For the most part, motor vehicles hitting the roads in the United States are some of the safest in the world due to diligent efforts of government oversight agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As this year's massive recall of millions of Toyota-brand cars, trucks and SUVs reminds us, however, there is always room for improvement. In addition to ensuring the safety of millions of drivers operating potentially dangerous vehicles, the recall served another very important purpose - it brought to light gaps in the regulatory system that, had they not existed, might have prevented those unsafe vehicles from hitting the road in the first place.
What Kinds of Changes Will be Made Under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act?
Though versions of the bill proposed by the House of Representatives and the Senate are slightly different, there are commonalities between the two. These include:
- Requiring all new vehicles to come equipped with a brake override system that lets the vehicle stop in the event that the throttle is stuck open.
- Raising gas and brake pedals to a higher minimum height, preventing floor mats from becoming entangled with them.
- Fitting vehicles with a "black box" (similar to those used on aircraft and in commercial trucks) to keep logs of data that could be used for accident reconstruction.
- Demanding earlier public disclosure of possible defects.
- Giving the NHTSA a broader reach by increasing their funding with the proceeds of a per-car fee levied on automakers.
- Raising the cap for regulatory violations from its current level of $15 million to a possible $300 million.
These regulations would greatly increase the incentives that automakers have to produce safer vehicles and to comply with the mandates of their government overseers. The Motor Vehicle Safety Act has not yet been passed, however, so consumers cannot yet depend upon the additional protections provided by it. In the mean time, if you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area for more information about your legal rights.