In 2012, a then-recently passed law ordered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to implement safety rules that would mandate motor vehicle manufacturers to install a warning that a passenger in the backseat was unbuckled. The agency of the Department of Transportation was given three years to take action.
To date, implementation that could save countless lives each year remains woefully overdue. The complex and lengthy regulatory process is currently set to begin in January of 2022 and could last several years due to industry opposition or a lack of prioritization.
A history of delays
Sadly, it is not the agency’s only act of procrastination and outright broken promises. Major vehicle safety initiatives include:
- Side-impact standards for child car seats
- Requirements for car manufacturers to maintain records of safety defects for ten years
- Anti-ejection protection for larger buses
- Standards for smart car headlights
- Automatic emergency braking systems new passenger vehicles and heavy trucks
Some claim the NHTSA has lost focus during a continuing pandemic where reckless driving and motor vehicle accidents have skyrocketed to what many consider at an epidemic level. Others cite the lack of a permanent leader for the 600-member federal agency. The last Senate-confirmed administrator served under the Obama administration until 2017.
Close to 29,000 people lost their lives in traffic accidents last year. The number represents the highest total since 2007, an alarming statistic when considering that miles driven plummeted due to stay-at-home orders. The first three months of 2021 saw 8,730 people killed in collisions, which was already a 10.5 percent increase from last year.
As bureaucratic bickering continues, many drivers are taking to the open roads without protections that could prevent injuries and fatalities. Maintaining the highest standards of motor vehicle safety should never involve foot-dragging. Lives are at stake.