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Congressional Testimonies

FAST Act Reauthorization: Transportation and Safety Issues

Heidi R. King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator

Wednesday, June 19, 2019 | Washington, DC

Testimony before the United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation

As prepared for delivery


Chairman Wicker, Ranking Member Cantwell, and members of the committee, thank you for inviting me to testify today. Since I testified before this committee last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has advanced numerous initiatives to improve safety. 

In recent years, more than 37,000 lives were lost needlessly in motor vehicle crashes across the nation each year. That is more than a statistic: Because of these crashes, we have each lost friends, neighbors and family. 

At NHTSA, we continue to employ risk management best practices to identify, assess, mitigate and continuously improve our collective management of roadway safety risks. I appreciate the opportunity to provide you with an update on the work of NHTSA to enhance motor vehicle and roadway safety for all Americans.  

Drug-Impaired Driving

Last year, NHTSA challenged the nation to save lives by addressing the growing risks of drug-impaired driving. The agency launched the If You Feel Different, You Drive Different public education campaign and an enforcement campaign, Drive High, Get a DUI. I would like to commend this committee for its support of the High Visibility Traffic Safety Enforcement program and look forward to our continued collaboration to raise awareness of important safety campaigns.

NHTSA has also awarded grant funds to the states to support training of additional Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) and Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE) traffic safety officers. This will increase the number of officers trained to recognize drivers who are impaired by drugs, including opioids and marijuana. 

Emergency Medical Services and Law Enforcement

NHTSA has supported the development of comprehensive Emergency Medical Services (EMS) systems for more than 40 years. I feel fortunate to have served earlier in my career as a 911 dispatcher, an emergency medical technician, and as a law enforcement officer, and I know how important these services are to the safety and well-being of our communities.

In January 2019, NHTSA’s Office of EMS published Agenda 2050 to help individuals, EMS leaders and communities create a more people-centered EMS system. It is the product of a collaborative and inclusive two-year effort to create a bold plan for the nation’s EMS system over the next several decades.

Additionally, NHTSA has been working closely with the Department of Commerce to advance grants that would support state, local, and tribal efforts to deliver optimal 911 services, including migration to adoption and operation of Next Generation 911 services. The agencies expect to award more than $100 million in grant funding for Next Generation 911 in the near future.

Like EMS, NHTSA’s partnership with law enforcement is critical to our safety agenda. NHTSA will continue to engage with law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and judges. These partnerships are crucial to the success of the agency’s efforts to encourage safe traffic behaviors. 

Safety Rules

NHTSA’s regulatory priorities for 2019 include several rulemakings and other actions to increase safety and reduce economic burden. NHTSA will explore removing existing regulatory barriers that prevent vehicles from adopting innovative safety features, including plans to finalize a rule that will allow for adaptive driving beam headlamps. The agency also intends to consider a rulemaking on rear seat belt warning systems to increase seat belt usage and potentially improve crash protection of back seat occupants. NHTSA plans to consider standardizing the electronic disclosure of odometer information, which might provide an opportunity for state motor vehicle departments to facilitate completely paperless transactions for vehicle registrations.

One of NHTSA’s most important regulations addressing safety is the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles Rule, or SAFE Vehicles Rule. Because newer cars are safer than older cars, NHTSA and the EPA are carefully studying whether costly standards discourage consumers from replacing their older car with a new car that is safer, cleaner and more fuel efficient. The proposed rule was published last year, and the agencies are working together toward issuing a final rule soon.

Automated Vehicles/ADAS

NHTSA is committed to ensuring safety while encouraging advances in innovation. NHTSA, together with other federal agencies, will continue undertaking activities that support and maintain the United States’ global leadership in the safe deployment of automated vehicles, with a focus on collaboration, uniformity and interoperability to accelerate testing, validation and deployment of new life-saving technologies. 

Thank you for your time today, and I am pleased to answer your questions.