After a brief surge last year, federal data show that highway deaths are again on a sharp decline, certainly due in part to improved vehicle design and advanced safety hardware.
Find out more about what the NHTSA would like automakers to achieve.
After a brief surge last year, federal data show that highway deaths are again on a sharp decline, falling an estimated 4.2% during the first half of this year. And while an ongoing crackdown on drunk driving is one factor for the 40% decline in fatalities over the last four decades, improved vehicle design and advanced safety hardware also are getting much of the credit.
That’s led the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to encourage the industry to fast-track new technical advances that many experts now believe could eventually lead to an era of zero fatalities.
“Safety is our top priority and we can achieve remarkable progress in reducing injuries and fatalities in this era of innovation and technology,” proclaimed Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who is asking for “real solutions that can significantly address safety issues that have plagued this nation for decades,” as part of NHTSA’s new “Significant and Seamless” initiative.
NHTSA first began calling for safety technology nearly a half-century ago, initially with basic systems such as seatbelts and new vehicle designs meant to better absorb impact forces during a crash. But with the mandate for airbags in the late 1980s, the push for smarter technologies ramped up. Today, automakers are required to not only use so-called passive safety systems – which reduce the risk of injury in a crash – but to build in active safety technologies meant to prevent a crash in the first place, such as electronic stability control.
The government’s top automotive safety agency could take things several steps further. A year ago, the National Transportation Safety Board called for new rules requiring even more advanced collision-avoidance technologies, such as blind spot warning systems and forward-looking radar, on every car.
That has been backed by the trade group, the IIHS, which recently issued its first study ranking the various forward collision-avoidance systems, some of which can bring a vehicle to a complete halt if a vehicle, pedestrian, even a large animal, poses the risk of a crash.
The “Significant and Seamless” initiative “challenges both the automotive industry and the agency to determine the extent of, and ultimately utilize, the significant safety potential in these areas,” said NHTSA.