Newswires: Congresswoman Norton leads bipartisan group seeking to protect women drivers

Congresswoman Eleanor Norton

By Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has joined two of her House of Representatives colleagues in filing bipartisan legislation to improve the federal government’s vehicle safety testing practices, specifically those involving the use of crash test dummies. The Furthering Advanced and Inclusive Research for Crash Tests Act would order a comprehensive Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of current federal vehicle safety tests and how those tests impact the safety of all drivers and passengers. Co-authored by Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D-FL), the measure requires a GAO evaluation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) failure to use crash test dummies that represent the driving public, especially women, while assessing vehicle safety through its 5-star safety rating program. Congresswoman Norton provided statistics to show that current tests fail to use crash test dummies representing women, especially in the driver’s seat, even though research suggests that women have a higher likelihood of being killed or significantly injured in a car crash. “Alarmingly, 8,500 women were killed in car crashes in the U.S. in 2018, with 61 percent of the women being in the driver’s seat,” the Congresswoman noted. The total number of traffic crashes in the District of Columbia have steadily been on the rise since 2013 with the highest number of crashes occurring in 2016 at 26,525, after which the total number of crashes remained relatively steady, according to the most recent D.C. Traffic Safety Report. The bipartisan legislation would also require the GAO to compare NHTSA’s practices to other safety rating programs, such as in Europe, and evaluate options for strengthening the agency’s vehicle safety testing to reduce gender-based disparities in car crash outcomes. The bill requires NHTSA to submit an interim report to Congress explaining what new advanced crash test dummies it is currently studying for potential use in its 5-star safety rating program. In the Senate, companion legislation has already been filed by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), who serves as Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, and Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE). The Peters-Fischer legislation has been included as part of the Senate Commerce Surface Transportation Reauthorization bill.“When a vehicle has met or exceeded national safety standards- consumers should have every confidence the product has truly earned a safety seal of approval of the U.S. government,” Congressman Bilirakis wrote in a statement. “I was startled to learn of allegations related to the gender inequality of auto safety tests. I think of my wife, my mother, my sister-in-law—and all the women in my life who have made what they believed to be informed purchases for their family automobiles.” Congressman Bilirakis continued: “I guarantee you none of them are aware of any gender disparity in the testing of the cars they purchase. The idea that physiological differences between men and women can impact crash safety is pretty intuitive. “It seems logical to me that the required safety tests should reflect current demographic information regarding gender driving patterns: meaning that the number of female drivers and the vehicles they want to drive should be used to determine how frequently female crash dummies are used in safety tests. This important legislation will modernize the tests being used and improve safety for all drivers.” The NHTSA is failing in its mission, and it tragically costs thousands of lives every year, Congresswoman Castor added.“Women are almost 75 percent more likely than men to die or receive a serious injury when they are involved in an automobile crash, and it’s time we modernize tests and save lives,” she continued. “Millions of American women get behind the wheel of a car every day, and we must swiftly act to correct the inequalities in current tests and improve standards, so that female drivers are as safe as their male counterparts. This bill is a good first step to ensuring women are safe in cars and holding NHTSA accountable.” Congresswoman Norton asserted that women had achieved equality on the road when it comes to driving.Still, when it comes to safety testing to keep them safe while driving, they are nowhere near achieving equality. “Crash test standards are so antiquated that we must update these standards now, especially as more people return to their daily commute in the next few months,” Congresswoman Norton declared.

Newswire: All 12 Federal Appropriations Committees adopt Norton’s Minority Ad Spending Measure

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton


Beginning later this year when federal agencies submit proposed budgets to one or more of the 12 Appropriations Committees, those requests now must include a line item detailing what they are spending with minority-owned businesses, which include black-, women- and other minority-owned media outlets.
D.C. Democratic Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton told NNPA Newswire on July 26, that each of the 12 federal Appropriations Committees have adopted language from her Government Advertising Equity Accountability Act [HR 2576], which mandates all agencies include in their annual budget request to Congress the amount of money they spend to advertise in minority-owned media outlets.
She said today’s developments mean that her measure doesn’t require further action. “This is exactly what we wanted. This is it, we got it,” Norton said.
“We got all 12 of the Appropriations Committees to include the language and, in October, when the bills take effect, it will be the law and these agencies will have to comply,” she said.
Norton asked for an update on a 2007 GAO report that found, of the $4.3 billion available for advertising contracts, five agencies: the Department of Defense, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Interior, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, spent only five percent with minority-owned businesses.
A subsequent 2018 report revealed that, of the approximately $5 billion government agencies spent on advertising contracts, just $50 million went to minority-owned businesses and even considerably less to minority-owned newspaper and media companies owned by African Americans.
“This is important not just for the publications but because those publications reach minorities and women in a way that mainstream publications may not,” Norton said.
“We did this because the federal government is the largest advertiser in the United States and this gives it a special obligation to make sure that it is using advertising dollars fairly and to reach all people in the United States,” said Norton, who has served in the U.S. House since 1991.
At the request of officials from the National Newspaper Publishers Association (Black Press of America) and the National Association of Hispanic Publications, Norton ordered a Government Accountability Office (GAO) examination on the spending on advertising contracts with minority-owned businesses.
Norton began a fight to change that.
She gathered support from other members of Congress and then, in May 2019, she crafted H.R. 2576 and continued to work behind the scenes to find more immediate solutions.
During budget hearings on Capitol Hill, Norton spearheaded a bipartisan effort for the 12 Appropriations Committees to place the language in their spending bills.
President Trump also urged Republicans to pass the budget bills – though, he had not specifically addressed Norton’s measure. By Thursday, 11 of the 12 committees had agreed to include the language with the Department of the Interior being the lone holdout. However, that changed on July 26, when she secured the commitment of the Department of the Interior.
Despite her diligent work, Norton credited minority-owned media with the success of the legislation. “I didn’t just come up with this out of the blue, I credit Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr. [president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association], the Black Press of America, and the National Association of Hispanic Publications because they came to see me about this a couple of years ago,” Norton said.
“They came to Congress to seek redress and I met with them, and then, having heard about what looked like a discrepancy, I needed to see if I could document that. So, I asked for the GAO report,” she said.
Although the legislation does not mandate federal agencies to spend specific dollar amounts with minority-owned media companies, Norton said she believes publishers and owners of those publications ultimately will be pleased.
“Of course, I think they will start advertising because this is a big encouragement to do so,” Norton said. “These are federal agencies under the jurisdiction of the appropriations committees, and they have to come before these committees each year to get their money. When they report back on how many dollars they spent with minority-owned and women-owned publications, they will understand that they will have to do just that and whatever they’ve done before they’ll have to strive to do even better,” Norton said.
“Once again the Black Press of America salutes the effective leadership of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton,” said Chavis. “Her diligence and commitment to diversity, inclusion and economic equity with respect to the Black Press and other minority-owned media across the United States is noteworthy and much appreciated”