints can accommodate children other than infants over the age of one. Their mandatory installation in all new vehicles would eliminate widespread restraint mis-installation problems for forward-facing seats, ensuring that children over the age of one are properly restrained in motor vehicle crashes.Furthermore, integrated child restraints would ensure easy notification if a safety defect is discovered. Currently, child seat purchasers must register themselves for notice in case of a recall, in contrast to the automatic registration that takes place when a vehicle is purchased. Built-in restraints eliminate the need for self-registration, which can reduce parents’ likelihood of receiving timely recall notification.Finally, integrated restraints would instantly make it possible that child safety seats could be included in all the safety standards for which the vehicle is tested.The Need for Consumer InformationIn the absence of any requirement for integrated child restraints, NHTSA should at a minimum provide consumers more information about the child restraints on the market. The New Car Assessment Program (NCAP), which NHTSA launched under my watch in 1978, provides consumers information about vehicle performance under conditions which are more stringent than those used for safety standards. NCAP has been quite successful in creating market incentives for manufacturers to improve safety. Additionally, NCAP’s most important success has been in educating consumers about the safety of available vehicles, empowering consumers to make educated choices about the vehicles they choose to purchase for themselves and their families.Despite NCAP’s importance to consumers and the program’s success at motivating manufacturers to strive for higher safety ratings, NHTSA has failed to include child restraint systems in its NCAP testing. The only evaluation rating NHTSA conducts on child restraint systems for consumers is an ease-of-use rating. Although important for consumers, the ease-of-use rating should not be NHTSA’s top rating priority for child restraints when the safety of these restraint systems is left unevaluated. NHTSA’s failure to test child restraints through the NCAP program leaves parents and caregivers at a great loss and children at great risk. Parents and caregivers are denied information necessary to make safe and educated decisions about the restraint systems they choose, and a valuable opportunity is squandered to encourage manufacturers to build safer restraint systems. (Of course, with built-in child restraints, the child systems would be tested every time the vehicle itself is put through its paces.)Europe and Japan administer programs similar to NCAP in order to inform consumers about the safety of available vehicles. In both of these programs, child restraints are tested, and consumers are provided with a safety rating system that informs them of the different products’ safety performance levels. In Europe, child restraints are tested and rated in both frontal and side impact crashes, and in Japan child restraints are tested and rated in frontal impact tests. Although it would be ideal for these programs to test and rate child restraint performances in a greater variety of crash scenarios, these programs are still admirably providing people with an important and necessary service. If Europe and Japan can provide their citizens with this valuable safety information, the United States can do so as well.3. Power Windows and StrangulationChild safety is not a static issue: as motor vehicle technology develops and evolves, potential safety hazards themselves evolve. Power windows are a case in point: as this technology has added convenience, it has also added risk. Power windows pose a serious threat to children who, time and again, are killed or injured when they are trapped in a power window as it rises.Congress moved forward to force NHTSA to address one factor of this risk. In the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), Congress required all power window switches in motor vehicles to have safer pull-up designs rather than the dangerous rocker or toggle switch designs. The risk from rocker and toggle switches was that children would unintentionally engage the window by pushing on the switch and then kill or injure themselves from the rising window.These new switches, however, will not completely eliminate the risk of a child being injured or killed by a power window. Even with safer designs for window switches, children are still at risk if someone begins to close a power window without realizing that the child’s head or other body part is in the way of the rising window. A child has been killed by a power window every month for the last three months: one in Canada this month, one in New Mexico last month, and one in Detroit in December. The Detroit incident is particularly noteworthy because the vehicle involved was a Pontiac Vibe, which has the safer power window switches. (In fact, protecting children from being trapped in power windows could also protect adults in some cases—such as, for example, the Illinois paramedic who was injured when his arm was trapped in the window of a vehicle attempting to drive around an ambulance.)One solution to prevent these tragic injuries and deaths is to require automatic reversal technology in power windows when the window meets an obstruction. Automatic reversal technology would ensure that power windows would reverse direction whenever they detect a trapped object. This simple, lifesaving technology is already widely available throughout Europe, and it is even included as a feature in many of the same vehicle models that do not include this feature in the United States.Currently pending in the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007 would address this need with a requirement for a performance standard that could be met by auto-reverse technologies.4. Brake-Transmission Shift InterlockAnother danger children face in motor vehicles is the risk of shifting a parked vehicle into gear and causing it to roll away and crash. Since 1998, over 100 children have died in vehicle roll-away incidents, though this statistic is likely an undercount.A proven way to prevent roll-away incidents is with Brake-Transmission Shift Interlock (BTSI), a basic safety feature for automatic transmission vehicles that requires the break pedal to be depressed before the driver can shift out of park. Since most children cannot reach the brake pedal, BTSI prevents them from putting the vehicle into gear, thus preventing the vehicle from rolling and crashing. NHTSA has recommended since 1980 that manufacturers include BTSI in all vehicles, yet to date only about 80 percent of new vehicles include this necessary safety feature. Additionally, many of the vehicles that do include BTSI do not include BTSI versions that work in all ignition key positions.Since the 1980s, auto manufacturers have opposed mandatory BTSI standards and have attempted to avoid them by proffering voluntary standards. Voluntary standards rarely work and are often just a tactical delay employed by manufacturers to avoid regulations. Automakers’ repeated failure to include BTSI in all vehicles is another example that voluntary standards are unreliable, subject to manufacturer caprice, set without a public process, and not subject to compliance requirements.The Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007 would require that BTSI be included in the vehicle safety standards for all light vehicles and in all ignition key positions.B. Protecting Children Outside the VehicleChildren also face serious vehicle-related hazards outside the vehicle. We are familiar, of course, with backover deaths, which occur when a parent is backing out a driveway and cannot see a child who has appeared in the path of the car. Children are also, like all of us, exposed to potential danger as pedestrians. Further action is needed to protect children from these risks.1. Improving the Driver’s Ability to See Children in the Path of the VehicleDrivers must be able to view the environment in which they are operating their vehicles. It is a simple premise, one that takes on a tragic dimension when children are hurt or killed simply because the driver could not see them.Among the dangers vehicles pose to child pedestrians are backover incidents. Backovers occur when a motor vehicle backs up and hits or rolls over a child. These terrible tragedies occur because drivers can’t see the children behind their vehicles. Many light trucks and SUVs have blind zones behind the vehicles that can be startlingly large: in fact, the latest Consumers Union analysis shows that the worst offender is the 2006 Jeep Commander Limited, which has a blind zone of 44 feet for a driver who is 5 feet 8 inches tall, or 69 feet for a driver 5 feet one inch tall. Dozens of children could fit in such a large blind zone and be hidden from the driver’s view.Because of NHTSA’s historical failure to assess these risks, we have relied on other sources to reveal the magnitude of the problem. KIDS AND CARS has found evidence pointing to 100 children killed in backovers each year, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 7,500 children treated in hospital emergency rooms between 2001 and 2003 for backovers. NHTSA has subsequently confirmed the gravity of this risk in a November 2006 report (which was mandated by SAFETEA-LU) on technology designed to prevent backover incidents from occurring. NHTSA concluded that, every year, thousands of children are injured and at least 183 people die in backovers. The study also found that camera-based detection systems were much more effective than sensor-based systems at helping drivers detect child pedestrians behind their vehicles.Children are also at risk precisely where everyone assumes they must be most visible: in front of vehicles. Especially with the rise in popularity of large SUVs, drivers cannot see the area immediately in front of them, which puts small children in intersections and driveways at increased risk.Children are like the canary in the coal mine, their heightened risk alerting us to a problem that affects all of us: the need for standards to secure drivers’ ability to see the environment in which vehicles are operated. When I was the administrator of NHTSA, I supervised the completion of a decade-long effort to develop a conspicuity standard. I issued this standard in 1980, but it was revoked before it could take effect. NHTSA has not relaunched the rulemaking in the 20 years since.The Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007 would require a performance standard for rearward visibility to help end the tragedy of backovers. In addition to a rearward visibility standard, however, Congress should require NHTSA to issue a general conspicuity standard. Clearly, the importance of driver visibility has been recognized for sometime, and the issuance of a new standard is long overdue.2. Improving Protection for Child PedestriansIn 2005, 339 child pedestrians were killed, and an estimated 16,000 child pedestrians were injured. In addition to visibility standards, NHTSA also needs to address the design of motor