Fall 2000, p.2

Provocateur: Senate Auto Safety Hearing Expanded

Washington (unw): the scope of senate hearings into the deaths of more than 100 motorists killed and 400 injured because of premature tire wear on their sports utility vehicles were vastly expanded today after shocking safety revelations by federal regulators.

The dramatic turn in the highly publicized hearings occurred when a traffic safety expert from the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) told senators that injury and deaths caused by the worn tires, while truly tragic, was a relatively small problem compared to the 26,100 pedestrians and 3,790 bicyclists killed by automobiles during the same five year period. Senators from both parties appeared stunned by the disclosure.

"Who could have imagined the extent of this national tragedy? We started out taking a hard look at this tire business and stumbled onto something much, much bigger. It's absolutely shameful that so many people, just minding their own business, out walking or bicycling are killed and injured" said Sen. Earl P. Heddinsand, a Midwestern Republican.

Sen. Heddinsand added that in the weeks ahead, the senate would try to determine whether automakers were suppressing the huge number of cyclists and pedestrians being struck. He noted that the senate's initial hearings were spurred by evidence that tire manufacturers and carmakers knew early on that defective tires made Sports Utes more likely to crash at high speeds.

"Given their track record, Heddinsand said, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if some of these same car companies have conspired to keep these important revelations about pedestrian and bicycling safety from the public."

Automakers reacted angrily to the senator's accusation. "With all due respect to the senator, the automobile industry has never tried to keep it a secret that motor vehicles are inherently dangerous to their operators, other motorists and the general public. There is no cover-up here. It is well known that cars kill 40,000 American's a year and injure another 2.5 million. Anyone who turns on the TV news can see a car crash" said Joseph Voiture, of the Automobile Manufacturing Institute.

Mr. Voiture added, "It's not the auto industry's fault if the public and their elected officials choose to ignore the cost of car use. Given the bigger safety picture, well, frankly, we're a bit surprised at all the hoopla surrounding the SUV tire issue. Aren't you?"
-Universal News Wire (UNW)

Fatalities and Injuries due to Motor Vehicle Crashes 1998 Only
[killed]  [injured]:
Motor Vehicle Occupants 35,248 3,062,000
Pedestrians 5220 69,000
Bicyclists 761 53,000
SUV Occupants Killed or Injured because of Premature Tire Wear
(Annual Average 1995-99) 21 80
Summary of Traffic Injuries and Fatalities
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (1998)

Provocateur is an exploration of ideas related to cycling, walking, or the impact of car culture on how we live.  It is intended to provoke indignation, reflection and just plain thought.  Provocateur does not reflect the official position of Transportation Alternatives.