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New Legislation Proposed Following Ignition Switch Defect Recall

The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced his intention to propose new auto safety legislation later this year or early next year. The announcement joined several other proposals intended to combat the problems demonstrated by the General Motors ignition switch failures and subsequent recall. The proposal would overhaul the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act, passed in 2000. The TREAD act was originally passed as part of the response to nearly 300 fatalities linked to defective Firestone tires on Ford SUVs.

Many of the suggested proposals involve increasing the ability of safety regulators to punish automakers who are slow to recall vehicles with known defects. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently limited by a $35 million cap on fines for automakers who delay safety recalls. Members of both the House and Senate recently called for an increase of the maximum fine to $200 million.

The controversy over the current state of legislation centers around a recall that has now grown to 2.6 million GM vehicles with potentially defective ignition switches. The defect was discovered more than a decade before the majority of those vehicles were recalled. Faulty ignition switches have been linked to at least 13 fatal car accidents at this point. GM executives have been questioned in Senate hearings and the automaker is facing a criminal investigation over its actions in connection to the faulty switches. Another hearing is expected later this month.

Source: The Detroit News, “Upton plans to introduce auto safety overhaul,” by David Shepardson, 1 July 2014

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