vehicles, which through proper engineering can minimize the injuries inflicted on pedestrians hit by a moving motor vehicle.In Japan and Europe, motor vehicles are routinely tested and rated for their performance in crashes with pedestrians. Vehicles receive stars based on their ability to inflict the least amount of possible injury on a pedestrian. These ratings, which are a part of Europe and Japan’s New Car Assessment Programs (NCAP), help to encourage auto manufacturers to invest in design and technology innovations for pedestrian safety. Additionally, the European Union has also issued a pedestrian safety directive, in which European, Japanese, and Korean (but not, notably, U.S.) auto manufacturers have agreed to voluntarily improve pedestrian protections in their vehicles.Although a voluntary agreement is inadequate to address the importance of pedestrian safety (and European safety groups, accordingly, are advocating mandatory pedestrian safety standards), the European Union is still taking greater steps to address the importance of pedestrian safety than the United States. Pedestrian protection is not rocket science: numerous technologies already exist which auto manufacturers could incorporate into new vehicles, such as sensor systems that detect pedestrians and automatically reduce vehicle speeds and vehicle hoods that give way, thereby reducing impact forces, when they collide with pedestrians. I challenge Congress to follow the lead of the rest of the world by taking a far more aggressive stand against the dangers vehicles pose to pedestrians. Congress should instruct NHTSA to issue safety standards to protect all pedestrians, including children.C. Protecting Children on School BusesWe have NHTSA safety standards to thank for the nationwide implementation of safety features that school buses have enjoyed for so long it is difficult to remember a time without them. Among the important safety features are the stop sign arm that extends out when the bus is loading or unloading children and improvements to fuel tanks. The statistics bear out these benefits: according to NHTSA, between the years of 1990 to 2000, an estimated 26,000 school buses crashed each year, with only 10 children dying and 9,500 children being injured each year.The leading safety feature on school buses for several decades has been compartmentalization: the design of the seats as compartments that contain children in a crash. Historically, compartmentalization has served as an effective safety measure in frontal school bus crashes; however, in other crash modes, children have been left unprotected and unrestrained. For compartmentalization, seats are positioned close together so that in frontal crashes children impact into deformable seatbacks that absorb the impact force. In other crash modes, such as side impacts and rollovers, compartmentalization is ineffective and children can be thrown around the bus and hit their heads on unpadded structures. In crashes of this nature, specially designed restraints can be effectively used to protect children, but no federal standard exists to require restraints in school buses.Currently, states have been left to themselves to develop laws for school buses, with no guidance from the federal government. The only federal standards regulating school bus crashworthiness require occupant protection only in frontal crashes, and even for frontal crashes the standards do not require dynamic testing with child dummies.In the absence of federal guidance, the states are embarking upon their own policy plans, with the result that we are on the brink of seeing a confusing mish-mash of different laws in all of the states, rather than one uniform law that provides comprehensive safety for all child passengers. At this point there are five states with school bus seat belt laws, including Florida, where most safety advocates fear that the law will cause more harm than good. Restraints cannot simply be retrofitted into existing bus designs.State policymakers have requested guidance from NHTSA on developing these laws, but NHTSA has declined to offer any assistance, claiming that three years (minimum) of research and development are necessary before any recommendations can be made. The federal government’s failure to address this issue is unacceptable.The only way to ensure that children are safe in school buses is to pass comprehensive federal standards that will protect children in all crash modes and require appropriately designed restraint systems in all school buses. With states left to themselves to develop these regulations on a state by state basis, the country will be left with an inconsistent hodgepodge of school bus restraint systems, which would hinder and confuse school bus safety developmentsIII. Congress Must improve NHTSA’s Capacity to Protect Children.I want to conclude by reiterating the very important role NHTSA has played and should be playing in improving safety for children, and for us all, in and around motor vehicles. I have advocated for motor vehicle safety improvements for 40 years, from the very birth of NHTSA to today. We cannot ever forget how far we have come from the time that people were routinely impaled by steering columns and air bags were an achievable but nonetheless neglected safety technology. After 40 years of being caught in a tug of war between industry interests and its statutory mission, NHTSA still has much to do to protect the public, especially children. Unfortunately, this important agency has been pulled away from its mission and stuck in a morass of analyses, reviews, and indifference