January 29, 2023

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NTSB chief to fed agency: Stop using misleading statistics

WASHINGTON — With visitors fatalities spiking better, the nation’s major security investigator states a extensively cited federal government statistic that 94% of serious crashes are exclusively thanks to driver error is deceptive and that the Transportation Office should really halt utilizing it.

Jennifer Homendy, the chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, explained to The Linked Push on Tuesday that she’s surprised the wording stays on the department’s web page even as the Biden administration pledges to embark on a broader technique to stave off crashes as a result of far better road design and style, automobile protection characteristics and other actions.

Auto safety advocates have been calling on the office for a long time to halt employing the statistic, including requests by Homendy in current months as properly as a letter from car safety groups to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg final thirty day period. They get in touch with the figure an unacceptable “excuse” for surging crashes. In a section touting the security likely of automated cars, the Countrywide Freeway Visitors Protection Administration’s site states “94% of critical crashes are owing to human mistake.”

“That has to alter,” Homendy claimed of NHTSA’s continuing use of the statistic. “It is really harmful.”

She mentioned the community ought to be enraged that almost 40,000 individuals are dying each year in visitors accidents and tens of millions are hurt, but instead sees it as “just a hazard people choose.”

“What’s going on is we have a culture that accepts it,” she mentioned.

“At the similar time it relieves every person else of obligation they have for strengthening safety, including DOT,” she added, referring to the Division of Transportation. “You just cannot concurrently say we’re concentrated on a ‘safe system’ method — generating certain most people who shares duty for road basic safety is getting motion to eliminate fatalities and really serious accidents … — and have a 94% number out there, which is not precise.”

Responding, NHTSA explained Tuesday it would update the wording on its site in the in the vicinity of upcoming “to deal with that characterization of the info as perfectly as provide additional data.” The office is slated to release upcoming week a nationwide system for measures to preserve life on the roads.

The determine stems from a NHTSA memo set out in 2015 stating that “the significant rationale, which is the previous party in the crash causal chain, was assigned to the driver in 94% of the crashes.” Nevertheless, the memo also provided a caveat that a “critical reason” is “not intended to be interpreted as the bring about of the crash” and pointed to other sizeable factors.

Point out transportation organizations and the division, then led by Secretary Elaine Chao, subsequently solid the memo as discovering that 94% of significant crashes took place “due to human mistake,” usually when endorsing the development of automated autos.

Targeted traffic fatalities have surged in current many years, especially in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. The range of U.S. traffic fatalities in the initially 6 months of 2021 hit 20,160, the greatest to start with-fifty percent complete considering that 2006. The variety was 18.4% greater than the first 50 % of 2020, prompting the administration to embark on a broader strategy.

Site visitors deaths began to spike in 2019, and NHTSA blamed speeding and other reckless driving habits for the will increase. Ahead of then, the variety of fatalities had fallen for three straight many years.

On Tuesday, Homendy echoed other safety teams in expressing ongoing use of the figure, especially by NHTSA by itself, distracts from a extensive method that is now wanted. In their letter to Buttigieg previous thirty day period, teams together with Advocates for Highway and Automobile Safety, the Shopper Federation of The us and Center for Car Basic safety stressed the will need for a multifaceted approach to decrease crashes, like issuing lengthy overdue safety standards mandated by Congress and additional closely overseeing the deployment of autonomous vehicles on the highway.

The continued use of the 94% data position, they wrote, “ignores the complexities of crashes and undermines initiatives to implement the Secure System Tactic which examines how all facets of the transportation natural environment add to crashes.”

In a individual roadmap for protection released Tuesday, Advocates for Highway and Auto Protection pointed to increasing crashes amid AVs and cited them as 1 of the better threats on the highway thanks to insufficient basic safety.

The administration has expressed a bigger determination to bettering safety for all road people. President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure law, for instance, broadly promotes a “safe system” approach urged by NTSB that is aimed at reducing the influence of human issues and protecting people today who wander and bicycle as very well as push.

Underneath the legislation, about $5 billion will go for the administration’s new Safe and sound Streets and Roads for All system, which presents grants to towns, metro regions and towns to strengthen security, specifically for cyclists and pedestrians. It also involves new federal mandates to automakers to put in anti-drunken driving engineering in autos.

Homendy said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the section is using the needed measures to enhance basic safety, which include enhancing info assortment to decide when and why mishaps are going on. But she said what anxieties her most is the government’s means to retain tempo in building the greatest use of quickly switching technological know-how to hold people risk-free.

“I’m pretty immediate on when I consider there’s a basic safety problem and the place persons are dying,” she claimed. “And you know it is a duty and I get this extremely very seriously. … Whether or not it’s DOT or NTSB, we have to work as difficult as we can.”