WASHINGTON D.C. — There’s a new push to require car companies to put speed-limiting technology in newly manufactured cars. Advocates say it will specifically keep women safer on the road.
Research shows women who are driving and involved in a crash are more likely to be seriously injured than men. Some believe crash test dummies that simulate the female body will address the gender disparity, but others think the fix is not so simple.
“Our crash test dummies have inherent limitations,” Jessica Jermakian, Vice President of Vehicle Research at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said. “We like to think of them as people, but they’re really not people.”
“If we really want to have equity in crash safety, the answer is really going to extend beyond thinking about crash test dummies,” she explained.
IIHS is now looking to data from real-world crashes and how to make a car less deadly when it hits another car.
One way to do that, they said, is with something called Intelligent Speed Assistance, or ISA. Essentially, it can either prevent speeding or issue warnings if the car is going faster than the speed limit. It is required on new vehicles in Europe, but not here in the U.S.
“It is something they could put in the vehicles today that would help bring speeds down and reduce the severity of crashes,” Jermakian said.
We asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration if it is in fact considering requiring ISA in new cars. Officials said earlier this year that they requested input on these systems and will consider public comments received.
We obtained a document which shows the auto industry lobby told NHTSA it should take this system into consideration.
“Safety is the auto industry’s top priority,” a spokesperson for the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, wrote. “Vehicles continue to get safer as automakers across the board test, develop and integrate promising new technologies including intelligent speed assist, alcohol detection and rear seat child reminders among others. These innovations make the driving experience safer and protect lives or prevent injuries.”
Reaction from drivers is mixed.
“Everybody in California drives about 10 miles an hour over the speed limit, so I don’t think that would go over very well in California,” Paul Greenfield of Sacramento said.
“Just like the little side (alerts) that go ‘oh, you know, you’re going 50 mph in a 20, slow down,’ so I think it would be a good idea to have them in the cars,” Debbie Colby of Oregon, said.
Safety advocates are also trying out virtual crash testing to be able to simulate a broader range of people in the car.
The group Verity Now, which fights for equity in vehicle safety, said the government needs to act on all of this.
“We keep researching endlessly,” co-chair Beth Brooke explained. “Why? Why? Why? And my question would be, why not? It exists today. We’re not going to make anybody less safe by using it. Why not? Let’s keep advancing all of these technologies further and we’ll save women’s lives in the meantime.”
STATEMENT FROM NHTSA:
“Safety is the top priority for the U.S. Department of Transportation and NHTSA, and equity in safety is central to our mission for all drivers and occupants.”
“Regarding the topic of Intelligent Speed Assistance, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also makes significant investments in highway safety. In January, Secretary Pete Buttigieg unveiled the National Roadway Safety Strategy, which includes a special focus on safer speeds. The long-term plan aims to save lives by leveraging road design and other infrastructure interventions, and focusing on safer speed limit setting, education, and equitable traffic enforcement.
“To further combat the dangerous driving behavior, NHTSA launched the Speeding Wrecks Lives public education campaign across the country.”
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