The U.S. Senate passed a bill that will triple the maximum fines automakers pay for violations of motor-vehicle safety laws. The new $105 million cap was part of a six-year surface transportation policy bill. The measure also prohibits the rental of cars with unrepaired safety defects and proposes that dealers run a recall check when customers come in for routine service. The higher limit on fines for auto companies fell short of what safety groups and the Obama administration had sought.
The Transportation Department had suggested maximum $300 million fines as a greater deterrent. Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, had proposed lifting the cap on fines altogether. The Senate approved the measure without considering amendments that had been expected to improve auto safety. Democrats were critical of the bill, saying the measure missed an opportunity for reforms needed in response to record-breaking numbers of recalls.
The Senate had previously rejected attempts to add criminal penalties for auto executives who knowingly hid information about safety defects. Joan Claybrook, a longtime Washington consumer advocate who headed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the 1970s, had this to say:
Today the Senate turned its back on the public and ran into the arms of special interests. There should be no victory laps or self-congratulations for passing such a horrific bill.
The final vote on the surface transportation bill was 65-34. The measure still must be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by the president before it would become law. Hopefully, that will happen, but don’t hold your breath.
Source: Claims Journal
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