Public Comment: Scenario 1

A national transportation safety investigative board holds four days of hearings on air bag safety. The board, which reports both to the Congress and to the executive branch, is concerned about the unanticipated high rates of injury from air bag deployment. The witness list for the hearings includes representatives of auto manufacturers, insurance companies, safety institutes, auto safety advocacy groups, airbag manufacturers, and auto parts suppliers. The purpose of the hearings is to enable the board to make recommendations for improving airbag safety.

Based on the board’s ensuing recommendations as well as its own investigations, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (the federal agency responsible for automotive safety regulation) announces that it intends to modify the current standard for air bags. The agency announces its proposed modification in the Federal Register and calls for public comment.

In response, two experts in automotive safety jointly write a technical comment. They point out shortcomings in the agency’s proposed modification, and they propose an alternative.

Later, in the preamble to their next published notice on air bag safety, the agency summarizes all comments received. It says how the comments influenced their plans to modify the standard.

Here is an extract from that preamble: “In response to the public comments on our 1998 proposal and to other new information obtained since issuing the proposal, we are issuing a supplemental proposal that updates and refines the amendments under consideration.” In an appendix, the agency stated its reasons for rejecting the experts’ proposed alternative.

Example 1: Read the experts' comment. This written comment is a technical analysis written by professionals in the field of automotive safety and submitted in the rule-making process described in the scenario.