Congress Set to Act on Vehicle Safety Legislation
ASA Encourages Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspections
The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate will soon begin work on the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010. Hearings and a markup are scheduled in the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee. The House continues to hold hearings on automotive safety-related issues in anticipation of a House Energy and Commerce Committee markup by early summer.
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Rush, D-Ill., are sponsors of the House bill. Key elements of the legislation, according to the bill sponsors, are:
Vehicle Electronics and Safety Standards
• Establishes a new Center for Vehicle Electronics and Emerging Technologies within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to strengthen the agency's expertise in new technologies across all vehicle safety components.
• Requires new safety standards related to electronics and unintended acceleration, including a brake-override standard, a standard that prevents pedals from getting trapped in floor mats or other obstructions, and a standard for electronic systems performance.
• Requires that all vehicles be equipped with event data recorders that record crash information.
Enhanced Safety Authorities for NHTSA
• Increases the civil penalty NHTSA can seek per violation and eliminates the maximum civil penalty allowed.
• Provides NHTSA the authority to order immediate recalls if it finds an "imminent hazard of death or serious injury."
Transparency and Accountability
• Requires more "Early Warning Reporting" data submitted to NHTSA on a quarterly basis be made available to the public, improves public accessibility of the NHTSA website, and encourages consumers to report potential defects to the agency.
• Requires that a manufacturer have a senior executive in the United States certify the accuracy of information submitted to NHTSA in response to investigations.
• Enables a citizen whose petition to NHTSA requesting a defect investigation has been rejected by the agency to challenge that decision in court.
• Establishes a vehicle safety user fee paid by the vehicle manufacturer for each vehicle certified to meet the federal motor vehicle safety standards for sale in the United States.
NHTSA will be required to draft regulations that call for all vehicles to be equipped with an event data recorder that meets the requirements of the existing voluntary standard issued by NHTSA. A second regulation will mandate that all event data recorders must be temperature, water, crash and tamper resistant, and increase the amount and type of data that must be recorded. In addition, they would make the data more accessible to investigators; and establish ownership, privacy and disclosure requirements regarding data collected by the recorders.
Keyless ignition systems must have a consistent means to allow for a driver to stop or slow a vehicle during an emergency.
The Automotive Service Association has asked the committee to also consider vehicle safety issues beyond the dealer showroom. Specifically, ASA requested that vehicles should be inspected periodically for safety concerns. Less than half the states have any type of periodic motor vehicle safety inspection program. In addition to the District of Columbia, 29 states have no vehicle safety inspection programs. Of the 21 states that have programs, several only require vehicle inspection when the vehicle is sold or transferred.
According to a recent industry study, the rate of unperformed and underperformed vehicle maintenance in the United States dropped from $55 billion in 2007 to $50 billion in 2008. With the current economic conditions, independent repair technicians have recognized an increased number of neglected repairs. This impacts the safety of the vehicle owner and passengers as well as other highway users. In addition, it also hurts the long-term value of the vehicle.
Both Pennsylvania and Missouri have exemplary vehicle inspection programs. Their enforcement authorities have studies available demonstrating the value of these programs to protect the loss of life and property, and prevent injuries.
Review these reports at: Pennsylvania Report:
NHTSA has not been involved in vehicle safety inspection programs for many years. ASA is encouraging Congress to assist in establishing state inspection programs in states that do not have programs at the present time.
Transportation legislation will also be considered later this year or in 2011 to reauthorize highway, highway and motor carrier safety, and public transit programs. This will be an additional opportunity for Congress to address periodic motor vehicle safety inspection.
To view more on motor vehicle safety legislation, please go to ASA's legislative website, www.TakingtheHill.com.
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