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Auto safety pioneer criticizes stalled federal safety testing

Consumers in Ohio have depended on federal automotive safety ratings to guide their purchases since the 1990s. The federal five-star safety rating system arose in large part from the leadership of a safety advocate at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Her efforts alongside other automotive safety pioneers lead to the development of crash testing and crash-test dummies. Now, she works with Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, and she has published a report that is strongly critical of the federal government's apparent abdication of safety leadership.

Forty years ago, the United States provided leadership and innovation in the realm of vehicle safety testing. Federal safety ratings motivated consumers to buy vehicles with high safety ratings, and this behavior pushed automakers to design safer vehicles. The report noted that Europe, Asia and Latin America have since surpassed the United States as leaders in safety testing and regulation. Compared to U.S. regulators, European authorities perform four times as many tests on vehicles.

Although automakers continue to make advances in safety, U.S. regulators have failed to test some new safety technology to determine how well it actually works. As a result, new pedestrian-detection systems have not been tested at the federal level. Accident data within the Fatality Analysis Reporting System that might help consumers compare vehicles remains largely inaccessible due to the database being designed for academic and industry researchers.

Even if their vehicle is safe, a person involved in an accident might encounter difficulty collecting evidence about a negligent driver. Burdened by injuries, a person could lack the resources or physical ability to find a police report, talk to witnesses or find out if a driver was distracted by a mobile device. The assistance of an attorney may help enable an accident victim to investigate the cause of an accident and file a well-documented insurance claim.

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