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Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.

Supreme Court of the United States

April 26, 1983, Argued ; June 24, 1983, Decided 1

No. 82-354

Opinion

 [*32]  [***451]  [**2861]    JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The development of the automobile gave Americans unprecedented freedom to travel, but exacted a high price for  [*33]  enhanced mobility. Since 1929, motor vehicles have been the leading cause of accidental deaths and injuries in the United States. In 1982, 46,300 Americans died in motor vehicle accidents and hundreds of thousands more were maimed and injured. 3 [****11]  While a consensus exists that the current loss of life on our highways is unacceptably high, improving safety does not admit to easy solution. In 1966, Congress decided that at least part of the answer lies in improving the design and safety features of the vehicle itself. 4 But much of the technology for building safer cars was undeveloped or untested. Before changes in automobile design could be mandated, the effectiveness of these changes had to be studied, their costs examined, and public acceptance  [**2862]   [****10]  considered. This task called for considerable expertise and Congress responded by enacting the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 (Act), 80 Stat. 718, as amended, 15 U. S. C. § 1381 et seq. (1976 ed. and Supp. V). The Act, created for the purpose of "[reducing] traffic accidents and deaths and injuries to persons resulting from traffic accidents," 15 U. S. C. § 1381, directs the Secretary of Transportation or his delegate to issue motor vehicle safety standards that "shall be practicable, shall meet the need for motor vehicle safety, and shall be stated in objective terms." 15 U. S. C. § 1392(a) (1976 ed., Supp. V). In issuing these standards, the Secretary is  [***452]  directed to consider "relevant available motor vehicle safety data," whether the proposed standard "is reasonable, practicable and appropriate" for the particular type of motor vehicle, and the "extent to which  [*34]  such standards will contribute to carrying out the purposes" of the Act. 15 U. S. C. §§ 1392(f)(1), (3), (4). 5

 The Act also authorizes judicial review under the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U. S. C. § 706, of all "orders establishing, amending, or revoking a Federal motor vehicle safety standard,  [****12]  " 15 U. S. C. § 1392(b). Under this authority, we review today whether NHTSA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in revoking the requirement in Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 that new motor vehicles produced after September 1982 be equipped with passive restraints to protect the safety of the occupants of the vehicle in the event of a collision. Briefly summarized, we hold that the agency failed to present an adequate basis and explanation for rescinding the passive restraint requirement and that the agency must either consider the matter further or adhere to or amend Standard 208 along lines which its analysis supports.

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463 U.S. 29 *; 103 S. Ct. 2856 **; 77 L. Ed. 2d 443 ***; 1983 U.S. LEXIS 84 ****; 51 U.S.L.W. 4953; 13 ELR 20672

MOTOR VEHICLE MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION OF THE UNITED STATES, INC., ET AL. v. STATE FARM MUTUAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE CO. ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT.

Disposition:  220 U. S. App. D. C. 170, 680 F.2d 206, vacated and remanded.

CORE TERMS

belts, passive, seatbelts, automatic, airbags, passive restraint, detachable, rescission, usage, installation, regulation, interlock, technology, rescind, rulemaking, mandatory, benefits, ignition, motor vehicle safety, manufacturers, manual, crash, arbitrary and capricious, Notice, compliance, Modified, revoking, substantial increase, judicial review, motor vehicle

Administrative Law, Agency Rulemaking, Informal Rulemaking, Business & Corporate Compliance, Transportation Law, Commercial Vehicles, Maintenance & Safety, Transportation Law, Private Vehicles, Safety Standards, General Overview, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Arbitrary & Capricious Standard of Review, Environmental Law, Administrative Proceedings & Litigation, Judicial Review, Formal Rulemaking, Business & Corporate Law, Agency Relationships, Termination