Congress Considers Bill to Enforce Auto Safety

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In the wake of federal congressional hearings on recalls by GM, Toyota, and Takata for safety defects, Representative Jan Schakowsky from Illinois has proposed a bill that would increase funding to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and would pressure manufacturers to improve auto safety.

Schakowsky’s bill is not a new idea. A similar bill was proposed in 2010 after Toyota Motor Corp. recalled millions of vehicles. The recall created a lot of criticism for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which was said not to have done enough to prevent accidents. But despite the outcry, the legislation never got a vote.

Fast forward to 2014, when the NHTSA again faced criticism and public hearings before Congress for its role in General Motor Co.’s recall of 2.6 million vehicles. The defect is linked to at least 57 deaths. It appeared that NHTSA did not have enough funding or authority to protect auto safety by forcing GM into action.

That’s what Schakowsky’s bill would seek to remedy. It would create a federal law requiring auto dealers to protect auto safety by performing recall repairs before selling used cars and disclosing any recalls to potential buyers. Recall repairs would have to be free to the consumer, no matter how long he or she had owned the vehicle (the current limit is for purchases up to 10 years prior to recall).

It would also authorize the NHTSA to immediately get dangerous vehicles off the road if they had been shown to “substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death if not remedied immediately.”

The bill would put pressure on manufacturers to improve auto safety in new cars, creating new standards for passenger vehicles designed to reduce pedestrian and bicycle accidents. It would also create new crash worthiness standards to improve auto safety for back-seat passengers.

Commentators are skeptical whether this auto safety bill will ever become law. It is currently under review by the House Energy and Commerce Committee chaired by Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, Michigan, but it has yet to be voted on. Despite the congressional outrage at companies like GM and Toyota when their cars fail to meet expectations, it seems auto safety is simply not a priority for federal lawmakers.

But you can help. By emailing or calling your federal representative, you can help draw attention to the importance of auto safety and the need to strengthen the NHTSA’s ability to respond to dangerous manufacturing defects and prevent them from becoming fatal.

David Christensen is an auto accident lawyer at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. He and his team represent the victims of car crashes and their families to make sure their medical expenses and repair costs are covered so they can focus on recovering. If you or someone you know has been in an accident because of a car defect, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.