The NHTSA is way behind schedule with standardizing safety features.
Associated Press (AP) recently conducted an in-depth investigation into the rear seat belt reminder issue.
This problem has been ongoing for a few years, but it was brought into the spotlight by a 2017 crash that claimed the life of a 16-year-old. The teen in question unbuckled her seat belt to move next to her friend to take a selfie. Shortly after, the car veered from the road, and Kailee Mills was ejected from the vehicle. She died on impact, but her three friends who had remained buckled survived.
In 2012 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which falls under the Department of Transportation, was directed to implement safety rules that require manufacturers to install a warning mechanism for the driver if any of the passengers in the car unbuckled their belts. According to AP News, the agency had three years to implement the above, but the regulation had not yet passed at the time of Mills' death. According to the AP, this safety device is one of just a dozen car safety rules overdue.
According to AP, advocates are worried that the agency has lost focus under President Joe Biden. It also comes at a time when road accidents and reckless driving increased during the pandemic.
The backlog in changes is only set to increase thanks to a new bipartisan infrastructure bill. This bill is worth $1 trillion and includes upgrades to the electric grid, rebuilding roads and bridges, and protecting utility systems from cyber attacks. Somewhere in the 2,700-page bill, it also mentions breathalyzer devices that would deactivate a car and stricter standards for vehicle recalls. The bill is still pending in Congress.
"Government should not take this long to act on safety," said David Mills. "It's devastating to families." Mills started a foundation in Kailee's memory, and it aims to promote seat belt safety. This foundation keeps a list of teenagers who died in car crashes after not buckling up.
The rear seat belt reminder requirement will start moving through the regulatory process in January, but the government's red tape is likely still a few years away. According to the AP, a total of 13 vehicle safety rules missed the deadlines set in laws passed by Congress.
The AP mentions how safety legislation has been slowed down by red tape.
President Donald Trump put four major proposals on hold. President Biden recently put an indefinite hold on a device that would limit the speed of large commercial vehicles. The latter initiative was first introduced in 2011.
The pending standardized safety equipment also includes side-impact standards for car seats, which was due in 2014. Another awaiting law requires manufacturers to maintain records of safety defects for at least ten years. This was due in 2017. An anti-ejection system for larger buses was expected in 2014.
"You have a Biden administration, it seems across the board more interested in acting in a regulatory fashion than the previous administration. That's why there's so much excitement, but also quite frankly frustration that things aren't moving with a greater sense of urgency," Jason Levine, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety.
As the situation currently stands, 20 manufacturers agreed that automatic emergency braking would be standard on at least 95% of their cars by September 2022. Two years ago, 20 manufacturers also decided to fit reminders to cars so kids wouldn't be left alone in the back. This reminder would be in cars by 2025.
According to the AP, 38,680 people were killed in accidents in 2020. That's the highest on record since 2007. This year is not much better, as the number of people who died in the first three months of 2021 is 10.5% up from last year.
Volvo is perhaps in the lead when it comes to safety. It famously stated that it wanted zero fatalities by 2020, lowered the speed limits of all its cars, and is working on technology to identify drunk drivers. Even high-performance models like the S60 T8 are electronically limited to 110 mph.