Experts Claim the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) Saves Lives and Money

Date Published: 
Fri, 07/01/1994

Clarence Ditlow and Joan Claybrook. Testimony before Congress. July 1994.

"Criticism Run Amok" claims that soon-to-be Justice Stephen Breyer had been unjustly critical of the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA). The authors argue that the NHTSA has “saved hundreds of thousands of lives and untold billions of dollars”.

They show that in 1966, the year the law passed, 53,000 people were killed (a fatality rate of 5.70 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) and 1.9 million injured in car accidents. If that fatality rate persisted, over 165,000 people would have died in 1993. Instead the fatality rate dropped to 1.8, and only 39,800 people were killed in car accidents.   The head restraint regulation alone was found to prevent 64,000 injuries a year, with a savings of about $2,150 per injury or, in total, $135 million annually. The airbag standards NHTSA issued and then spent years implementing (due to heavy and sustained industry opposition) reduced occupant deaths by 28 to 29 percent, saving 9,000-12,000 lives a year and preventing 250,000 injuries.

Ditlow and Claybrook also defend CAFE standards in passing,  claiming that "we save nearly 3 million barrels per day of petrolem due to improvements in fuel economy" and that "Passenger car fuel economy has more than doubled" since the standards were enacted.