Safety features play important role in saving lives
belts, air bags and other automotive safety features have
saved 329,000 lives since 1960, according to a report released
Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
all the safety features introduced since 1960, one of them
- safety belts - accounts for more than half of all the
lives saved," Dr. Jeffrey Runge, head of the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said Tuesday in an
address in Dearborn.
seat belts and air bags, the agency evaluated child safety
seats, energy-absorbing steering columns, improved roofs
and shatter-resistant windshields but did not include side
airbags and electronic stability control systems, though
Runge said they held promise.
the safety features were mandated by federal law, except
for the redesign of instrument panels to make them less
harmful during impact.
to the study, the number of lives saved annually from safety
devices increased from 115 per year in 1960 to 25,000 a
year in 2002.
2003, the number of U.S. road accident fatalities dipped
for the first time in five years, to 42,643 from 43,005
in the previous year, Runge said, and the death rate per
miles fell to a 29-year low. The data for 2004 are not yet
agency now is shifting its regulatory and oversight focus
from crash protection to zavoidance, through the use of
advanced electronics and sensors that can warn drivers when
they are leaving a travel lane, backing into an object or
even falling asleep.
the future, "the biggest return on investment will
be the accelerated development and deployment of crash-avoidance
technology," Runge said.
cited data suggesting that electronic stability control
systems, aimed at keeping vehicles on the road and preventing
skids, sharply reduces rollovers and fatalities in single-occupant
crashes. At the North American International Auto Show,
"I was delighted to see the proliferation of ESC,"
his speech, Runge praised automakers and suppliers for their
voluntary efforts to improve auto safety. ""The
industry should be very proud of what it has accomplished,"
years ago, Runge declared war on the SUV, saying he wouldn't
buy a poorly rated SUV for his own children, citing their
propensity to roll over. But Runge softened his criticism
Tuesday, citing the rising number of SUVs that now earn
top, four-star safety ratings.
said government-mandated safety features added $839 to the
price of an average passenger car and $711, on average,
to the price of a light truck in 2001, compared with prices
of vehicles built before 1968.
Runge said he believed customers could be persuaded to pay
for new safety features coming to the market. "If we
can get ink on the fact that safety technologies are a good
bargain, we'd have a better take rate," he said.