Safety advocates are urging lawmakers to include new automobile safety requirements in a long overdue highway bill.
Among the issues they want addressed are ways to reduce deaths from accidents when vehicles roll over and when people are thrown from cars. They also are pressing for the government to require that car makers build stronger roofs and offer better protection in side-impact crashes.
More than 42,000 people are killed each year in highway accidents.
The Senate’s version of the highway bill include the measures but the House’s did not. Congressional negotiators are working on a compromise.
“Lawmakers have a golden opportunity and they should not let this chance pass them by,” said Joan Claybrook, the president of watchdog group Public Citizen.
The House and Senate generally have agreed to spend about $286 billion through 2009 on highway projects, mass transit and safety programs.
That would compare with the $218 billion in the last six-year plan, which has been extended several times since the law expired in September 2003. One of the sticking points has involved how to divide federal highway money among the states.
Safety groups and some lawmakers are concerned that programs to deal with rollover crashes, which killed more than 10,000 people annually, and other safety issues could become a casualty.
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