When New York State Senator Brad Hoylman introduced a bill in August that would mandate the use of speed governors and other advanced safety systems in vehicles registered in the state, some questioned whether New York actually had jurisdiction over the use of car safety technology. An analysis published by Streetsblog last week carefully examined that question, finding evidence that the state may in fact be able to make such mandates.
First, the report notes that Hoylman’s office believes the proposed law is feasible. As it told Streetsblog, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “does not currently mandate those safety technologies on new cars,” which gives states leeway to enact their own rules. Another legal expert noted that “there are whole areas of vehicle safety and equipment that the federal government simply doesn’t regulate,” which similarly leaves it to state policymakers to step in. A researcher at Harvard pushed back on that, however, pointing out that while some states do regulate “aftermarket vehicle-design elements like lifts and tinted windows,” he is not aware of any such regulations that compel car owners to take a given action—like install a speed governor—rather than simply limiting what they are allowed to do.
In a statement to Streetsblog, the NHTSA said it doesn’t make comments on pending legislation, while stressing its belief that “the increase and inclusion of safety technologies in new motor vehicles can help reduce the number of pedestrian involved crashes, fatalities and injuries.” It noted that it recently began developing a rule that it hopes will eventually standardize the use of automatic emergency braking, one of the safety technologies included in the New York legislation. The Harvard researcher, for his part, predicted that the NHTSA might challenge Hoylman’s law should it gain “traction,” and suggested that the agency’s silence on it might indicate a lack of confidence it will progress.
More information on the debate over whether New York can mandate the use of car safety technologies like speed governors and automatic emergency braking is available via Streetsblog.