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Mr. Magnuson, from the Committee on Commerce, submitted the
together with INDIVIDUAL VIEWS
(To accompany S. 3005)
The Committee on Commerce, to which was referred the bill (S. 3005) to provide for a coordinated national safety program and establishment of safety standards for motor vehicles in in terstate commerce to reduce traffic accidents and the deaths, injuries, and property damage which occur in such accidents, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon with amendments and recommends that the bill as amended do pass.
PURPOSE AND NEED
The legislation which the Commerce Committee unanimously reports today reflects the conviction of the committee that the soaring rate of death and debilitation on the Nation's highways is not inexorable. This legislation also reflects the committee's judgment that the Federal Government has a major responsibility to meet in assuring safer performance of private passenger cars which it has not yet met. Finally, this legislation reflects the faith that the restrained and responsible exercise of Federal authority can channel the creative energies and vast technology of the automobile industry into a vigorous and competitive effort to improve the safety of vehicles.
It should not be necessary to call again the grim roll of Americans lost and maimed on the Nation's highways. Yet the compelling need for the strong automobile safety legislation which the Commerce Committee is today reporting lies embodied in those statistics : 1.6 million dead since the coming of the automobile; over 50,000 to die
this year. And, unless the accelerating spiral of death is arrested, 100,000 Americans will die as a result of their cars in 1975.
On March 2 of this year, President Johnson delivered to Congress his message on transportation and traffic safety, together with the proposed Traffic Safety Act of 1966. In this message, the President urged that the Secretary of Commerce “* * * be given the authority to determine the necessary safety performance criteria for all vehicles and their components." In addition, he called for the dynamic expansion of Federal traffic reseerch programs, including the development of a national highway safety research and test center.
It was the committee's task to determine the extent to which Federal automobile safety standards could contribute to the reduction of traffic deaths and injuries on the highways. To that end, the committee held 7 days of hearings, calling upon distinguished witnesses, encompassing the widest range of expertise in the automotive safety field.
The American automotive industry has been for many years one of the most dynamic factors in the entire national economy. One out of every six Americans is employed in the industry or in the provision of automotive components or the service of automotive vehicles. The industry's growth and productivity have been outstanding. And American cars-whatever their shortcomings-are among the world's safest.
Moreover, the hearings produced evidence that the automobile industry has made commendable progress in many aspects of automotive safety. With respect to such critical components as lights, brakes, and suspension systems, the automobile of 1966 demonstrates marked improvement over its predecessors.
But the committee met with disturbing evidence of the automobile industry's chronic subordination of safe design to promotional styling, and of an overriding stress on power, acceleration, speed, and “ride” to the relative neglect of safe performance or collision protection. The committee cannot judge the truth of the conviction that “safety doesn't sell,” but it is a conviction widely held in industry which has plainly resulted in the inadequate allocation of resources to safety engineering.
Until the industry had been subjected to the prod of heightened public interest and governmental concern, new models showed little improvement in safe design or in the incorporation of safety devices. Such elemental safe design features as safety door latches made their appearance as standard equipment only a decade after their desirability and feasibility had been established.
As late as 1959, in testimony before a committee of Congress, the chairman of the Automotive Manufacturer's Association's Engineering Advisory Committee was still resisting the suggestion that seat belt fittings be made standard equipment on all automobiles.
The committee hearings also documented past laxity in furnishing adequate notification to car owners of latent defects which had crept into the manufacturing process---defects frequently directly related to safety. Equally disturbing was evidence that the manufacturers have not always taken effective steps to insure the speedy and efficient repair of such defects. Although current industry defect-curing practices now appear to be improved, the committee concluded that Federal oversight of defect notification, and correction is essential.
For too many years, the public's proper concern over the safe driving habits and capacity of the driver (the “nut behind the wheel'') was permitted to overshadow the role of the car itself. The "second collision”—the impact of the individual within the vehicle against the steering wheel, dashboard, windshield, etc.-has been largely neglected. The committee was greatly impressed by the critical distinction between the causes of the accident itself and causes of the resulting death or injury. Here, the design of the vehicle as well as the public willingness to use safety devices, such as seat belts, are the critical factors. Recessed dashboard instruments and the use of seat belts can mean the difference between a bruised forehead and a fractured skull.
The committee heard compelling testimony that passenger cars can be designed and constructed so as to afford substantial protection against the "second collision” for both driver and passenger; further, that some of these design changes can be achieved at little or no additional manufacturing cost.
Yet the committee was presented with graphic evidence that the interior design of many 1966 model cars reveal interiors bristling with rigid tubes, angles, knobs, sharp instruments, and heavy metal of small radius of curvature. While such objects are sometimes placed and shaped as they are for the convenience of driver and passenger, substantial safety improvement could be achieved without inconvience to the car occupants.
The comınittee was likewise made aware of the substantial needless hazards to pedestrians presented by external fins, ornamental protrusions, sharp edges, stylistically angled bumpers.
Finally, motor vehicles can also be a source of injury to people when the vehicle is not in use as a vehicle. Thousands of minor injuries, and some major ones, occur in entering and exiting the vehicle, and during the service and maintenance of the vehicle. Many of these injuries can be avoided or diminished in severity by careful design, such as the common "hand caught in the door” accidents, engine compartment hoods falling, vehicles slipping off jacks, and burns from engine components.
Federal standards for the safety of ships at sea long antedate the Civil War. By the year 1907, the Interstate Commerce Commission was requiring that pullman cars be constructed of steel rather than of wood. Aviation safety regulations were first authorized in the Air Commerce Act of 1926, a year in which domestic airlines carried a total of less than 6,000 passengers.
