Legal Review: Backlog In Federal Safety Rules Amid US Pandemic-Era Traffic Fatalities

Despite the low traffic volumes on the roads in 2020, the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates indicate that approximately 38,680 people lost their lives on American roads. This represents a 7.2 increase from the figures recorded in 2019.

While 2020 statistics can be blamed on open roads, what is worrying is that even as roads fill up, the number of fatalities on American roads is still high, with industry players declaring the problem an epidemic. According to preliminary reports from the NHTSA, 8,730 people died on American roadways in the first quarter of 2021, representing a 10.5 percent increase from the same period in 2020.

Even as these fatalities continue to pile up, the Department of Transportation is struggling with a backlog of safety regulations ordered by Congress that are long overdue. Some of these rules were due as far as four years ago and could have potentially saved thousands of lives.

Traffic Rules That Are Yet to Be Implemented

According to a review by the associated press, over 13 traffic rules ordered by Congress remain unimplemented. One of the most significant of these rules is the rear-seat safety notification. This rule required car manufacturers to install warning notifications to drivers when a rear-seat passenger is not buckled. The rule has remained unimplemented since 2012 despite evidence showing that approximately half the people that die in an auto accident are unbuckled.

Another pending rule is the side impact standards for children’s car seats. This rule was ordered by Congress in 2014 but is yet to see the light of day. The rule required child car seat manufacturers to ensure that their products meet the set standard to protect children in the event of a side-impact crash.

Other rules yet to be implemented include standards for “smart” headlights, long-distance truck drivers’ medical evaluation for sleep apnea, anti-ejection measures for buses, and a requirement for auto manufactures to keep a ten-year safety record.

The Impact of Backlog in Federal Safety Rules

As these rules remain unimplemented, the impact has been very significant, leaving families devastated. These statistics may sound like numbers to many, but for the families of the 38,680 individuals who lost their lives in 2020, it means the loss of a spouse, child, mom, dad, or friend.

The parents of Kailee Mills, a sixteen-year-old who lost her life in an auto crash in 2017, know the pain far too well. According to them, Kailee was riding with friends to a party when she unbuckled to take a selfie with one of them. At that moment, the vehicle flipped, ejecting her. Kailee died on the spot while her buckled friends suffered minor bruises.

According to her father, David Mills, the family believes that their daughter would probably be alive if these new driving rules had been implemented. “Government should not take so long to act for safety,” said Mills. Following their loss, David and Wendy Mills Kailee’s parents have dedicated their lives to raising awareness on the need for buckling up through their Kailee’s Mills Foundation in honor of their daughter.

There Is Hope

These delays have prompted the attorneys general of the District of Colombia and 17 seventeen states to write to President Joe Biden urging him to hasten the implementation of these rules.

According to Jason Lavine, the executive director Center for Auto Safety, the Biden administration seems more interested in implementing pending regulations across different sectors, which gives a glimmer of hope for increased road safety once the rules are implemented.

If you or someone you know has been affected by an auto accident, contacting a personal injury attorney may help the injured party and family navigate through the legal process and receive the compensation they deserve.

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