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As Enacted

National Traf-
fic and Motor
Vehicle Safety
Act of 1966.

Congress hereby declares that the purpose of this Act is to reduce traffic accidents and deaths and injuries to persons resulting from traffic accidents. Therefore, Congress determines that it is necessary to establish motor vehicle safety standards for motor vehicles and equipment in interstate commerce; to undertake and support necessary safety research and development; and to expand the national driver register.

Conference Report Contains nothing helpful.

House Passed Act Identical to the enacted Act.

House Debate Contains nothing helpful.


House Committee Report House Report 1776, Pages 10, 11, 12, 14, and 15

NEED FOR LEGISLATION It has been reliably estimated that over 50,000 persons will die on our highways in 1966 and unless a broad-scale attack is promptly directed at this problem., it appears just as certain that some 100,000 Americans will die as the result of traffic accidents in 1975.

During the hearings it was stated that since 1961 we have lost about four times as many members of the armed services in traffic accidents as we have in combat in Vietnam.

In addition to the deaths, there are millions who have suffered severe and permanent injuries. The cost in dollars of last year's traffic accidents has been estimated at $8 billion and the cost in terms of grief and suffering is immeasurable.

Passengers riding in vehicles moving at speeds of 60 and 70 miles per hour or even higher speed need to be protected in the event that an accident does occur. The committee is satisfied that such protection can be afforded at least to a degree substantially greater than that which exists at present, if all reasonable steps are taken to minimize the impact which results after an accident occurs between two vehicles or a vehicle and a stationary object. In all cases where

deaths and injuries occur, there are at least two collisions, not only the impact between the vehicles themselves, but the impact of the passengers with the interior of the vehicle, this latter impact has been characterized as the second collision.

In the course of the hearings, the committee viewed slides and films which demonstrated over and over again that there is vast room for improvement in the "second collision" area, and that the second collision victim invariably comes up second best when he is thrust against a steering wheel, a dashboard, a windshield, or knobs and other protrusions in the interior of his vehicle.

Considerable improvement can be made by the use of safety belts 11 or other restraining devices. However, it is also clear that motor vehicles need not have as many potentially lethal appointments in their interior design as presently exist in many models.

Safety performance standards based on scientific and engineering research can lead to both a reduction of the incidence of accidents and to a reduction of the deaths and injuries which are associated with motor vehicle accidents. Not only is there general agreement that there is a need for Federal legislation at this time but also most of the witnesses who appeared before the committee, including the representatives of the automotive industry, support mandatory safety standards for new motor vehicles.

Standards, of course, cannot be set in a vacuum. They must be based on reliable information and research. One of the facts which was brought to the fore in the course of the committee's hearings was that it is virtually impossible to obtain specific information and data concerning the causes of traffic accidents and the performance of vehicles in accident situations. Much work in this area is being done but is is diffused. Under this bill this work can be avgmented and channeled so that it will be more widely disseminated to all interested persons thus leading to improved motor vehicle safety performance with a consequent reduction in deaths and injuries.

This is a nationwide problem which requires forthright guidance and legislation at the national level. Congress and the Nation should accept the challenge to reduce this senseless bloodshed and death on our highways. The legislation which the committee now favorably reports is a needed step toward meeting this challenge.



Title 1–Motor Vehicle Safety Standards The purpose of the legislation is to reduce traffic accidents and the deaths and injuries which result from traffic accidents. There is a congressional determination (1) that it is necessary to establish Federal safety standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment, (2) to undertake and support safety research and development, and (3) to expand the national driver register.




DECLARATION OF POLICY The first section of the bill as amended declares the purpose of this act to be the reduction of traffic accidents and the deaths and injuries to persons resulting from traffic accidents. It further makes a congressional determination (1) that is is necessary to establish Federal safety standards applicable to motor vehicle and items of motor vehicle equipment in interstate commerce, (2) to undertake and support necessary safety research and development, and (3) to expand the national driver register.

The declaration of purpose differs substantially from that which was contained in the introduced bill. Essentially, the differences are that the bill as reported contains a determination by Congress that there is a present necessity to establish Federal motor vehicle safety standards. Under the introduced bill, the Secretary would have been · given authority to establish standards, but he would have been rerequired to make the determination as to their necessity. The other major difference between the bill as introduced and as reported is the elimination from the latter of all references to property damage as an element to be considered in establishing Federal safety standards. The committee believes that the emphasis of this legislation should be on the protection of persons rather than the protection of property, and to eliminate any possible conflicts restricts the bill to considerations which relate to the safety and protection of persons.

Senate Passed Act
Congressional Record-Senate
June 24, 1966, 14256

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE Sec. 2. The Congress hereby declares that vehicle safety standards for motor vehicles the purpose of this Act is to reduce accidents and motor vehicle equipment in Interstate involving motor vehicles and to reduce the commerce: and to undertake and support deaths and injurias occurring in such accl. necessary safety research, development and dents. To this ond, the Secretary of Com- evaluation. merce sball bavo authority to establish motor

Senate Debate

Contains nothing helpful.

Senate Committee Report

Senate Report 1301, Pages 1-5

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 research 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 3 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 committee 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,

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