Time is running out to pass the pending auto safety bill before lawmakers adjourn for the year. The auto safety bill is one of many “must pass” bills endorsed by the current administration, fearful of a pending Republican majority in the House of Representatives. The auto safety bill is endorsed by Senator Jay Rockefeller, and has received support from both the NHTSA and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group that represents Toyota, GM, Ford Chrysler and eight other manufacturers.
The bill was drafted in the wake of the Toyota unintended acceleration hysteria, and includes provisions to increase penalties for automakers who delay recalls and stricter requirements for automotive safety features. If passed, the proposed bill would:
– Require that every new car contain an event data recorder, by the 2015 model year
– Require stickers on new cars, advising consumers how to file a complaint with the NHTSA
– Increase the maximum fines for non-compliant automakers, from $16.4 million to $200 million
– Require each automaker to have a “designated safety officer” to certify the accuracy of information submitted to NHTSA; non-compliance would result in fines of $5,000 per day, up to $5 million
– Give NHTSA authority to order vehicles deemed “imminent hazards” off the road
– Require automakers to adopt brake override systems and meet standards for pedal placement and push button ignition design
– Require “sound effects” so that blind pedestrians could hear approaching electric vehicles
– Require automakers to notify consumers of any software updates for their vehicles
– Bar NHTSA employees working with safety defects from working for an automaker for 2 years
Once passed, the bill would also increase funding and power of NHTSA. I’m all for added safety, but a few of the proposed revisions make me more than a little nervous. If the NHTSA has the authority to declare a current production car an “imminent hazard”, what’s stopping them from declaring any car without a black box, or enhanced stability control, as an “imminent hazard”? If we design pedals that eliminate confusion for the worst drivers among us, won’t that actually increase stopping distances for those of us proficient behind the wheel? If we don’t enforce the laws currently on the books, why would anyone think that drafting more laws seems like a good idea?