Senate Democrats Get Chippy Over Car Safety Regulations

Estimated read time 2 min read

They aren’t happy and they want everyone to know it.

According to a Reuters report, 10 Democratic senators in a letter issued on Tuesday pushed NHTSA to account for its not creating new regulations as directed by Congress. They want to see regulators within the agency work to quickly curb rising traffic fatalities, which hit a new peak in 2021, outpacing the previous 16 years of deaths. Interestingly enough, NHTSA estimates for the first half of 2022 roadway deaths have actually declined, but that hasn’t taken the fire out of the senators’ assessment.

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More specifically, these senators are focusing on the controversial infrastructure law which passed the Senate and House, then was signed into law by President Biden in the fall of 2021. In that bill were 10 new car safety directives, which the letter points out and focuses specifically on the updating crash avoidance technologies and automatic shutoff devices for engines/headlights.

There are some rather interesting and incredibly controversial directives in the new law, like NHTSA setting new rules for blood-alcohol detection devices in new cars. It’s possible many in the regulatory agency perceive pushing forward on these topics could create a firestorm of criticism.

On the other hand, NHTSA has a reputation similar to many employees at DMVs. In other words, they tend to move slowly. Instead of getting new regulations and rules put in place early, the agency often barely squeezes through at the last moment or blows past deadlines set by Congress.

The letter got a little chippy while also using some cringe-inducing automotive analogies: “When issuing new safety measures, regulators have too often crawled through yellow lights or stalled at red lights. Congress gave NHTSA the green light to put its pedal to the metal to reduce motor vehicle fatalities.”

It’s interesting this issue is partisan and not backed by even nearly half of Democrats in the Senate. Either Democrats didn’t reach across the aisle before firing off the letter or they already knew their Republican colleagues wouldn’t back them up. But even more interesting would be to know why their fellow party members didn’t jump on the bandwagon of bashing NHTSA for moving too slowly.

Source: Reuters

Images via Volvo, Mercedes-Benz

Steven Symes

Steven Symes is an accomplished automotive journalist with a passion for all things related to cars. His extensive knowledge and love for the automotive world shine through in his writing, which covers a diverse range of topics.

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