Promoting Road Safety
Rep. Lewis led an oversight effort and applauded the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee for working to address highway safety standards in the fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill.
As former Member of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Lewis investigated why safety belts are not offered in passenger buses and on school buses. He remembered that in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity (SAFETEA-LU) Act of 2005 Congress demanded that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) develop a standard that bus manufacturers would have to adhere to reduce complete and partial ejections in crashes by October 1, 2009. Lewis was disturbed by how little progress had been made on this rule. In response, Rep. Lewis submitted a reporting request to the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee. This request was accepted by the Subcommittee and included in the fiscal year 2008 appropriations bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday. Consequently, the bill demands that the NHSTA provide an interim report to Congress on the progress of the new safety rule by May 1, 2008.
On March 2, 2007, a chartered bus careened off a closed exit and crashed onto highway I-75 in Atlanta. The tragedy shocked the nation and once again reminded Americans of the importance of highway safety. The passengers, members of the Bluffton University baseball team in Ohio, were traveling to a game in Florida. Five players died in the crash along with the bus driver and his wife, and 29 people were injured. The patients were treated at Grady Memorial Hospital by an outstanding trauma team that included surgeon Dr. Jeffery Salomone. A distraught Dr. Salomone contacted Rep. Lewis’ office. He strongly felt that seat belts could have saved the lives of many of those who died and spared many people from injury. In July, the Congressman engaged in a colloquy on the floor of the House of Representatives with the Chairman of the Subcommittee, John Olver (D-MA) to underscore Congress' intent that the law be upheld. They both reinforced the expectation that NHTSA provide timely status reports and develop this important safety standard well before the 2009 deadline.
The text of the discussion is available online.