Road safety needs to be taken more seriously.
The NHTSA recently reported that this year is on track to become one of the deadliest on American roads ever. The cause cannot be traced to a single problem because faulty semi-autonomous driving systems, social media use behind the wheel, and overconfidence all come into play. Still, that doesn't mean that we should just sit back and accept the way things are.
Manhattan State Senator Brad Hoylman has proposed a new bill that aims to make roads safer by mandating that vehicles over 3,000 pounds should be designed in a certain way and that speed limit recognition systems become standard equipment. What does this entail? Let's find out.
Let's start with the section of the proposed bill that concerns these large vehicles with a curb weight higher than 3,000 lbs. That's not very much, though, as a 2023 Golf GTI weighs 3,103 lbs in its lightest incarnation, and that's not a car we'd consider particularly tubby.
One of the new regulations put forward is that drivers of such vehicles must have "direct visibility of pedestrians, cyclists, and other vulnerable road users from the driver's position." It's unclear how this would be enforced, but it's certainly a major issue. A recent study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that the tall hoods of typical SUVs like a Chevrolet Suburban are far too high. In testing, several children were asked to sit on the pavement in front of a stationary SUV with a mother behind the wheel. Shockingly, it took 10 kids sitting in front of the SUV before the driver could see that there was an obstruction, a blind zone of 16 feet.
Clearly, we need more and better technology if our cars are going to continue swelling in size.
The bill also wants more advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS): "Studies have shown that Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) alone can reduce traffic fatalities by 20%. This, in addition to Advanced Emergency Braking (AEB), Emergency Lane Keeping Systems (ELKS), drowsiness and distraction recognition technology, and rearview cameras, would help prevent crashes from occurring in the first place."
ISA systems refer to those that help you maintain a set speed. They include traffic sign and speed limit recognition technology, as well as speed limiting. With your car's particular type of speed limiting tech active, it can stick to the prescribed speed posted on road signs, or you can set a certain speed that the car will not exceed until you deactivate the system. Notably, Volvo announced in 2020 that all of its new cars, without exception, would be limited to 112 mph from the factory.
The legislation proposes that automakers must include the abovementioned driver aids as standard equipment from 2024 onwards, but one can't help but be concerned at how such a law would impact the base price of cars. The costs of fitting additional ADAS to cars won't be absorbed by anyone but the end consumer. That being said, you can't put a price on safety.
If the bill passes, it remains to be seen if it will be enacted. The federal government handles vehicle safety standards and regulations, so the new bill may not be legally enforceable if the feds aren't happy. Nevertheless, we must applaud Senator Hoylman for actually doing something about the state of road safety.