Congressmen Johnson, Garcia Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Highway Traffic Deaths
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Seeking to make highways around the nation safer for drivers, Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) and Rep. Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-04) reintroduced the “Safe Roads Act of 2021,” which would direct the Department of Transportation to require that all new tractor trailers be equipped with and use an automatic emergency braking system.
Specifically, the bill mandates the use of automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems for truck-tractors with electronic stability control (ESC) technology within one of year of becoming law.
Reps. Johnson and García are joined by colleagues Reps. Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Jack Bergman (MI-01).
Rep. Johnson first introduced a similar bill in 2011 and again in 2015 after five Georgia Southern University nursing students were killed and three others seriously injured when a tractor-trailer failed to stop and plowed into traffic that had stopped on I-16 in Georgia.
A few weeks later, in May of 2015, five more people died when another tractor-trailer smashed into two cars and burst into flames on the same section of highway.
“Tragically, the simple installation of automatic braking systems on all commercial motor vehicles – a $500 safety feature – might have prevented these deaths and countless others across the country,” said Johnson. “America’s roads and highways should be safe for all drivers. Taking full advantage of technologies that are available and proven to anticipate and prevent crashes will save lives.”
“Automatic braking systems are a simple, common-sense solution to deploy proven crash-avoidance technologies. Rep. Johnson and I agree that we should always operate on a safety-first basis, and I’m pleased to reintroduce this important legislation again with him,” said Rep. García. “Any further delays to implement this common sense, life-saving technology will only result in more preventable, tragic deaths and catastrophic injuries. We shouldn’t be in the business of putting a price tag on life – passing the Safe Roads Act is simply the right thing to do”
“As a commercial pilot, I have a firsthand understanding of the need to update safety mechanisms and practices,” said Rep. Bergman. “The Safe Roads Act embraces this same spirit of preparedness to better everyone on the road by providing for automatic emergency braking in certain large vehicles, an already common practice that the industry and drivers alike support. I look forward to seeing this legislation move forward with bipartisan support.”
In 2019, truck-tractors made up more than half of all trucks involved in fatal crashes in the U.S., and the initial point of impact on these trucks was the front 54 percent of the time. Truck-tractors generally travel far more miles each year than single-unit and straight trucks and are more likely to operate on roads with higher travel speeds, which is why they have the greatest exposure to crash scenarios where AEB is most beneficial. Addressing this population of trucks in one year instead of two will save lives and prevent injuries.
The Safe Roads Act is supported by the Institute for Safer Trucking, AAA, Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, Road Safe America, Truckload Carriers Association, American Trucking Associations, the Trucking Alliance, Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys, the Safe Operating Speed Alliance, the Dave Fons Memorial Fund for the Advocacy of Truck Safety, and truck crash survivors and the families of victims.
What the groups are saying
“Automatic emergency braking systems have been in class 7 and 8 truck-tractors for years, and the combination of independent research and real-world use by leading companies prove that they make trucks safer” said John Lannen, Principal and Co-founder of the Institute for Safer Trucking. “Given truck-tractors are involved in more than half of all fatal truck crashes each year, the Safe Roads Act is the immediate action the public needs. We commend Congressman Johnson for his commitment to this issue and thank him for the compassion he has extended to the families of victims and survivors of large truck crashes.”
“Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is a proven safety technology on tractor-semitrailer combination commercial motor vehicles. We support the Safe Roads Act of 2021’s mandate to expeditiously deploy AEB on tractors, where is can be most effective. We also are glad to see that the Act would require the Department of Transportation to study the efficacy of AEB on the diverse configurations of single-unit commercial trucks” said Timothy A. Blubaugh, Executive Vice President of the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association. “We fully support the Safe Roads Act’s thoughtful plan for deploying AEB on commercial vehicles as quickly as possible.”
“No truck driver wakes up thinking they are going to kill anyone today, but it happens too frequently. My daughter McKay should be alive today. A distracted truck driver slammed into a line of cars innocently stopped in traffic. McKay and four other Georgia Southern University nursing students were killed,” said Sam Pittman, the father of Catherine McKay Pittman. “McKay wanted to be a nurse to help others. While she can’t do that now, I am proud that her memory motivated this much needed safety legislation designed to prevent crashes and save lives.”
“TCA supports common sense legislation for technologies such as automatic emergency braking, which is already widely adopted by our members and has a demonstrated track record of preventing accidents. The Safe Roads Act will ensure that the trucks operating on our nation’s highways utilize the best safety technologies available to them.” Said Dave Heller, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association.
“Our son, Cullum, was killed by a speeding truck driver who crashed into his car while it was stopped in an interstate traffic jam. He was heading back to college after spending Thanksgiving with me and Susan” said Steve Owings, Co-founder of Road Safe America. “If automatic emergency braking existed back then and was on that truck, he would still be with us. Now that it does exist in our heaviest trucks, we firmly support Congressman Johnson’s effort to create minimum performance standards for AEB and to require it be used while trucks are in operation.”
“We thank Congressman Johnson for his leadership on this issue and for working closely with industry stakeholders to craft this legislation,” said Bill Sullivan, executive vice president of advocacy at the American Trucking Associations. “Safety remains our industry’s number-one priority, and this bill will increase the deployment of advanced driver safety systems while furthering research for automatic emergency braking – a critical, life-saving technology – across all commercial vehicle classes.”
“Preventing rear end collisions with large trucks will help to save lives and prevent or lessen injuries. Operating a truck equipped with both Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) greatly reduces overall crash risk and would help prevent over 40% of the rear end collisions. Even if the FCW/AEB is unable to prevent the crash from occurring, in most crash scenarios it would slow the speed of the truck at impact lessening the crash forces and injury potential while improving survivability. I strongly support the legislative efforts to require FCW/AEB to be required in all newly purchased class 7 & 8 trucks.” Said Gary Catapano, Co-founder of the Safe Operating Speed Alliance.
“The Safe Roads Act of 2021 will save lives of both car and large truck drivers. A NHTSA field study of these systems in 2016 showed zero rear-end crashes in 3 million miles driven. We endorse this legislation and look forward to the day when all vehicles have forward collision warning systems and automatic emergency braking,” said Michael Leizerman, Co-Founder of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys.
“Trucking Alliance carriers are committed to eliminating all large truck crash fatalities and putting automatic emergency brakes in all new trucks, as this legislation proposes, can help achieve that mission.” Said Lane Kidd, Managing Director of the Trucking Alliance.
Read the bill HERE.