Update: November 10, 2010

important roles in (1) providing support for field tests (known to DOT as Field Operational Tests, in (2) monitoring field data to help substantiate benefit analyses used to prioritize resources, and (3S) implementing regulations that would require the adoption of safety systems that were proved to be effective. With adequate field data, DOT should refine and more rigorously specify and prioritize goals for accident avoidance technologies.
7-3 SAFETY FINDING: In spite of extensive improvements in light vehicle crashworthiness made during the past decade, the number of fatalities caused by heavy-duty truck accidents has remained nearly constant, at approximately 5,000 per year, although the fatality rate has decreased showing that progress is being made. In most cases, the occupant(s) of the light vehicle is the one fatally injured. It appears that to make significant safety progress, it will be necessary to reduce the number of accidents substantially by implementing accident avoidance technologies as well as methods for improving driver behavior. In light of this need, DOT future plans have been directed largely at accident avoidance technologies.
RECOMMENDATION: The committee agrees with the apparent decision by DOT to put more emphasis on accident avoidance technologies than on additional crashworthiness research. In additional, DOT should continue to focus on driver education and law enforcement. Furthermore, DOE and DOT should work collaboratively, as there often are trade-offs between vehicle safety and fuel economy, for example, as new fuel efficient systems emerge. There are obvious tradeoffs between safety and fuel economy in many areas of research such as tire mechanics, braking (especially with respect to hybrid vehicles). Of course, any additional work in aerodynamics or weight reduction might alter the vehicle configuration and therefore its crashworthiness. Moreover, as new fuel efficient systems emerge, such as hybrid electric systems, and vehicles using alternate fuels including, for example, hydrogen, it will be imperative that DOE and DOT work closely to ensure continued progress toward more fuel efficient vehicles but without compromising highway safety.
The Partnership concurs with this recommendation.

Opening up lines of communication between DOE and DOT has been one of the very positive outcomes of the program. It provides a great opportunity to exchange information such that the various areas within the program can be discussed and coordination among DOT and DOE. DOE and DOT will continue to share information and coordinate on various topics such as hydrogen, hybrid electrics, and additional alternative fuels, as they relate to tradeoffs between safety and fuel economy.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement