NHTSA, automakers get opposite scores for meeting safety recommendations

WASHINGTON — The NHTSA has done an “unacceptable” job supporting widespread implementation of in-vehicle technology to prevent drunken driving and certain collision avoidance systems, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Ending alcohol- and drug-impaired driving and increasing implementation of collision avoidance systems in all new highway vehicles were on the top-10 list of desired safety improvements for 2019-20 released Monday.

The independent agency, responsible for investigating the cause of transportation accidents and promoting safety, said other priorities include implementing a comprehensive strategy to reduce speeding-related crashes, strengthening occupant protection and reducing fatigue-related accidents. 

The biennial list comes with 267 recommendations government regulators, industry and individuals should adopt to prevent accidents.

“Our cars are safer and smarter than ever before, yet we continue to lose 100 people each day to preventable crashes. We know the primary causes continue to be speeding, distraction and impairment, and we know more than half of those killed in crashes are unbelted,” said the nonprofit National Safety Council in a statement of support for the recommendations.

“We can change national behaviors by doubling down on what works through improved education, legislation and strong enforcement –- we just have to make the collective decision to move in that direction.”

The council said it supports a variety of initiatives, such as passing laws banning cellphone use in cars, moving to lower alcohol concentration limits, refraining from raising speed limits and embracing vehicle safety technologies.

Additionally, drivers “need to understand how certain drugs — including opioids — impact their ability to drive safely,” the council said.

Alcohol detection systems being developed will discover when a driver is intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08 percent and prevent the vehicle from moving. The NTSB said the auto industry is doing an acceptable job following previous recommendations to collaborate with regulators to design an interface between the driver and the vehicle.

The current program is researching breath-based and touch-based systems, but the report faulted NHTSA for not adequately supporting the program. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., last month proposed a bill that would mandate all new vehicles be equipped with devices to test blood alcohol levels.

NHTSA received a passing grade for efforts to provide incentives for adoption of intelligent speed adaptation systems, such as by including the technology in the New Car Assessment Program.

But NHTSA came up short for developing testing protocols and performance standards for forward collision-avoidance systems in passenger and commercial vehicles, the NTSB said. It gave vehicle manufacturers a passing grade for installing technologies that, at a minimum, issue a warning, as standard equipment on all new vehicles and for installing automated braking systems.

The NTSB said it is waiting to see whether the Wireless Association and the Consumer Electronics Association develop technology features that disable the functions of portable electronic devices within reach of the driver when a vehicle is moving.

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Section Page News – Automotive News

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