NHTSA is over five months late in meeting deadline to strengthen car seats

More than five months after announcing to Congress that proposed regulations aimed at strengthening vehicle seats to make them safer would be issued “in the coming months,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not has not yet met the congressional deadline it failed to meet last November.

In the infrastructure law signed in November 2021, Congress gave the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the nation’s primary auto safety regulator, two years to strengthen vehicle seats, following a multi-year plan. CBS News investigation.

“It’s under development. We don’t have any updates to share at this time, but it’s still under development at NHTSA,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman told Katie CBS News’ Krupnik at an event in Washington. , Tuesday. “It’s something we’re very focused on; it’s an extremely important safety issue and something we’re very focused on.”

The proposed new rule is still in the so-called “pre-rule” phase, and it has been stuck there for more than two years.

“For too long, families have had to worry about the safety of their most valuable cargo in their vehicle: the children in the backseat,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts told CBS News. “It’s been more than two years since I secured a provision in the bipartisan infrastructure bill requiring NHTSA to update the seat back safety standard, and yet we still have not seen any action.”

He called on NHTSA “to step on the accelerator and take life-saving action on seat back safety now.”

A CBS News investigation which began in 2015 revealed the fact that the 1967 strength standard leaves the front seats of vehicles susceptible to collapse in the event of a rear-end collision, putting children in the back seat at increased risk of injuries or even death.

Safety advocates estimate that at least 50 children die each year in accidents involving the collapse of a seat back. Crash test videos obtained during the CBS News investigation show how, when cars are hit from behind, the driver and front passenger seats of many vehicles can collapse backward, throwing occupants onto the rear seat.

NHTSA does not currently have a full-time, congressionally confirmed administrator.

In January, Markey and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, told CBS News the agency must act.

“I’m going to see the president of the United States,” said Blumenthal, who also supports updating seat back safety regulations. “And I’m going to say you don’t want this agency to delay and procrastinate when children’s lives are at stake.”

Last November marked 13 years of Taylor Warner, 16 months, was killed when the family’s minivan was struck from behind while running at a stop sign. The force of the crash caused his father, Andy Warner’s, seat to collapse, colliding with Taylor who was strapped into your car seat.

“I didn’t want my daughter to die in vain, and I’m going to the ends of the earth to make sure this is taken care of,” Andy Warner said.

He and his wife, Liz Warner, of Littleton, Colo., are advocating a change to the backing strength standard and hope that this year the new regulations will go into effect.

“As a mom, this makes me angry,” Liz Warner said. “Every day I put my kids in the car and I fear – even to this day – because you don’t know – that this could happen again.”

Safety advocates, including the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, D.C., are also frustrated with the missed deadline.

“It shouldn’t take an act of Congress to get them to act on the regulations. We shouldn’t have to wait for people to die to act,” Jennifer Homendy, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, told CBS News.

She noted that numerous recommendations have been made by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), but “no action has been taken.”

“That tells me you’re not serious about security,” she said. “So, be serious.”

While NHTSA is the nation’s primary automobile safety regulator, the NTSB is an independent federal agency that focuses on investigating civilian transportation safety accidents and making recommendations to prevent future incidents. similar.

Last November, 10 Democratic senators wrote to NHTSA for an update on the status of 10 auto safety improvements called for in the bill, including seat back legislation.

NHTSA responded in a Dec. 22 letter to say it was “moving as expeditiously as possible to comply with the mandates and requirements of (the bipartisan infrastructure law).”

“NHTSA plans to issue an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) in the coming months…and hopes to complete rulemaking after careful consideration of public input throughout the rulemaking process. “

Markey and Blumenthal were joined in the letter by Democratic Sen. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Ron Wyden of Oregon. and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, asked by CBS News in December what he would do if NHTSA failed to meet the congressional deadline, responded: “When it comes to safety, the only thing that matters More than doing something on time to meet the deadline set by Congress is getting it done. It’s true.”

He added: “NHTSA must make difficult choices every day because literally everything it does involves people’s safety. It has limited resources to deal with dozens of overlapping requirements and mandates. “


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