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NHTSA chief backs Senate auto safety bill


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NHTSA chief backs Senate auto safety bill

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington- The Obama administration's top auto safety official said he would like to see Congress approve a sweeping overhaul of the nation's auto safety regulations before its members adjourn for the year.

Legislation revamping auto safety regulations was introduced earlier this year in the wake of Toyota Motor Corp.'s sudden acceleration issues, which prompted the recall of more than 8 million vehicles worldwide.

Aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Commerce Committee, have been working the last two weeks to finalize a revised version of the Motor Vehicle Safety act — the most significant revamp since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was created in 1966.

"If they can get it out of the Senate, the hope is to try to have the House take it up and pass it," David Strickland, NHTSA administrator, said this morning. "I'd love to see the (safety act) go forward. There's clearly a lot of very positive aspects of the piece of the legislation."

Rockefeller needs to win unanimous consent from his Senate colleagues to get the bill passed in the final days of the session — a long-shot, but not impossible.

The updated bill — according to a 51-page draft obtained by The Detroit News — requires scores of new regulations, sets new requirements for automakers, dramatically hikes penalties for automakers that don't follow safety laws and requires research into new areas.

The bill would require all new vehicles to have event data recorders, also known as "black boxes," by the 2015 model year and post decals in new vehicles explaining how consumers can make complaints.

The measure would boost the maximum fine for automakers failing to comply with auto safety regulations from $16.4 million to $200 million.

It would require automakers to designate a "senior official responsible for safety" to certify the accuracy of information submitted to NHTSA or face fines of $5,000 a day, or up to $5 million.

The proposal also would give NHTSA sweeping authority to order vehicles off the road it deemed an "imminent hazard."

The vehicles would have to represent a "substantial likelihood of death or serious injury to the public if not discontinued immediately." Automakers would get a chance to respond before a final decision was made to pull the vehicles off the road.

NHTSA would be required to issue new regulations on a host of auto safety issues: brake override systems, pedal placement, push-button electronic ignition systems and overall vehicle electronics.

Strickland emphasized that Congress — if it approves the bill — also will have to address the issue of giving NHTSA more resources to handle all of the new requirements.

He said the agency is "comfortable" with what Congress has been considering in recent days, but hasn't seen the most recent version.

NHTSA would get $60 million over five years in added research funding.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20101130/AUTO01/11300396/NHTSA-chief-backs-Senate-auto-safety-bill#ixzz16odMqDvP

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