Senators introduced their version of broad automobile safety legislation in early May that would set new standards for stopping distance, push-button ignition systems, data recorders and electronic controls. It comes a week after House lawmakers unveiled their own auto safety measure as mentioned above.
This will be Congress’s first serious look at auto safety in a decade, when lawmakers passed reforms after accidents involving Firestone tires on the Ford Explorer. Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, Democrat of West Virginia, who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Senator Mark L. Pryor, Democrat of Arkansas, who heads the Senate subcommittee on consumer protection issues, introduced the Senate measure. Senator Rockefeller, in discussing the legislation, had this to say:
Recent Toyota recalls showed an urgent need to update safety standards to reflect modern vehicle technology and give auto safety regulators the stronger tools and resources they need to protect the public. We can do better by the American people — and we will with this bill.
Both the House and Senate bills are titled the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010. The Senate bill has provisions similar to the version proposed by Rep. Waxman. The Senate bill would require automobiles to be able to stop within a certain distance, even with an open throttle, a priority with safety advocates for many years. One way to meet the standard would be for carmakers to install brake override systems. Interestingly, neither bill requires the systems. The Senate bill does require NHTSA to issue a rule requiring a minimum distance between accelerator and brake pedals and the vehicle floor. It requires a standard governing the safety of electronic vehicle controls. Also, NHTSA would establish standards on keyless ignition systems, which have become more popular in a number of automobiles. The rule would be aimed at standardizing the steps a driver would take to bring a vehicle under control in an emergency.
Automakers would be required under the legislation to install event data recorders, also called “black boxes,” which record information shortly before and after a crash. The provision would require the devices to record at least 60 seconds of data before and 15 seconds after a crash in which the air bag deploys. Many current devices, which are not required, record for a shorter period. The bill would increase the civil penalty on automakers to $25,000 a vehicle, from $5,000, and remove the overall cap on civil penalties for automakers that intentionally fail to report vehicle safety defects or intentionally provide misleading information. The House bill doesn’t contain an amount.
Currently, civil fines are capped at $16.4 million, which was what Toyota agreed to pay recently. In addition, the bill would provide more money for vehicle safety investigations by NHTSA. Senator Rockefeller made this pledge to the America people:
We are committed to making sure NHTSA finally has the full authority and resources it needs to save lives and prevent injuries.
That’s great news for consumers! Now I just hope members of the House and Senate will do two things: be able to resist the powerful lobbyists, and pass a good bill.
Source: New York Times
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