Yet, with the exception of a handful of State regulations and the Federal seat belt and brake fluid laws, the automobile sold generally in interstate commerce is today subject only to the standards produced by the committees of the Society of Automotive Engineers. These SAE standards are the product of a committee consensus, subject to a single manufacturer's veto, while affording no consumer or user representation: Compliance is voluntary. There exist no procedures to compel their adoption, monitor their use, or evaluate their effectiveness.
While the General Services Administration has the authority to set the safety standards for the vehicles which the Government purchases, and individual States have begun to explore the possibility of uniform State motor vehicle standards, these efforts are necessarily limited
bocause there exists today no significant alternative source of standards to the SAE.
There is in boing no systematic research, tosting, development, and evaluation program for , safety standards capable of assigning pr orities or correlating existing standards with accident and injury prevention.
Out of the committee's hearings, there emerged a clear outline of the basic needs to be served by Federal legislation:
1. The promotion of motor vehicle safety through voluntary standards has largely failed. The unconditional imposition of mandatory standards at the earliest practicable dato is the only course commensurate with the highway death and injury toll.
2. While the contribution of the several States to automobile safety has been significant, and justifies securing to the States a consultative role in the setting of standards, the primary responsibility for regulating the national automotive manufacturing industry must fall squarely upon the Federal Government.
3. The Federal Government must develop a major independent technical capacity'sufficient to perform comprehensive basic research on accident and injury prevention, adequate to test and contribute to the quality of the industry's safety performanco; a tochnical capacity capable of initiating innovation in safety design and engineering and of serving as a yardstick against which the performance of private industry can be measured; and, finally, a technical capacity capable of developing and implementing meaningful standards for automotive safety.
4. While the sharing of safety technology among motor vehicle and motor vehicle equipment manufacturers can facilitate the development of advancod safety design and engineering, vigorous competition in the development and marketing of safety improvements must be maintained.
5. Deficiencies in past industry practices relating to the notification and curing of manufacturing defects necessitate the imposition of mandatory procedures to insure such notification of purchasers and correction of all safety-related defects.
6. The individual in the marketplace, upon whom the free market economy normally relies to choose the superior among competing products, is incapable of evaluating the comparative safety of competing model cars. The public which has lately become increasingly interested in safety still has no means of satisfying that interest. Both industry and Government share the responsibility for supplying adequate consumer information of automobile safety.
It is to the credit of the automotive industry that industry leaders bave come to recognize the gravity of the problem and have joined in support of a law establishing binding Federal vehicle safety standards.
The committee also recognizes that the broad powers conferred upon the Secretary, while essential to achieve improved traffic safety, could be abused in such a manner as to have serious adverse effects on the automotive manufacturing industry. The committee is not empowering the Secretary to take over the design and manufacturing functions of private industry. The committee expects that the Secretary will act responsibly and in such a way as to achieve a substantial improvement in the safety characteristics of vehicles.
It is the committee's judgment that enactment of this legislation can further industry efforts to produce motor vehicles which are, in the first instance, not unduly accident prone; and perhaps, even more significantly, vehiclo3 which, when involved in accidents, will prove crash-worthy enough to enable their occupants to survive with minimal injuries.
SCOPE OF THE BILL The critical definitions which delimit the scope of the bill are those of "motor vehicle" and “motor vehicle safety.”
"Motor vehicle" for purposes of coverage of the act is defined as “any vehicle driven or drawn by mochanical power primarily for use on the public roads, streets, and highways • • *" (sec. 101(c)). The act thus covers not only passenger cars but buses, trucks, and motorcycles. The bill excludes, however, those buses and trucks which are subject to safety regulation by the Interstate Commerce Commission (sec. 101(c)), although it is anticipated that should the proposed new Department of Transportation be created, safety regulation of all trucks and buses will be transferred to the Socretary of Transportation. In the interim, to avoid the imposition of dual standards on these vehicles, the bill requires that the Socretary not adopt standards which differ in substance from applicable safety regulations issued by the ICO (sec. 103(g)).
"Motor vehicle safety” is defined as "the performance of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment in such a manner that the public is protectod against unreasonable risk of accident occurring as the result of the design or construction of motor vehicles; and is also protectod against unreasonable risk of death or injury to persons in the event accidents do occur, and includes nonoperational safety of such vehicles" (80c. 101(a)).
Thus the bill is intended to reach not only the safety of driver, passenger, and pedestrian, but the safety of those who must work with or otherwise come in contact with the vehicle while it is not operating.
INTERIM AND REVISED STANDARDS
The bill, as amended by the committee, assigns responsibility for the administration of safety standards and research to the Secretary of Commerce (soc. 101(j)). In order that the congressional mandato be made unequivocal and certain and that safety standards be established at the earliest practicable time, the bill directs the Secretary of Commerce to prescribe intorim motor vehicle safety standards by January 31, 1967 (soc. 102). These standards are to be effective within 6 months to 1 year thereafter. Such interim standards, which will be promulgatod before the Secretary is able to derive substantial benefit from the now research and development activities also authorized by the act, will necessarily be based upon existing public and privato standards, evaluated in the light of available technical information.
Thus it is anticipated that in selecting interim standards, the Secretary will consider and evaluate the current GSA safety standards for Government-purchased vehicles (a copy of the current standards is included in the appendix to this report). The Secretary will also be expected to review existing State motor vehicle standards as well