for far too long.If Congress expects that this hearing, or the Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007, will result in a renewed dedication to child safety, then it will have to take additional steps to improve NHTSA’s capacity to meet these compelling needs. Throughout my testimony, I have already identified many specific steps that are needed to address particular issues for children. What I want to address now is the bigger picture: what Congress can do to ensure that any of the specific remedies discussed so far will actually result in improved protections for children.Most important, of course, is that NHTSA needs funds for testing and analysis of child dummies and the development of performance tests for needed safety standards. Moreover, as we have found repeatedly over the years, NHTSA also needs specific mandates and clear deadlines in order to make issuance of new or improved standards a real priority. I would like to conclude by discussing a factor that Congress will need to address but which often goes unmentioned: the need to shield the agency from the political interventions of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the White House Office of Management and Budget.Although Congress delegates authority to act directly to the Department of Transportation, which acts through NHTSA to meets its safety obligations, the White House has for over 20 years asserted the right to interfere with that delegation and impose its political priorities in the rulemaking process. Through Exec. Order No. 12,866, the successor to Exec. Order No. 12,291, the White House arrogates to itself the power to weaken or eliminate proposed motor vehicle safety standards, power it executes by requiring the agency to submit its draft regulations to OIRA.OIRA has long stood in the way of improved motor vehicle safety. For example, OIRA ordered NHTSA to weaken its proposed rule for tire pressure monitoring systems—the telltales that alert drivers whenever their tires are dangerously underinflated. Although Congress required NHTSA to mandate a TPMS that alerts drivers whenever a tire is underinflated, OIRA intervened to force the agency to produce a weak rule that would fail to alert drivers whenever all four tires were underinflated or if two tires diagonal from each other were underinflated. OIRA’s interference has resulted in unnecessary harm to the nation’s motoring public and litigation that is still being waged to force the agency to do what Congress told it to do.I fear that, even if the Cameron Gulbransen Kids and Cars Safety Act of 2007 were passed, and even if Congress were to require NHTSA to address the other issues I have identified, children will still be in unnecessary danger because of the political machinations of OIRA. The White House signaled its hostility to any further improvements in safety standards by nominating Susan Dudley, an anti-regulatory extremist from the industry-funded Mercatus Center, to head OIRA. Dudley has been no friend to motor vehicle safety; in fact, she opposed advanced air bag standards, based incredibly on the argument that if consumers truly valued air bag protections they would have already compelled recalcitrant auto makers to install them. Dudley’s history of regulatory comments and other public pronouncements has led me and others in the public interest community to conclude that she would, as OIRA administrator, demand the impossible of agencies, standing in their way until they prove a case for regulating that Dudley will ensure cannot be proven.Although the Senate wisely declined to allow Dudley’s nomination to leave committee in the 109th Congress, the White House decided to renominate her in the 110th—and to put her in office through the backdoor, while her nomination is officially pending, as an appointed “senior advisor.” The Bush administration then moved to give her even more power by releasing, on January 18, Exec. Order No. 13,422 and the Final Bulletin on Good Guidance Practices. These proclamations, combined, give OIRA the power to review not just regulations but also “guidance,” an amorphous category of agency information that apparently includes any “pronouncement about the conditions under which [an agency] believes a particular substance or product is unsafe.” The new order and bulletin give Dudley a powerful new ax she can use to chop this Congress off at the knees. Whatever this Congress decides to do for the important issues of the day—global warming, fuel economy, and, yes, child safety—Dudley will be able to undo.ConclusionMembers of the subcommittee, I thank you for this opportunity today to testify on these critical needs of children for improved motor vehicle safety. I am eager to address your questions.
 National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, 2005 Traffic Safety Facts: Children available at <http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-30/NCSA/TSF2005/2005TSF/810_623/810623.htm>. Id. Id. See KIDS AND CARS, National Data Base of Non-Traffic Incidents, available at <http://www.kidsandcars.org/ >. Public Citizen’s comments on the latest rulemaking to keep the data secret outline the legislative, rulemaking, and litigation history of this disastrous plan. See <http://www.citizen.org/documents/EarlyWarningCBIComments.pdf>. Consider other deficiencies regarding back seats: we lack reminder telltales alerting drivers when backseat passengers are unbelted, and we have no reminder systems to alert parents that a child has been left in the backseat of a parked vehicle, where the child could overheat and die. Meanwhile, although it is beyond the scope of child safety issues, it is also worth noting that the 2004 proposal came out before Congress required, in 2005’s SAFETEA-LU, that NHTSA upgrade the side-impact standard for occupants in all seating positions. The proposed rule clearly does not meet that test. