With a new administration comes new opportunities for auto safety. There are two areas in which the president’s new appointee to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) can immediately improve American auto safety. First, he or she can complete the revamping of some of our most antiquated auto safety regulations. For example, we are still operating under a roof strength standard written thirty-five years ago. Imagine the technology improvements over the last thirty-five years – none of these are reflected in this old, inadequate standard. NHTSA has recognized as much and proposed replacing the rule with a requirement for stronger, safer roofs, but that rule has never been finalized.
Similarly, testing rules adopted decades ago make rollover testing optional.
With rollovers accounting for over 1/3 of all auto fatalities, it is time
to make that testing mandatory.
Finally, in the past couple years, some regulators have tried to insert
regulatory language that would ban auto safety lawsuits, despite the fact
that congress, and the legislation establishing NHTSA, expressly said
that such safety lawsuits would be allowed even for products that meet
minimum safety standards where it can be shown that the product is nonetheless
defective. The new administration should remove these safety lawsuit “preemption”
provisions from new proposed rules.