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CU Testimony on the “Reauthorization of NHTSA

Members of the Subcommittee, Good Morning, my name is David Pittle, I am Senior Vice-President for Technical Policy at Consumers Union (CU), the publisher of Consumer Reports. With me this morning is Sally Greenberg, CU’s Senior Product Safety Counsel here in Washington. Consumers Union greatly appreciates the opportunity to be with you here this morning to express our views on the reauthorization of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Consumer Reports has been testing and rating cars since 1936, the year our magazine was first published. We have always made safety a top priority in our product ratings, and the safety of automobiles is no exception. CU has a long history of working with NHTSA and Congress to press for improvements in automobile safety to identify safety priorities and insure that NHTSA is fulfilling its mandate.
Each year, CU conducts comprehensive tests of some 40 to 50 new vehicles that we buy anonymously at retail, and we provide consumers with ratings about performance, routine handling, fuel efficiency, reliability, comfort, braking, emergency handling, and safety features of these vehicles. CU also tests tires each year for their performance in braking, handling, cornering, and traction characteristics on dry, wet, snow-covered, and ice-covered surfaces. Each month, an estimated 17 million consumers read and consider our published test reports, product ratings, and buying advice as they ponder their choices.
The topic before the Subcommittee this morning is what form the NHTSA reauthorization legislation will ultimately take. The Senate bill, S. 1072, Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 (SAFETEA), includes a number of important provisions that we think will bring needed improvements in the way cars are designed, and save lives in a cost-effective manner. This legislation will give NHTSA the kind of guidance we believe it needs to proceed with rulemaking in these areas. We have worked actively with Senators on both sides of the aisle to insure that this is a balanced bill that makes the most of this opportunity to reauthorize NHTSA for the next six years. We urge the members of the Subcommittee to support this proposal.
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