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Researchers Release New Findings on Protecting Children in Side Impact Crashes, Press Release, Sept. 13, 2005. From 1993 to 1998, 31.8 percent of children who died in motor vehicle crashes died in rollovers. See F.P. Rivera, P. Cummings & C. Mock, Injuries and Death to Children in Rollover Motor Vehicle Crashes in the United States, 9 Injury Prevention 76 (2003). Internal GM documents obtained by CBS News reveal that General Motors (GM) knew of the dangers of weak seats in 1966. See CBS, “Collapsing Car Seats,” Nov. 19, 2002. Also, in a recent court case, a former Chrysler manager responsible for minivan safety issues testified that his investigation team determined that Chrysler seat backs needed to be redesigned. Chrysler, however, did not redesign the seats and disbanded the investigation team. Experts at the trial also testified that minivan seats collapsed in nearly every rear impact crash test that Chrysler conducted. In the case, the jury ultimately awarded $105.5 million to the parents of an infant who died when the seat back collapsed and a family friend was thrown backward into the child. See R. Robin McDonald, $105 Mil. Verdict Returned Over Minivan Seats, The Legal Intelligencer, Dec. 2, 2004. NHTSA has long acknowledged the need to improve federal seating system requirements. Over 30 years ago, NHTSA proposed a rulemaking that would address seating system safety and consolidate FMVSS No. 202 “head restraints” and No. 207 “seating systems.” Most recently, in a 2000 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), NHTSA stated that in crash tests the agency conducted “the values of head and neck injury criteria… were much higher than acceptable thresholds. Direct contact of the head of the dummy with the interior of the vehicle compartment, which occurred when the front seat rotated backward excessively due to the high impact, contributed to these high values.” 65 Fed. Reg. 67,702. Additionally, fuel integrity crash tests revealed significant seat back failures that caused the front seat occupants to become projectiles into the rear seat. However, to this day, the agency has not updated federal safety standards to adequately protect occupants from seat back failure. NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson stated that “the seatback rulemaking was terminated for the simple reason that we believe it may be wiser to approach the seat as part of an integrated unit rather than treat it as a separate part.” Jeff Plungis, $106 Million Judgment Against Chrysler and New Safety Studies Intensify the Debate Over Federal Standards, Detroit News, Dec. 19. 2004. This is what NHTSA proposed to do in 1974. It appears that the agency has dragged its feet hardly an inch in three decades. See Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, supra note 8. See Rivera et al., supra note 9. For more information about children in this vulnerable category, see Public Citizen, The Forgotten Child: The Failure of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers to Protect 4- to 8-Year-Olds in Crashes (April 2002). Starnes, M., and Eigen, A., Fatalities and injuries to 0-8 year old passenger vehicle occupants based on impact attributes, NHTSA Technical Report No. DOT HS 809 410, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Washington, March 2002. Lawrence E. Decina, Kathy H. Lococo, and Charlene T. Doyle, Child Restraint Use Survey: LATCH Use and Misuse, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, December 2006. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, LATCH Child Safety Seat System Confusing Says NHTSA Study, News Release, December 12, 2006. Nation’s Top Highway Safety Official Calls on Manufacturers, Retailers and Consumer Groups to Make Child Safety Seats Easier to Install, NHSTA news release Vehicle Safety Opportunities Exist to Enhance NHTSA's New Car Assessment Program, Government Accountability Office, April 2005. Japan NCAP: http://www.nasva.go.jp/mamoru/english/2006/child/howto.html; European NCAP: http://www.euroncap.com/content/safety_ratings/ratings.php?id1=6. Id. See EMS Network, Woman Assaults Paramedic With Car—Illinois, Dec. 5, 2006, available at <http://www.emsnetwork.org/artman/publish/article_24279.shtml>. Automakers Agree to Add Break-to-Shift Interlocks The Safety Record September/October 2006, Volume 3 issue 5 Id. See Attachment 1. See id. NHTSA’s report is not, despite this positive conclusion, the last word on backover issues. See Attachment 3 for safety groups’ response to NHTSA’s inexplicable conclusions that backover avoidance technologies, such as cameras, are somehow other than cost-effective. NHTSA Traffic Safety Fact Sheet 2005 Child Safety School Bus Restraint Study National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2000 PowerPoint presentation. See Public Citizen & OMB Watch, The Cost Is Too High: How Susan Dudley Threatens Public Protections (Sept. 2006), available at <http://www.citizen.org/documents/dudleyreport.pdf>. OMB, Final Bulletin on Good Guidance Practices, available at <http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/memoranda/fy2007/m07-07.pdf>, at 10 More information is included in Attachment 2.
The Honorable David McCurdyPresidentAlliance of Automobile Manufacturers