NHTSA Report Number DOT HS 809 699January 2004

Evaluation Program Plan:


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has rigorously evaluated its major programs as a matter of policy since 1970. The evaluation of the effectiveness of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) began in 1975. The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 and Executive Order 12866, "Regulatory Planning and Review," issued in October 1993, now oblige all Federal agencies to evaluate their existing programs and regulations. Previously, Executive Order 12291, issued in February 1981, also required reviews of existing regulations. Even before 1981, however, NHTSA was a leader among Federal agencies in evaluating the effectiveness of existing regulations and technologies. There are large databases of motor vehicle crashes that can be analyzed to find out what vehicle and behavioral safety programs work best.

This four-year plan presents and discusses the vehicle and behavioral programs, regulations, technologies and related areas NHTSA proposes to evaluate, and it summarizes the findings of past evaluations. Depending on scope, evaluations typically take a year or substantially more, counting initial planning, contracting for support, OMB clearance for surveys, data collection, analysis, internal review, approvals, publication, review of public comments, and the last phase of preparing recommendations for subsequent agency action:

Most of NHTSA's crashworthiness and several crash avoidance standards have been evaluated at least once since 1975. A number of consumer-oriented regulations, e.g., bumpers, theft protection, fuel economy and NCAP also have been evaluated. So have promising safety technologies that were not mandatory under Federal regulations, such as antilock brake systems for passenger vehicles. The plan for calendar years 2004-2007 includes evaluations of new and existing vehicle and behavioral safety programs, regulations, technologies and consumer information programs.

Vehicle safety evaluations address crash avoidance, crashworthiness/aggressiveness, damage protection (bumpers), and recalls. They study passenger cars, light trucks, heavy trucks, motorcycles and low-speed on-road vehicles. Behavioral safety evaluations address impaired driving, occupant protection, motorcycle safety, speeding, enforcement, and emergency care (injury survivability).

Future evaluations have been subdivided into two groups. The topics that, as of January 2004, appear to be top priorities are tentatively scheduled for 2004, 2005, 2006 or 2007 starts. As stated above, evaluations take at least a year, and sometimes many years from start to finish; the write-ups discuss approximately how long each evaluation will require. Sometimes, the order of the evaluations may need to be rearranged as new priorities emerge. "Other Potential Evaluations" address topics that now seem a lower priority, but depending on circumstances might supplement or replace some projects in the first group.

The agency welcomes public comments on the plan. The plan will be periodically updated in response to public and agency needs, with a complete revision scheduled every five years. The most recent plan before this one was published on May 8, 1998 (Federal Register, Volume 63, p. 25543).

Evaluations Nearing Completion
On-off switches for air bags
Rear window defoggers (FMVSS 103)
Effect of side door strength in light trucks (FMVSS 214)

Evaluations Underway, Started before 2003
Lives saved by vehicle safety equipment, 1960-2002
Cost of NHTSA vehicle safety standards 1968-2002
Safety belt pretensioners and load limiters (Phase 2: FARS data analysis)
Side impact protection (Phase 2: effect of FMVSS 214 upgrade; Phase 3: Side NCAP)
Antilock Brake Systems (ABS) for heavy trucks (FMVSS 121)
Truck underride protection (FMVSS 223 and 224)

Evaluations Begun in 2003 - Vehicle Safety
Head injury protection (FMVSS 201 upgrade)
Effectiveness of depowered air bags
LATCH - impact on safety seat use, cost, effectiveness
Booster seat use and effectiveness

Evaluations Begun in 2003 - Behavioral Safety
Comparative analysis of State assessments of impaired driving programs
National statistical analysis of impaired-driving trends


I. Evaluations Planned to Start in 2004 - Vehicle Safety
Side air bags + head air bags
Electronic stability control systems - cost and effectiveness
Rollover information - trend of static stability factor and rollover risk

Evaluations Planned to Start in 2004 - Behavioral Safety
New York State STOP-DWI law and "Pay Your Own Way" program
State motorcycle safety programs
Statistical comparison of observed belt use on the road, in potentially fatal crashes, and occupant ejection

II. Evaluations Planned to Start in 2005 - Vehicle Safety
Motorcycle brake systems
Glare problems with LTV headlamps and auxiliary lamps (FMVSS 108)
Cost of rear-center 3-point belts

Evaluations Planned to Start in 2005 - Behavioral Safety
Analysis of unique features that raise belt use in Washington, California and Oregon
National statistical analysis of speed limits and fatality risk

III. Evaluations Planned to Start in 2006 - Vehicle Safety
Effect of Early Warning Reporting systems on defect recalls and voluntary recalls
Integrated safety belts
Cost of advanced air bags (FMVSS 208)

Evaluations Planned to Start in 2006 - Behavioral Safety
DWI task forces' effectiveness
Factors that encourage communities/police to devote resources to traffic enforcement
Comparative analysis of State DWI classification, prosecution, and conviction processes

IV. Evaluations Planned to Start in 2007 - Vehicle Safety
Effectiveness of advanced air bags
Injury vulnerability and adequacy of current vehicle interiors for older occupants

Evaluations Planned to Start in 2007 - Behavioral Safety
Factors that contribute to speeding/not speeding in States, counties, or specific roads
National historical statistical analysis of injury survivability

V. Other Potential Evaluations - Vehicle Safety
NCAP follow-up evaluation (cars and light trucks with air bags)
ABS for cars and light trucks - follow-up evaluation
Interaction between car and LTV bumpers in low-speed collisions
Effectiveness and use of rear-center 3-point belts; effect on occupant seating patterns
Automatic door locks - cost and effectiveness
Correlation of Thor-Lx/HIIIr responses on NCAP and lower extremity injury in crashes
LTV trends - height and aggressiveness
Side window ejection - correlation with vehicle parameters
Belt use in the back outboard seats
Safety standards in low-speed vehicles - effectiveness, cost, belt use
Heavy truck aggressiveness in frontal and side impacts
Relationship between vehicle type and aggressive driving
Cost of upgraded head restraints (FMVSS 202)

Other Potential Evaluations - Behavioral Safety
Safety belt programs targeting youth: resources, public awareness, effects
Factors that encourage/discourage States from enacting primary belt laws
Safety belt initiatives for diverse/high-risk populations
Information campaigns about the life-saving potential, and possible hazards of air bags
Comparative analysis of State assessments of occupant protection programs

Summaries Of Past Evaluations
Summaries of Completed Evaluation Reports (Updated through January 2004)

List of Abbreviations

pdf graphic The complete report is available here in pdf format.

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