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Lawmakers Agree on Auto Safety Reform, Just Not How Much

Federal lawmakers from both Democratic and Republic parties have proposed auto safety reform bills after GM and Takata each failed to address fatal automobile defects. But it remains to be seen if the legislators will be able to agree on how much reform is needed, or what kind.

The highly fatal defects coverups by automakers GM and Takata have spurred auto safety reform bills from both the right and the left. But the bills disagree on what reform should look like and how much it will cost.

The Democratic auto safety reform bill makes a host of changes to current Auto Safety laws including:

  • Requiring a recall light new vehicles’ dashboards;
  • Requiring collision avoidance technologies in new light vehicles;
  • Requiring new car dealers and rental companies to repair any defects before turning cars over to consumers;
  • Lifting a cap on the fines against automakers for delayed recall notices;
  • Lifting the 10 year limit on manufacturers’ duty to repair defective vehicles;
  • Creating a 5 year federal felony for concealing dangerous safety defects; and
  • Directing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate technology to protect children accidentally left in a hot vehicle.

Bill sponsor, Senator Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, told the Detroit News:

“If a warning light can flash for low oil or low tires as an alert to bring the car for a tune up, it certainly should be technologically feasible to alert a consumer that their ignition switch is going to turn the car off or their air bag is going to explode in their face.”

The bill would also triple the NHTSA’s annual budget, raising it to $30 million. That’s a change that Republicans, and even some Democrats, can’t get behind. According to Reuters:

“NHTSA isn’t following basic best practices and these are problems that can’t be solved by throwing additional resources at the problem,” the Republican Chairman of the Senate commerce committee, John Thune of South Dakota, told NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.

Instead, the GOP auto safety reform bill would clamp down on the administration without providing additional funding. At the same time, it would require dealers and rental companies to warn drivers of outstanding recalls, rather than fixing them, and would lower the truck driving age to 18 from 21.

But that’s not good enough, says Jackie Gillan of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety:

“With the rising death and injury toll on our roads and highways. . . . now is not the time to put the brakes on overdue safety improvements or jeopardize public safety by running in reverse.”

The debate over which auto safety reform is best rages on. But one thing is clear: lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are ready for change and it is only a matter of time before they get it.

David Christensen is an auto accident attorney at Christensen Law in Southfield, Michigan. If you or someone you know has been seriously injured in an auto accident, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.