The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the main regulatory agency tasked with the safety of motor vehicles. As part of its responsibility, the agency can investigate complaints and request that automakers initiate a recall when it believes a vehicle is defective and poses a serious threat of injuries or fatalities. However, the federal agency is not given the authority to initiate a recall on its own or stop sales of a detective vehicle.
That could soon change. The agency recently completed drafting a $478 billion transportation bill that provides more funding for the federal agency. In addition, the proposal includes several measures designed to expand the agency’s regulatory authority and powers, including the power to stop sales of defective vehicles without having to formally request automakers to announce recall.
As part of the proposal, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would have the authority to immediately block sales of vehicles if it believes that there is a risk of injury or fatality from driving a particular car. It would not need to coordinate with automakers before stopping sales of vehicles as it currently has to do.
These changes would mean that the NHTSA could increase the swiftness of recalls and reduce the risk to motorists from defective vehicles.
As part of the proposals, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would increase the maximum penalty that it can issue an automaker to $300 million from the current $35 million. For automakers, a $35 million penalty is peanuts. Heftier penalties could serve as a motivating factor to more careful production of its vehicles, and encourage automakers to invest in safety.
The agency would also create a nationwide system that would immediately alert car owners when their cars are involved in a recall. It would rely on registration data of vehicles and provide motorists with information about recalls quicker. It would also require that rental car companies and used car sales companies fix their vehicles before renting or selling them.
These are all groundbreaking proposals and would plug many of the loopholes in the current system that allows people to drive defective cars and as a result, suffer serious injuries.
The Indiana product liability lawyers at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson Kennedy represent persons injured as a result of defective products across Indiana.