A National Transportation Safety Board investigation into a 2022 fatal crash in North Las Vegas, Nevada, that resulted in nine fatalities has given the board an excuse to recommend a new requirement for intelligent speed assistance technology in all new cars.
The board issued the recommendations earlier this month at a public meeting after determining the crash was caused by high speed, drug-impaired driving, and Nevada’s failure to deter one driver’s speeding recidivism due to systemic deficiencies, despite numerous speeding citations.
Intelligent speed assistance technology, or ISA, uses a car’s GPS location compared with a database of posted speed limits and its onboard cameras to either issue a warning to drivers or to throttle back speed.
Passive ISA systems warn a driver when the vehicle exceeds the speed limit through visual, sound, or haptic alerts, and the driver is responsible for slowing the car.
Active systems include mechanisms that make it more difficult, but not impossible, to increase the speed of a vehicle above the posted speed limit and those that electronically limit the speed of the vehicle to fully prevent drivers from exceeding the speed limit.
“This crash is the latest in a long line of tragedies we’ve investigated where speeding and impairment led to catastrophe, but it doesn’t have to be this way,” said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy. “We know the key to saving lives is redundancy, which can protect all of us from human error that occurs on our roads. What we lack is the collective will to act on NTSB safety recommendations.”
Homendy is a Democrat who served more than 14 years as Democratic staff director for the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the U.S. House of Representatives. She worked for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, AFL-CIO, and American Iron and Steel Institute.
Eliminating speeding through the use of federally mandated speed limiters built into cars is a priority for the NTSB, which seeks to “Develop performance standards for advanced speed-limiting technology, such as variable speed limiters and intelligent speed adaptation devices, for heavy vehicles, including trucks, buses, and motorcoaches. Then require that all newly manufactured heavy vehicles be equipped with such devices.”
In 2021, speeding-related crashes resulted in 12,330 fatalities—about one-third of all traffic fatalities in the United States, the NTSB said.
However, according to the latest figures from AAA, 245 million drivers made a total of 229 billion driving trips, spent 91 billion hours driving, and drove 2.92 trillion miles in 2021. That means out of every 91 million hours of driving, there are 12,330 fatalities, or one fatality for every 7.3 million hours of driving.
According to the National Safety Council, the rates of fatal car accidents has greatly improved over the decades. This is due, in part, to the numerous safety features now required in cars, such as seatbelts, air bags, and backup cameras, which were mandated in 2018.