New Senate Bill Would Help Save Lives
Posted on Apr 1 , 2013
A new bill proposed by two Senate Democrats would stiffen fines on automakers who fail to recall vehicles that pose a safety risk to American drivers. The bill, authored by John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., would also expand the powers of the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) to regulate vehicles. The Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Improvement Act of 2011 would increase the fine automakers pay for failing to recall unsafe vehicles from $16.4 million to $250 million. To put the current fine in perspective, Ford Motor Company reported $2.6 billion in earnings for the first quarter of 2011. Increasing the penalty would send a clear message to automakers about how serious the federal government takes vehicle safety. In addition to increasing fines, the bill would also strengthen the NHTSA's ability to research, create and reinforce vehicle safety standards. The bill would allow the NHTSA to consider automakers' previous fines when formulating additional penalties against companies who fail to recall unsafe vehicles. It would also require the NHTSA to develop safety standards for the new brake override system that the bill proposes. The bill would also address several specific safety issues. The aforementioned brake override system would allow drivers to stop an accelerating vehicle even if the throttle is open and help avoid dangerous motor vehicle accidents. It also would ban the placement of televisions within the driver's view and require data recorders, similar to the black boxes in aircraft, be installed in all cars produced in 2015 and beyond. The data recorder would be the property of the vehicle owner and the data would only be accessible by the owner and through court order. Even more changes include increased protections for whistleblowers and requiring automakers to notify owners of recalls electronically through e-mail or text messages. The bill also requires the Department of Transportation to provide crash data to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the House's Committee on Energy and Commerce every year. Such sweeping legislation, which increases penalties while enhancing vehicle safety, will help keep the nation's roads safer for all Americans. Unfortunately, safety improvements may come too late for some. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you explore your legal options.