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A report in the Los Angeles Times suggests a comprehensive auto safety bill may not get a vote in the US Senate. The bill, prompted by the Toyota sudden acceleration recalls, would be the most comprehensive overhaul of motor vehicle safety rules in at least a decade.

Key provisions of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act include:

  • Safety and brake overrides when a vehicle’s engine or throttle surges out of control
  • Installation of event data recorders (EDRs or "black boxes") to record information about a collision
  • New standards for vehicle electronics to standardize the means of bringing a vehicle under control in an emergency
  • Elimination of the cap on penalties assessed against car makers who fail to promptly report a recall
  • NHTSA would receive additional funding and authority to order an immediate recall if it finds an "imminent hazard of death or serious injury"
  • Whistle blower protections and promotes reporting of vehicle defects
  • Fines up to $250 million to auto executives who knowingly provide false information to federal regulators
  • Funding for the new safety measures through a $9 per vehicle fee

According to safety advocate Ralph Nader, the legislation "is hanging on by a thread. It is a once-in-20-year opportunity. A bill like this is not going to come by again."

According to the Los Angele Times report, the main obstacle is Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Coburn has indicated that he will put a hold on the Senate bill if Democrats attempt to bring it to a vote, which has left the bill adrift.

Why would anyone be against safer vehicles. According to the report, even auto makers are not vigorously fighting this bill. In fact, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has praised the bill, particularly after certain original deadlines were softened to make them easier for manufacturers to meet.

Is $9.00 per vehicle really too much to pay for better protection and safety in vehicles? The fee amounts to 0.03% (0.0003) on a $30,000 new car. In a world where dealer-offered "rust protection" or "upholstery protection" costs hundreds of dollars, the $9.00 fee seems like a small price to pay for critical safety improvements.

[More on the Auto Safety Bill]

(c) Copyright 2010 Brett A. Emison

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