Law & Order

Lawmakers Drafting Tougher Auto Safety Rules

The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill to mandate new automaker safety standards and strengthen the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) authority. The legislation would require the NHTSA to establish new motor-vehicle safety standards for unintended accelerations, such as a brake-override requirement. Event data recorders (“black boxes”) would be required on all new vehicles starting in model year 2015. The maximum amount of civil penalties that could be imposed for failure to report safety defects would be increased.

The NHTSA would have the authority to force a recall of vehicles that present “a substantial likelihood of death or serious injury,” with automakers being given 10 days to challenge the order. The agency would also have more money to fund agency programs, including a new department dedicated to vehicle electronics and emerging technologies. 

The legislation was introduced in response to the massive number of recalled vehicles by the Toyota Motor Corporation. It is largely supported by democrats while republicans express concern that the bill is over-reaching, citing the potential of black boxes to violate drivers’ privacy as an example.  The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill in June. A Senate committee will likely consider a similar version of the bill at the same time.

For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at