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Safer Vehicles

Expand the availability of vehicle systems and features that help to prevent crashes and minimize the impact of crashes on both occupants and non-occupants.

The role of vehicle safety performance in avoiding or mitigating the harm of crashes cannot be overstated. Seat belts and air bags, for example, prevented an estimated 425,000 fatalities in traffic crashes since they were first required through regulatory requirements called the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).1 Enabling safer vehicles also means employing strategies to improve the safety of the commercial motor vehicles that transport goods and carry thousands of passengers locally and across the country every day.

From 1960 through 2012, over 600,000 lives have been saved by vehicle safety technologies, including seat belts, air bags, child safety seats, electronic stability control, and others.

FMVSS Number and Topic Lives Saved, 1960-2012
208/209/2010 Seat belts 329,715
203/204 Energy-absorbing steering assemblies 79,989
208 Frontal air bags 42,856
206 Door locks, latches, and hinges 42,135
201 Occupant protection in interior impact 34,477
214 Side impact protection (incl. side air bags) 32,288
105/135 Dual master cylinders/front disc brakes 18,350
213 Child safety seats 9,891
212 Adhesive windshield bonding 9,853
126 Electronic Stability Control 6,169
216 Roof crush resistance 4,913
108 Trailer conspicuity tape 2,660
226 Rollover curtains 178
301 Fuel system integrity 26

Source: Kahane, C. J. (2015, January). Lives saved by vehicle safety technologies and associated Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, 1960 to 2012 – Passenger cars and LTVs – With reviews of 26 FMVSS and the effectiveness of their associated safety technologies in reducing fatalities, injuries, and crashes. (Report No. DOT HS 812 069). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Through the NRSS, the Department will continue to leverage enhanced motor vehicle safety performance and technologies to improve safety for vehicle occupants, and other road users too.

Key Departmental Actions to Enable Safer Vehicles

  1. Develop proposals to update consumer information on vehicle safety performance through the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP or Program). The updated Program is expected to emphasize safety features that protect people both inside and outside of the vehicle, and may include consideration of pedestrian protection systems, better understanding of impacts to pedestrians (e.g., specific considerations for children), and automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assistance to benefit bicyclists and pedestrians. The Program can also identify areas of most promising vehicle technology that may lead to subsequent analysis and possible FMVSS rulemakings, such as alcohol detection systems, and systems to detect distracted driving.
  2. Provide an NCAP ‘road map’ that will show how a set of vehicle improvements may be advanced over the next ten years, covering the stages of data evaluation, research, and analysis of the criteria for inclusion in NCAP.
  3. Initiate a rulemaking to update the Monroney consumer label to include crash avoidance information next to crashworthiness information. NHTSA may also consider including information on features that mitigate risks for people outside of the vehicle.
  4. Initiate a new rulemaking to require Automatic Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Automatic Emergency Braking technologies on new passenger vehicles. Initiate a rulemaking to require Automatic Emergency Braking technologies on heavy trucks.
  5. Consider a rulemaking effort to establish motor vehicle safety standards to require passenger motor vehicles manufactured to be equipped with advanced impaired driving prevention technology. 
  6. Consider a rulemaking effort to upgrade existing requirements for rear impact guards on newly manufactured trailers and semi-trailers.
  7. Require manufacturers to provide notification when there is a crash involving Automated Driving Systems and create a public database of information that can inform safer passenger vehicles.
  8. Ensure timely investigation into emerging vehicle safety issues arising from the deployment of new technologies.

1 NHTSA: Traffic Safety Facts. Figure is based on estimated lives saved through 2017.

Last updated: Thursday, January 27, 2022