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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
May 5, 1997

Monday, May 5, 1997
NHTSA 29-97
Contact:  Tim Hurd
Tel. No. (202) 366-9550

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced new initiatives to provide consumers with additional and improved safety information to help make motor vehicle purchase decisions. "Safety is very high on the list of concerns that consumers have when choosing a new car. We want to help with the information they need to make good safety choices," said NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D.

The agency announced the release of a new edition of the popular Buying a Safer New Car brochure. This year, for the first time, the brochure includes ratings for side-impact tests and now provides consumers with relative safety information on the two most common injury-causing crash events --frontal and side impacts.

Buying a Safer New Car is produced jointly by NHTSA, the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the Federal Trade Commission. It also includes information on a variety of other safety features including air bags (frontal and side), antilock brakes, traction control, and advanced seat belt features. Copies are available from NHTSA's toll-free Auto Safety Hot-line at (800) 424-9393 or from local AAA offices.

NHTSA also has requested public comment on a number of consumer information initiatives on motor vehicle safety that were developed in response to a National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) study, Shopping for Safety: Providing Consumer Automotive Safety Information.

The study, originally commissioned by NHTSA in 1994, provided the basis for these proposed consumer information initiatives. They include the development of a summary crashworthiness rating, additional advice on crash avoidance performance such as braking and lighting, safety labels for new vehicles and a measurement of rollover stability.

The notice requesting public comment on NHTSA's efforts to improve consumer information on motor vehicle safety will be published in the Federal Register. The comment period will extend for 90 days after the date of publication.

The agency today also announced additional plans to provide dependable and timely consumer information about the rollover stability of vehicles.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and NHTSA first announced efforts to address the problem of rollover in 1992, and have since issued a final rule that requires upgraded padding on the upper interiors of cars and light trucks, and a final rule that extends side door latch requirements to rear doors.

Research has been undertaken on improved crush resistance, enhanced side window strength and advanced occupant restraint systems, all of which would help occupants survive rollover crashes. The effort to provide more reliable consumer information on rollovers was a reason for commissioning the NAS study.

The agency now has begun a major effort to add ratings for rollover susceptibility to the other ratings of safety performance it already provides to consumers. Research has begun on the development of a dynamic test that will reliably measure a vehicle's resistance to tipping over in sudden maneuvers. NHTSA's objective is to develop technically sound, objective and appropriate tests that will measure the stability of the vehicle in response to a variety of operator actions.

As part of this initiative, NHTSA granted a Consumers Union's petition for rulemaking to develop additional consumer information on rollovers. Dr. Martinez said that Consumers Union has been a welcome partner that has focused the public's attention on rollover and provided a wealth of consumer information to the car-buying public.

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