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


Wu wrote a letter June 2 to the Countrywide Highway Targeted visitors Safety Administration with suggestions for auto characteristics she argues need to be taken into account when issuing 5-star protection scores.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

The Countrywide Highway Website traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is taking into consideration taking into account a car’s risk to individuals outside the automobile in its security scores, and Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is urging it to make these changes.

In a letter to the NHTSA dated June 2, Wu argues that a new auto must not be in a position to obtain a five-star protection score from the NHTSA if it does not score remarkably on pedestrian basic safety options, this sort of as driver assistance devices, immediate visibility, and speed assistance systems that limit unsafe speeds.

“In Boston, in which the the vast majority of residents’ function journeys involve walking for a part or all of their journey, we are grateful that NHTSA is exploring how to protect persons exterior of the car or truck as nicely as within,” Wu wrote.

Wu’s letter is in reaction to a choice in early March by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to request for public input on the NHTSA’s proposals for updates to the five-star basic safety rating technique for new cars and trucks, identified as the New Vehicle Evaluation Application, or NCAP. 

Among individuals proposals is the opportunity inclusion of innovative driver-aid technique (ADAS) characteristics, these as automatic emergency braking, blind-location detection, and lane-hold help, in its evaluation of a new car’s protection.

The proposal is notable since these features are mostly meant to guard the lives of people outdoors of a automobile. In the NHTSA’s 52-calendar year record, it has only ever regarded as the basic safety of people today inside of the car or truck in its safety rankings, according to road protection advocate web page StreetsBlog.

In this way, StreetsBlog claimed, in spite of revolutionary auto protection with the generation of the NHTSA, the United States has fallen at the rear of Europe. 

In 2010, the European Union released new auto protection benchmarks intended to decrease pedestrian fatalities and accidents. These procedures known as for specifications such as greater hoods to decrease head trauma and crash tests that assess entrance-stop impacts with pedestrians.

In 2012, late customer advocate Clarence Ditlow told Automotive Information that he considered the NHTSA was reluctant to regulate on pedestrian security because it would have a major result on how cars look.

StreetsBlog also described that David Zuby, chief investigate officer with the Insurance coverage Institute for Freeway Protection (IIHS), thinks a person purpose the NHTSA may not want to consider pedestrian basic safety in its basic safety ratings is that it could greatly lower basic safety rankings for SUVs and decide-up trucks.

In accordance to Statista, crossover-model SUVs and select-up vehicles were being the two most preferred kinds of cars and trucks in the United States, generating 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 much more possible to be concerned in particular pedestrian crash styles, implying a possibly problematic visibility of pedestrians around the front corners of these automobiles.”

StreetsBlog documented that this is not the initially time that the NHTSA has viewed as including pedestrian safety considerations to its vehicle basic safety scores.

In 2015, StreetsBlog wrote, the agency wrote on its internet site that it was looking at incorporating some of the global pedestrian protection requirements into its vehicle safety rankings.

The adjust wouldn’t have required carmakers to modify anything about their autos, StreetsBlog wrote, but some pedestrian security metrics would be deemed in the NHTSA scores, and automakers are very motivated to score perfectly on these rankings.

But, StreetsBlog wrote, this disappeared from the NHTSA’s website right after President Donald Trump took business office.

In her letter, Wu cites a statistic from the IIHS which claims that though pedestrian deaths reduced steadily nationwide involving 1975 and 2009, given that that minimal level, they have increased by 59%.

Whilst Wu clarifies that pedestrian deaths in Boston did not enhance that substantially in the past 13 several years, she warns that pedestrian fatalities in Boston could enhance in the coming decades as electric powered automobiles deliver heavier control weights and more quickly acceleration to the city’s streets.

“The Metropolis of Boston is inspired to see NHTSA choose the essential phase of incorporating security options that guard individuals outside the house of vehicles into NCAP. However, the proposed adjustments to the System can go even further,” Wu wrote in her letter.

Wu’s recommendation to the NHTSA is easy: do not make it possible for cars to be offered a higher protection score except if they rating hugely on pedestrian protection metrics. She also features a record of vehicle safety groups that she indicates they make essential for earning a high safety ranking.

To begin with, she writes, new vehicles should have sufficient and trusted ADAS features, these as blind spot detection and intervention, lane retaining assistance, and automatic emergency braking, to obtain a large protection score.

Next, Wu advises, basic safety scores should acquire into account the probability of a pedestrian dying or remaining seriously injured in a crash.

Thirdly, she writes, basic safety scores need to get into account the “direct vision” of a driver from the driver’s seat — i.e. what a driver can see without the need of mirrors, cameras, and sensors.

“Cameras, mirrors, sensors, and other ADAS characteristics can’t exchange the have to have for direct sight,” she writes. “Large motor vehicles, these as SUVs, light-weight vans, and heavy trucks, have substantial blind places and visibility difficulties, which are straight linked to lowered basic safety and improves in fatalities.”

Lastly, Wu advises, new cars really should have clever pace guidance techniques that mechanically limit unsafe speeds if they are to acquire a superior security score.

“Vehicle speed plays a significant role in figuring out the probability and severity of targeted traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Crashes are additional very likely to come about as a driver’s velocity boosts, as does the chance of a crash remaining fatal,” she writes.

“Intelligent velocity assistance (ISA) is a instrument confirmed to cut down velocity-relevant crashes and fatalities.”

General public comments on the proposals shut June 8, but people anxious about car protection can nonetheless write to the NHTSA with feed-back on its site.

“The Town of Boston considerably appreciates NHTSA’s thought of these responses and making sure that people have the important information and facts wanted to make selections,” Wu writes, ending her letter.

“…NHTSA can do extra to leverage NCAP and be certain individuals have a detailed comprehension of automobile protection.”