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Report: Fed agency needs to up its game re pedestrian safety

Officials from a key federal government office who are focused on roadway safety likely have a few choice synonyms to describe the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

And they almost certainly don’t include the terms proactive or farsighted.

In fact, descriptors like tunnel vision, lack of focus and inertia would seem to far more aptly underscore what is clearly the NHTSA’s deficient performance in addressing pedestrian safety.

A recent report by the federal Government Accountability Office points a stern finger at the NHTSA for its notable lack of critical follow through on a plan to identify and remedy pedestrian safety concerns. The GAO stresses myriad problems, with the following three issues ranking as paramount.

First, the administration has essentially stalled out on a proposal to craft safety tests for new vehicles relevant to pedestrian safety. Critics insist that a 2015 pilot program be augmented by a specific plan that should include testing.

Second, the NHTSA needs to communicate better with automakers, which are presently uncertain about new vehicle development absent guidance concerning pedestrian-targeted testing.

And third, the administration needs to document a process for making key decisions, given a material lack of clarity among the public concerning what – if anything – the government is doing about pedestrian safety.

NHTSA action is flatly important. Reportedly, about 6,300 pedestrians died in 2018 in accidents involving motor vehicles. That figure is duly alarming, of course, and spells a marked uptick in fatality numbers relevant to preceding years.