In recent months, GM has recalled hundreds of thousands of vehicles in response to a myriad of problems, including issues with an ignition switch that may have caused at least a dozen car accident fatalities. The car company allegedly knew about the problems long before recalling the cars but failed to act to fix the problem or take the cars off the roads. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that something like this has happened and it likely will not be the last time. When a vehicle defect results in a collision, victims need to consult a personal injury lawyer for help taking legal action.
In response to the wave of recalls and consumer concerns about safety issues, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller has introduced a Senate Bill (SB 2559) that would expand funding to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and that would give the agency more authority.
Senator Rockefeller is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. According to news sources, the bill he introduced would result in significant changes including not just giving the NHTSA more power but also requiring more oversight of the agency.
If the bill passed, the NHTSA would be required to make consumer complaints public and would need to publicize the results of consumer satisfaction campaigns. The NHTSA would become responsible for alerting the public to consumer complaints; for publishing technical service bulletins; for providing field reports to the public; for alerting people to recalls and warranty claims; and for reporting to the public on “other activity involving the repair or replacement of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment.”
The NHTSA would also become responsible for generating certain new reports on a regular basis and presenting the information to Congress. For example, the secretary of transportation would be required to provide regular updates on the Council for Vehicle Electronics, Vehicle Software and Emerging Technologies. Additionally, the NHTSA would need to do a report on early warning data, providing details on the safety investigations the agency opens, the duration of each investigation and what percentage of the investigations identified safety problems or resulted in a recall.
The NHTSA would be given more funding to comply with its new responsibilities and serve its new role. The additional funding would be generated from a new manufacturer’s fee on vehicles of $3 per car starting in 2015, rising to $6 per car in 2016 and $9 per car in 2017. The fee would be charged on sales from U.S. automakers.
The Bill is before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. It is not clear if the bill will leave committee or if it will ever get a full vote of the Senate or House of Representatives. However, if it does become law, it could be a positive step forward in helping to ensure that the NHTSA is taking a much more active role to prevent and remove defective products from the market.