WASHINGTON – New highway safety legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, is aimed at keeping American travelers safe on the road and holding accountable companies who ignore or violate safety laws.
McCaskill introduced the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Enhancement Act, a six-year renewal of highway and motor vehicle safety funding at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“With millions of Americans behind the wheel every day, and more than 33,000 killed on our roads each year, we’ve got to do more to keep our cars and the roads we drive them on safe,” McCaskill said. “Painful recent examples at Toyota and GM have shown us we also must make it easier to hold accountable those who jeopardize consumers’ safety. For too long, auto safety resources have remained virtually stagnant while cars and the safety challenges they present have become more complex. This bill addresses those challenges by giving safety regulators the financial and enforcement resources necessary to modernize and better protect American consumers.”
The bill incorporates modified text of the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, which McCaskill introduced last year with Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Barbara Boxer of California—reflecting an agreement that McCaskill helped broker between rental companies, auto safety advocates, and other stakeholders, including General Motors, to ensure recalled rental vehicles are fixed before a consumer gets behind the wheel.
The legislation covers three distinct areas of vehicle and highway safety:
· Reauthorizes Highway Safety funding from the Highway Trust Fund for six years.
· Updates highway safety programs to address emerging traffic safety issues.
· Revises the criteria states must meet to receive ignition interlock grant funding.
Motor Vehicle Safety
· Reauthorizes Motor Vehicle Safety funding for six years, doubling NHTSA’s funding for vehicle safety over six years to help the agency modernize and meet evolving and increasingly complex auto safety challenges.
· Amends legal requirements related to recalls for manufacturers going through bankruptcy.
· Increases civil penalties for auto safety violations, eliminating the maximum total penalty, which is currently set at $35 million.
· Overhauls criminal penalties for auto safety violations.
Rental Car Safety
· Prohibits rental or sale of rental vehicles subject to a safety recall.
· Requires rental companies to ground vehicles under a safety recall.
· Permits rental companies to rely on temporary measures identified by manufacturers.
· Ensures NHTSA has the tools necessary to protect consumers.
· Maintains the status quo between rental companies and manufacturers.
McCaskill has held two hearings examining GM’s response to the defective ignition switches that have been linked to at least 13 deaths, including a fatality in Missouri, and resulted in the recall of 2.6 million vehicles earlier this year. McCaskill also led a hearing last year on rental car safety.
The subcommittee’s work on auto safety issues will continue, with a hearing being planned for the fall to examine various legislative proposals aimed at modernizing and better equipping auto safety regulators to ensure the tragedies and failures associated with the GM recall are not repeated.
Press Release Courtesy of Senator Claire McCaskill Public Affairs