Congress Passes Highway Bill; Sets Deadlines for Safety Proposals

In late July Congress passed a $295 billion highway bill that requires the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to set deadlines for studies and reports as well as implementation of procedures to reduce occurrences of certain kinds of vehicle accidents that are on the rise.

According to an article in the Washington Post, among the directives in the bill, the NHTSA must study preventative measures that would keep drivers from backing over children in driveways and to track such childhood deaths, something the government has not done to date consistently.

Additionally, the agency is expected to test 15-passenger vans for rollover and issue a proposal to reduce rollovers by October 1, 2006 with a final rule in 2009. According to the article, only Congress can change the deadlines in the legislation.

NHTSA administrator Jeffery Runge was interviewed for the article. He told the Washington Post that the organization set its own rulemaking priority more than a year ago and will begin a roof-crush rulemaking this year, updating a 1971 standard.

Some people involved in lobbying for the bill felt its passage was important, particularly with the deadlines outlined in the legislation, as Runge is leaving his position with the NHTSA at the end of the month to become chief medical officer of the homeland security department.

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