The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has announced an investigation into the relationship between vehicle design and safety. The inquiry will assess how design factors influence crash rates and the severity of injuries sustained in collisions.


In recent years, the United States has experienced a significant increase in traffic fatalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 42,915 traffic deaths in 2021, the highest number since 2005.

Vehicle design has been identified as a potential contributing factor to these fatalities. Some experts argue that certain design features, such as large grilles and high front bumpers, can increase the risk of pedestrian and cyclist injuries.

Scope of the Investigation

The GAO investigation will examine a range of vehicle design factors, including:

  • Vehicle size and weight: Heavier and larger vehicles tend to cause more severe injuries in collisions.
  • Front-end design: The shape and height of the front end can affect the likelihood of pedestrian and cyclist injuries.
  • Visibility: Poor visibility from the driver's seat can increase the risk of crashes.
  • Advanced safety features: Features such as automatic emergency braking and lane departure warnings can help prevent crashes.


The GAO investigation aims to:

  • Determine the extent to which vehicle design contributes to traffic fatalities and injuries.
  • Identify specific design factors that increase or decrease safety.
  • Assess the effectiveness of existing regulations and safety standards.
  • Provide recommendations for improving vehicle safety through design changes.


The GAO will use a variety of research methods to conduct its investigation, including:

  • Literature review: Analysis of existing research and data on vehicle design and safety.
  • Statistical analysis: Examination of crash data to identify correlations between vehicle design and crash outcomes.
  • Case studies: In-depth examination of specific crashes to investigate the role of vehicle design.
  • Stakeholder interviews: Consultation with experts in the fields of vehicle safety, design, and engineering.


The GAO is expected to release its report on the investigation by June 30, 2024. The findings and recommendations of the report will be made available to Congress, federal agencies, and the public.


The GAO investigation is significant because it will provide a comprehensive assessment of the impact of vehicle design on safety. The findings and recommendations of the report have the potential to inform policy decisions and lead to improvements in vehicle safety standards and regulations.

Additional Information

  • The GAO investigation is part of a broader effort by the Biden administration to reduce traffic fatalities.
  • The investigation is being conducted in collaboration with the NHTSA and the Federal Highway Administration.
  • For more information on the GAO investigation, please visit the GAO website at https://www.gao.gov/.

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