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Special Information Bulletin -- September 2, 1966


Summary of principal provisions of Vehicle Safety legislation (s. 3005, cleared for President August 31) and Highway Safety legislation (S. 3052, cleared for President September 1).


S. 3005, the "National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966" contains the following major provisions:

Standards for New Motor Vehicles

The Secretary of Commerce is required to issue safety standards for new motor vehicles used primarily on the public streets and highways, including trucks and buses. The Interstate Commerce Commission may impose higher standards, for vehicles subject to its regulations, to apply after their manufacture. The Secretary must also issue safety standards for equipment used on motor vehicles, including tires. The Secretary's safety standards must set a practicable minimum standard of performance for vehicles and equipment.

The Secretary is required to issue his initial set of safety standards, based upon existing safety standards, by January 31, 1967, and new and revised safety standards by January 31, 1968. He may also amend or revoke safety standards. The standards take effect on a date specified by the Secretary which shall be between 180 days and one year after their issuance, unless he finds for good cause shown that an earlier or later date is in the public interest.

Standards for Used Motor Vehicles

The Secretary is to study the adequacy of State standards and inspection procedures for used cars, and report

e study to the Cons he is to issue unitar after

the results of the study to the Congress not later than one year after enactment. Thereafter, he is to issue uniform Federal safety standards for used cars, within one year after his submission of the report.


Tire safety standards are to be issued under the general authority for motor vehicle safety standards. Tire standards shall include labeling requirements. Provision must also be made that new vehicles shall be equipped with tires that can safely carry the weight of the maximum number of passengers the vehicle carries and a reasonable amount of luggage. The Secretary must include in safety standards a quality rating system for tires within two years after enactment. Regrooved tires are prohibited unless permitted by standards issued by the Secretary. The Secretary's orders and regulations on tires are to supersede any conflicting orders or interpretations issued by the Federal Trade Commission.

Repeal of Separate Brake Fluid and Seat Belt Laws

The Act repeals the brake fluid and seat belt laws but continues in effect the standards issued under authority of these laws. Future revision or additional regulations will be under S. 3005.

National Motor Vehicle Safety Advisory Council

The Secretary is to establish a National Motor Vehicle Safety Advisory Council. A majority of the Council's members are to be representatives of the public, and the remaining members are to represent manufacturers and dealers. The Secretary is to consult with the Council on safety standards and is also to consult with the Vehicle Equipment Safety Commission and with State and interstate agencies, to the extent consistent with the purposes of the Act. The standards are subject to judicial review in the U.S. courts of appeals upon petition by an affected party.

National Traffic Safety Agency

The Secretary is to carry out the provisions of S. 3005 through a National Traffic Safety Agency headed by a Traffic Safety Administrator to be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. (See provision regarding National Highway Safety Agency in summary of Highway Safety law.)

Accident and Injury Research and Test Facility

S. 3005 authorizes the appropriation of up to $3 million for investigation and study of the need for a facility in which to conduct traffic safety research, development and testing. The Secretary is to report the results of the study by December 31, 1967.

National Driver Register

This provision amends the existing Driver Register Act to require the Secretary to maintain a register of all license denials, terminations, or temporary withdrawals (except those for less than 6 months for non-moving violations). The present law relates only to denials, terminations and withdrawals involving drunk driving or fatal accidents. The bill also makes clear that information in the register is to be made available only to requesting Federal, State and local officials and only with respect to individual applicants for operator's license.

Research, Testing, Training and Cooperation

The Secretary is broadly authorized to perform research, testing and experimentation in the area of motor vehicle and motor vehicle equipment safety, including the collection of necessary data. He may also give grants for research and training to public and nonprofit institutions. He is authorized to cooperate with Federal, State and other interested public and private agencies in planning safety standards and methods of testing and inspection.

Notification of Defects

Motor vehicle manufacturers are required to give notice to purchasers and dealers of safety related defects. The Secretary may require additional notification of defects, when necessary and appropriate. He may act upon information received from manufacturers, or from his own program of research, inspection and testing.


The Act prohibits the importation, sale, and manufacture for sale, or delivery for sale in interstate commerce, of any vehicle or vehicle equipment manufactured after the date a standard is effective, if it fails to comply with Federal safety standards. Enforcement is by preventing entry into the United States (by joint regulations with Treasury), by seeking an injunction or by seeking imposition of a civil penalty of as much as $1,000 for each violation (with a maximum of $400,000 for a related series of violations). Exemptions for civil penalties apply in limited cases. The Secretary is also authorized to conduct necessary inspection and investigation, and to require reports and access to records of manufacturers.

A State may adopt and enforce Federal safety standards, but may not adopt or enforce standards that differ from Federal standards in effect. Dealers can require distributors or manufacturers to repurchase non-complying vehicles and vehicle equipment, or furnish repair parts and costs. Manufacturers are required to certify that vehicles and vehicle equipment conform to applicable Federal standards. Dealers are exempt from civil penalties if noncomplying vehicles they sell bear a certificate of conformance and they had no reason to know of the non-compliance.

Authorization for Appropriations

The following amounts have been authorized for appropriation: For fiscal year 1967, $2.9 million for the tire standards program, and $11 million for the balance of the motor vehicle safety program. For fiscal years 1968 and 1969, $1.45 million for each year for tire safety, and $17 million and $23 million for 1968 and 1969, respectively, for the balance of motor vehicle safety.


S. 3052, the "Highway Safety Act of 1966" contains the following major provisions:

Highway Safety Programs

The bill provides that each State shall have a highway safety program in accordance with uniform standards promulgated by the Secretary of Commerce and developed in cooperation with the States and other public and private organizations. Uniform standards would include standards designed to improve driver performance, accident records systems, accident investigations, traffic control, vehicle registration and other matters.

State programs would be required to include driver training and authorize local communities to carry out local highway safety programs as part of the State highway safety program. At least forty percent of the Federal funds ap propriated would be used to aid local programs if established by a sufficient number of communities. The Governor of each State would be responsible for the administration of the program in his State.

Any State not implementing a highway safety program approved by the Secretary by January 1, 1969, could lose ten percent of the apportionment to such State of highway construction funds.

$267 million is authorized over a three-year period for these programs to be apportioned by the Secretary, 75% on a population basis and 25% as the Secretary deems appropriate.

Highway Safety Research and Development

The Secretary is authorized to expand safety research and to provide grants to State or local agencies and other groups for training or education of highway safety personnel, research fellowships in highway safety, development of improved accident investigation procedures, emergency service plans, demonstration projects, and related activities which are deemed by the Secretary as necessary to carry out the purposes of this section. $55 million is authorized over a three-year period for these programs.

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