An investigation into a multi-vehicle collision in North Las Vegas, Nevada that resulted in nine fatalities has led the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to recommend that all new cars be fitted with intelligent speed assistance technology.
The NTSB issued the recommendations at a public board meeting after determining the crash was caused by excessive speed, drug-impaired driving and Nevada’s failure to deter the driver’s speeding reoffending due to systemic deficiencies, despite numerous speeding citations.
According to the NTSB, intelligent speed assistance (ISA) technology uses a car’s GPS location compared with a database of posted speed limits and onboard cameras to help ensure drivers comply with legal speeds. Passive ISA systems warn drivers when a 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 Jennifer Homendy, NTSB Chair. “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.”
In January 2022, a 2018 Dodge Challenger entered an intersection against a red traffic signal with a vehicle recorded speed of 103 mph (166 km/h), colliding with five other vehicles. Seven occupants of a minivan and the Challenger’s driver and passenger died as a result of the crash. The driver of the Challenger was determined to have been impaired by cocaine and phencyclidine – also known as ‘angel dust’ – and had a history of multiple speeding offenses.
As a result of the investigation, the NTSB is issuing eight new and one reiterated recommendation to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), one new recommendation to states, and one new recommendation to vehicle manufacturers:
To the NHTSA:
- Require ISA systems that, at a minimum, warn a driver a vehicle is speeding
- Educate the public about the benefits of ISA
- Update the guidelines for state highway safety programmes to include identification and tracking of repeat speeding offenders
- Develop countermeasures to reduce repeat speeding offences
- Conduct research and develop guidelines to assist states in implementing ISA interlock programmes for repeat speeding offenders
- Incentivise the adoption of ISA through, for example, the New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP). This recommendation is reiterated from a 2017 recommendation.
To the 50 US states, Puerto Rico and the US District of Columbia:
- Implement programmes to identify repeat speeding offenders and measurably reduce speeding reoffending.
To 17 car manufacturers:
- Install ISA in all new passenger vehicles that, at a minimum, warns drivers when a vehicle is speeding.
To the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS):
- Evaluate the safety outcomes of marketing by vehicle manufacturers that emphasises risky behaviour, including speeding. The evaluation should compare vehicles based on engine size, power and performance, and international approaches to marketing. Make the report publicly available.
Eliminating speeding through the implementation of a comprehensive strategy is a priority for the NTSB. In 2021, speeding-related crashes resulted in 12,330 fatalities – about one-third of all traffic fatalities in the US. In addition to ISA technology, the NTSB has previously called on regulators to revise regulations around speed limit guidance and increase the use of speed cameras. NTSB has also highlighted the need to improve data, laws, and enforcement to address drug-impaired driving.