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Bilirakis, Castor, and Holmes Norton File Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Female Drivers

June 30, 2021
Press Release

Bilirakis, Castor, and Holmes Norton File Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Female Drivers

Washington, D.C.:  Earlier today Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Kathy Castor (D-FL), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) filed bipartisan legislation to improve the federal government’s vehicle safety testing practices, specifically those involving the use of crash test dummies. The Furthering Advanced and Inclusive Research for Crash Tests Act (FAIR Crash Tests Act), would order a comprehensive Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of current federal vehicle safety tests and how those tests impact the safety of all drivers and passengers.  It also requires a GAO evaluation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s failure to use crash test dummies that represent the driving public, especially women, while assessing vehicle safety through its 5-star safety rating program. Current tests fail to use crash test dummies that are representative of women, especially in the driver’s seat, even though research suggests that women have a higher likelihood of being killed or significantly injured in a car crash.  Alarmingly, 8,500 women were killed in car crashes in the U.S. in 2018, with 61 percent of the women being in the driver’s seat.

When a vehicle has met or exceeded national safety standards- consumers should have every confidence the product has truly earned a safety seal of approval of the U.S. government.  I was startled to learn of allegations related to the gender inequality of auto safety tests.  I think of my wife, my mother, my sister-in law—and all the women in my life who have made what they believed to be informed purchases for their family automobiles.  I guarantee you none of them are aware of any gender disparity in the testing of the cars they purchase,” said Congressman Gus Bilirakis.  “The idea that physiological differences between men and women can impact crash safety is pretty intuitive.  It seems logical to me that the required safety tests should reflect current demographic information regarding gender driving patterns:  meaning that the number of female drivers and the vehicles they want to drive should be used to determine how frequently female crash dummies are used in safety tests. This important legislation will modernize the tests being used and improve safety for all drivers.”

 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is failing in its mission, and it’s tragically costing thousands of lives every year. Women are almost 75 percent more likely than men to die or receive a serious injury when they are involved in an automobile-crash, and it’s time we modernize tests and save lives. Millions of American women get behind the wheel of a car every day, and we must swiftly act to correct the inequalities in current tests and improve standards so that female drivers as safe as their male counterparts. This bill is a good first step to ensuring women are safe in cars and holding NHTSA accountable," said Representative Castor. 

 

“Women have achieved equality on the road when it comes to driving, but when it comes to safety testing to keep them safe while driving, they are nowhere near to achieving equality,” Representative Norton said. “Crash test standards are so antiquated that we must update these standards now, especially as more people return to their daily commute in the next few months.”

 

The bipartisan legislation would also require the GAO to compare NHTSA’s practices to other safety rating programs, such as in Europe, and to evaluate options for strengthening the agency’s vehicle safety testing to reduce gender-based disparities in car crash outcomes. Additionally, the bill would require NHTSA to submit an interim report to Congress explaining what new advanced crash test dummies it is currently studying for potential use in its 5-star safety rating program.  Companion legislation has already been filed in the Senate by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), who serves as Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE).  The Peters-Fischer legislation has been included as part of the Senate Commerce Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill.