Washington (November 7, 2023) – Ahead of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s (BIL) two-year anniversary, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) today led their colleagues in a letter to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requesting an update on NHTSA’s implementation of critical safety provisions in the law. Senator Markey announced the letter today at a Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee hearing on traffic safety.

In 2021, traffic deaths reached their highest point in 16 years. Last year, on the one-year anniversary of the BIL, the senators sent a similar letter to NHTSA requesting an update on its efforts to enact critical BIL safety provisions, which would reduce the large number of fatal motor vehicle crashes. NHTSA provided a written response to the senators’ letter in December 2022. 

In their letter, the senators wrote, “Last year, nearly 43,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes. While this number represents a slight decrease from 2021 — the deadliest year on the road in sixteen years — bold action is necessary to address this road safety crisis. There is no doubt our nation is at a critical moment for traffic safety, and NHTSA’s task of implementing the much needed IIJA safety provisions will determine whether we continue our progress and leave traffic fatalities in the rear view mirror.”

The senators continued, “We commend NHTSA for its work to curb the disturbing increase in traffic related deaths that culminated in 2021, but now is not the time to turn on cruise control when it comes to road safety.”  

Cosigners in the Senate include Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).

Specifically, the senators requested NHTSA to provide a written update on its progress in implementing ten safety provisions secured in the BIL:

  • Recall Completion (Sec. 24202), which directs NHTSA to publish an annual list of recall completion rates;
  • Motor Vehicle Seatback Safety Standards (Sec. 24204), which directs NHTSA to issue an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking to update Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 207 regarding seatback safety standards;
  • Automatic Shutoff (Sec. 24505), which directs NHTSA to issue a final rule to require manufacturers of vehicles with keyless ignitions to install a device that automatically shuts off the vehicle after it idles for a certain period;
  • Crash Avoidance Technology (Sec. 24208), which directs NHTSA to issue minimum performance standards for crash avoidance technologies and to require all cars be equipped with a forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking system as well as a lane departure warning and lane keeping assist system;
  • Reduction in Driver Distraction (Sec. 24209), which directs NHTSA to conduct research on driver monitoring systems to reduce driver distraction and driver disengagement;
  • Headlamps (Sec. 24212), which directs NHTSA to issue a final rule amending FMVSS 108 regarding performance-based standards for vehicle headlamps;
  • Hood and Bumper Standards (Sec. 24214), which directs NHTSA to request comment on potential updates to hood and bumper standards;
  • Early Warning Reporting (Sec. 24216), which directs NHTSA to conduct a study on existing requirements for manufacturers to report information and data to DOT to help identify potential safety issues;
  • Advanced Impaired Driver Technology (Sec. 24220), which directs NHTSA to issue a final rule requiring new vehicles be equipped with impaired driving prevention technology; and,
  • Child Safety (Sec. 24222), which directs NHTSA to issue a final rule requiring new cars be equipped with a system to alert the driver to check rear seats after the engine is turned off.

Senator Markey has long been an advocate for comprehensive vehicle safety measures. In February, Senators Markey and Blumenthal issued a joint statement applauding the recall of Tesla’s full self-driving beta software. In June 2022, the two lawmakers led their colleagues in the Road to Zero resolution, which expressed a commitment to ending traffic fatalities by 2050 while reducing transportation safety disparities and inequities. During that same month, following a spike of fatal motor vehicle accidents, Senator Markey led 13 colleagues in a letter calling on DOT to address the skyrocketing number of motor vehicle fatalities. In 2021, he and Senator Blumenthal successfully fought to incorporate four auto safety bills in the BIL: the Promoting Auto Recalls Toward Safety (PARTS) Act, the Early Warning Reporting Systems Improvement Act, the Stay Aware For Everyone (SAFE) Act, and the Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act.