Mayor Wu wants car safety ratings to consider a car’s threat to pedestrians


Wu wrote a letter June 2 to the Countrywide Freeway Traffic Safety Administration with suggestions for automobile attributes she argues need to be taken into account when issuing 5-star protection rankings.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. Josh Reynolds for The Boston World

The Countrywide Highway Visitors Protection Administration (NHTSA) is thinking of using into account a car’s threat to people outside the house the motor vehicle in its basic safety rankings, and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is urging it to make these modifications.

In a letter to the NHTSA dated June 2, Wu argues that a new auto should not be equipped to obtain a 5-star protection rating from the NHTSA if it does not rating hugely on pedestrian security attributes, these kinds of as driver help systems, direct visibility, and pace assistance programs that restrict unsafe speeds.

“In Boston, exactly where the the vast majority of residents’ perform trips require walking for a portion or all of their journey, we are grateful that NHTSA is exploring how to safeguard individuals outdoors of the vehicle as well as inside of,” Wu wrote.

Wu’s letter is in response to a determination in early March by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to talk to for public input on the NHTSA’s proposals for updates to the 5-star basic safety ranking program for new cars, termed the New Car or truck Assessment Program, or NCAP. 

Amid those people proposals is the likely inclusion of advanced driver-help technique (ADAS) attributes, these types of as automatic unexpected emergency braking, blind-spot detection, and lane-maintain aid, in its analysis of a new car’s security.

The proposal is noteworthy due to the fact these features are mostly intended to safeguard the lives of folks outdoors of a motor vehicle. In the NHTSA’s 52-calendar year history, it has only at any time considered the security of people today inside of the motor vehicle in its safety scores, in accordance to street protection advocate internet site StreetsBlog.

In this way, StreetsBlog documented, irrespective of revolutionary car protection with the generation of the NHTSA, the United States has fallen at the rear of Europe. 

In 2010, the European Union launched new car safety criteria meant to decrease pedestrian fatalities and accidents. These rules termed for benchmarks these kinds of as bigger hoods to minimize head trauma and crash checks that consider front-conclude impacts with pedestrians.

In 2012, late customer advocate Clarence Ditlow told Automotive News that he believed the NHTSA was hesitant to control on pedestrian protection for the reason that it would have a major result on how autos glimpse.

StreetsBlog also documented that David Zuby, main study officer with the Coverage Institute for Highway Protection (IIHS), believes just one motive the NHTSA could not want to take into account pedestrian basic safety in its security scores is that it could considerably decrease safety ratings for SUVs and decide on-up vehicles.

In accordance to Statista, crossover-fashion SUVs and decide-up vehicles have been the two most popular kinds of autos in the United States, creating up about 46% and 18% of the sector share in 2021, respectively.

In her letter, Wu even cites a March 2022 report by the IIHS that concluded that “[Light truck vehicles, such as SUVs, pick-up trucks, and vans] were being far more most likely to be involved in particular pedestrian crash types, implying a perhaps problematic visibility of pedestrians around the entrance corners of these motor vehicles.”

StreetsBlog described that this is not the initially time that the NHTSA has regarded as introducing pedestrian safety considerations to its car security scores.

In 2015, StreetsBlog wrote, the agency wrote on its website that it was considering incorporating some of the global pedestrian protection requirements into its car protection rankings.

The adjust wouldn’t have required carmakers to improve everything about their automobiles, StreetsBlog wrote, but some pedestrian safety metrics would be viewed as in the NHTSA ratings, and automakers are very inspired to rating nicely on these ratings.

But, StreetsBlog wrote, this disappeared from the NHTSA’s web-site right after President Donald Trump took office environment.

In her letter, Wu cites a statistic from the IIHS which claims that while pedestrian fatalities reduced steadily nationwide between 1975 and 2009, since that small place, they have increased by 59%.

When Wu clarifies that pedestrian fatalities in Boston did not raise that significantly in the final 13 a long time, she warns that pedestrian fatalities in Boston could raise in the coming a long time as electrical vehicles carry heavier suppress weights and more rapidly acceleration to the city’s streets.

“The Metropolis of Boston is inspired to see NHTSA just take the important phase of incorporating safety features that safeguard men and women outdoors of vehicles into NCAP. Even so, the proposed changes to the System can go even more,” Wu wrote in her letter.

Wu’s recommendation to the NHTSA is very simple: never allow vehicles to be presented a significant basic safety ranking unless they rating really on pedestrian security metrics. She also includes a listing of car safety categories that she indicates they make critical for earning a significant basic safety score.

First of all, she writes, new automobiles ought to have sufficient and dependable ADAS characteristics, these types of as blind location detection and intervention, lane retaining guidance, and automated emergency braking, to acquire a large safety score.

Next, Wu advises, protection scores need to acquire into account the probability of a pedestrian dying or becoming very seriously wounded in a crash.

Thirdly, she writes, safety scores need to take into account the “direct vision” of a driver from the driver’s seat — i.e. what a driver can see with out mirrors, cameras, and sensors.

“Cameras, mirrors, sensors, and other ADAS features are not able to switch the require for direct sight,” she writes. “Large autos, this kind of as SUVs, light vans, and hefty trucks, have substantial blind places and visibility problems, which are straight connected to reduced protection and boosts in fatalities.”

Last of all, Wu advises, new autos should have intelligent pace assistance techniques that routinely restrict unsafe speeds if they are to obtain a high security score.

“Vehicle speed performs a crucial job in figuring out the likelihood and severity of targeted traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Crashes are more likely to occur as a driver’s speed increases, as does the likelihood of a crash remaining deadly,” she writes.

“Intelligent velocity aid (ISA) is a resource proven to lower speed-similar crashes and fatalities.”

General public reviews on the proposals closed June 8, but these anxious about vehicle protection can nonetheless write to the NHTSA with responses on its web-site.

“The Metropolis of Boston drastically appreciates NHTSA’s thought of these responses and guaranteeing that customers have the necessary information and facts required to make conclusions,” Wu writes, ending her letter.

“…NHTSA can do extra to leverage NCAP and make sure people have a in depth comprehending of car basic safety.”