Vehicle Safety Bill Moves Toward Senate Vote
By Chris Haak
In response to the Toyota recall crisis and the subsequent furor over when vehicles should be recalled, how large fines for deliberate noncompliance should be, a bill is working its way through the Senate Commerce Committee that would bolster new vehicle safety regulations. If the amendments proposed by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to the bill passes committee as expected, the bill will be put to a vote on the Senate floor shortly thereafter.
The bill as proposed is less strict than the original proposals that had been floating about. Credit a mix of common sense and intense auto industry lobbying for moderating many of the original bill’s provisions, including stopping-distance performance requirements with the mandatory brake override (these have been eliminated) and a 75-second event data recording requirement (this has been dramatically reduced).
As originally drafted, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010 bill called for:
- A stopping-distance requirement, even with an open throttle
- Minimum distance requirements between the brake and accelerator pedals
- A standard requirements on keyless ignition systems
- A standard that governs electronic vehicle controls
- Event data recorders (“black boxes”) that record 60 seconds before a crash and 15 seconds after a crash. The recorder must also be waterproof and fireproof.
- Civil penalties would increase from $5,000 per vehicle to $25,000 per vehicle.
The amendment specifically changes:
- Brake override systems are required, but without a stopping-distance requirement
- Black boxes no longer have to record 75 seconds and no longer have to be water resistant, which would have added considerable cost to the price of a new vehicle
- The cap on aggregate fines would increase from $16.4 million to $300 million
If the measure passes the Senate, there are a few provisions in the House version of the legislation (also called the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010) that would have to be reconciled. The House version calls for an aggregate cap of $200 million, rather than $300 million. The House bill calls for a $9 per vehicle fee to fund the NHTSA, which the Senate bill does not include.
The act is expected to eventually be passed by this fall.