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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 because there exists today no significant alternative source of standards to the SAE.
There is in being no systematic research, testing, development, and evaluation program for safety standards capable of assigning priorities 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 date 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 performance; a technical 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 advanced 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 have come to recognize the gravity of the problem and have joined in support of a law establishing binding Federal vehicle safety standards.
The comniittee 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, vehicles which, when involved in accidents, will prove crash-worthy enough to enable their occupants to survive with minimal injuries.
Executive Communications Contains nothing helpful.
As H.R. 13228 in the House and S. 3005 in the Senate:
5 SEC. 2. The Congress hereby declares that the purpose 6 of this Act is to reduce traffic accidents and the deaths, in7. juries, and property damage resulting from traffic accidents, 8 To this end, the Secretary of Transportation shall have 9 authority to establish motor vehicle safety standards for
1 motor vehicles and equipment in interstate commerce; to 2 2 undertake and support necessary safety research and devel3 opment; and to encourage and provide financial assistance 4 in developing State traffic safety programs under effective 5 standards for drivers, motor vehicles, postaccident care, and 6 the traffic environment. including highways.