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Transportation

Why New York City’s Car Safety Pilot Is a Big Deal

A new program that will test speed-limiting devices on city vehicles could pave the way for wider adoption of a lifesaving technology.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams gives a thumbs-up for the city’s latest effort to improve traffic safety — installing devices that prevent city vehicles from speeding. 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams gives a thumbs-up for the city’s latest effort to improve traffic safety — installing devices that prevent city vehicles from speeding. 

Photograph: NYC Mayor’s Office

As US cities and states grapple with surging traffic deaths and underperforming Vision Zero programs, their leaders face a challenge. Although they can take steps like implementing road diets or (if they’re fortunate) installing automatic safety cameras, there is one risk factor that lies beyond their reach: car design.

Ever since the establishment of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in 1967, the federal government alone has wielded the power to regulate how cars and trucks are built. Your local and state leaders might want to require safety features like hoods that can cushion a pedestrian in a crash or automatic emergency braking systems that can prevent collisions entirely. If so, too bad — the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) doesn’t mandate either feature on new cars, and its word is the law.