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Floor Colloquy between Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Chairman John Olver (D-MA) on Occupant Vehicle Ejection Safety Standards

H.R. 3074, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Act, 2008 Floor Colloquy between Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Chairman John Olver (D-MA) on Occupant Vehicle Ejection Safety Standards

Mr. LEWIS of Georgia. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to engage in a colloquy with the chairman of the subcommittee. The chairman has been a long-time advocate in improving safety standards in our Nation's transportation system. I appreciate his willingness to include report language regarding occupant ejection and motor coach and school bus standards in this legislation.

In March, a horrific accident occurred in my district when a bus carrying the Bluffton University men's baseball team crashed on Interstate 75 in Atlanta, Georgia, en route to a tournament in Florida. Six people were killed and 29 others were injured.

That week, Dr. Jeffrey Solomone from Grady Hospital's trauma center, where most of the victims were treated in Atlanta, called my office outraged. He knew that their deaths could have been prevented if they were simply wearing seat belts. Imagine working to save young lives when you knew their injuries were caused not from impact but from being thrown from the vehicle.

Last year, two teenage girls were killed in a similar accident in Beaumont, Texas. Advocates and family members accurately highlighted that the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration develop a safety standard in 1999.

In 2005, the SAFETEA-LU legislation reiterated this request and called for a national standard to be developed no later than October 1, 2009. I applaud the committee for demanding a status report on these standards. Simply said, it should not take 10 years to figure out a way to save lives. How much longer must we wait until a simple regulation is developed?

Mr. OLVER. Mr. Chairman, I want to assure the gentleman from Georgia that this and other important safety standards are the utmost priority of the committee, as they have been all of the years I have served on, earlier, the Transportation Subcommittee and now the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee.

Occupant ejection prevention is critical to saving lives. Motor coach and school bus accidents are not necessarily commonplace, but when these tragedies occur, they shake the Nation to its core. The committee highlighted that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for young Americans, and strong safety standards are the cornerstone to protecting American lives.

I appreciate the gentleman's attention to this issue, and I remain committed, as will the committee, to ensuring that NHTSA meets this and subsequent deadlines to develop national standards that save lives in an expeditious manner.

Mr. LEWIS of Georgia. I look forward to continuing to work with the gentleman to make sure that we do not have to wait until the last possible moment in 2009 for changes to be made.

I want to thank the gentleman from Massachusetts and his staff for working so hard on this legislation and making a commitment to safety and security on America's roads.

Mr. OLVER. I would just comment it should be possible to get out this kind of regulation earlier than October 1, 2009. We will see what we can do about that.

Mr. LEWIS of Georgia. I thank the gentleman.