Sen. Thune, Safety, Money, and Lives Lost


Sen. Thune, Safety, Money, and Lives Lost

July, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Google reports: that the Sioux Falls Argus Leader published an article critical of Sen. Thune’s Transportation bill as follows:

Critics chide John Thune’s transportation bill

Sioux Falls Argus Leader
WASHINGTON – Consumer, public health and auto safety groups are criticizing Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota for pushing a …

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Here is the story and link:

Critics chide John Thune’s transportation bill

Emily Spartz / Argus Leader
File photo of I-29 near the Vermillion exit less

WASHINGTON – Consumer, public health and auto safety groups are criticizing Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota for pushing a transportation proposal they say lacks necessary safety reforms and would put motorists at greater risk of injury or death.

The legislation, part of a broader six-year highway bill the Senate is debating this week, was approved July 15 by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee without Democratic support. Thune chairs the powerful Senate committee.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and other critics say the proposal lacks key safety measures and would roll back numerous necessary laws.

They point to provisions that would remove from public scrutiny certain safety rating information about motor coach carriers, and would allow drivers as young as 18 to drive big rigs. They also say the proposal doesn’t do enough to hold vehicle makers accountable for defects and recalls.

“He’s making it unsafe for everybody in South Dakota and around the country,” Jim Abourezk, a former Democratic lawmaker who represented South Dakota in the U.S. House and Senate during the 1970s, said of Thune. “I don’t know if he realizes that people need the government to keep them safe, especially on highway safety. If we can get enough public pressure on Thune, of course it will change, and he’ll lay off (these issues).”

GOP leaders in the House have yet to decide if they will take up the Senate bill or craft their own, leaving Abourezk and others optimistic they can roll back some of the measures.

Senate photo

Sen. John Thune

Thune didn’t specifically address the individual proposals drawing criticism, but he has defended the overall legislation, saying it includes “critical regulatory reforms.” He said it would improve safety on roads by giving more money to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and imposing tougher penalties for auto safety violations.

“This legislation not only funds highway projects but also puts important safety enhancements and some common-sense regulatory changes in place,” said Thune. “Since we first introduced our bill, we’ve had a lot of input. We’ve explained why certain provisions are important, and have also made changes to increase support and address some concerns.”

Emily Wanless, a political science professor at Augustana College, said the complaints targeting Thune are probably “politics as usual.” She said under Thune’s watch, the Senate panel has been largely bipartisan and has avoided some of the gridlock facing other committees.

“The fact that they are getting stuff through gives people an opportunity to discuss these issues and criticize these issues,” she said.

Contact Christopher Doering atcdoering@gannett.com or reach him at Twitter: @cdoering

Lou

 

Takata Says No to Crash Victims Compensation Fund


Takata Says No to Crash Victims Compensation Fund

July, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:
The NY Times reports:

“Still, Rich Newsome, who represents eight people who claim to have been injured by faulty Takata airbags, said he would prefer to work outside any compensation fund, because such funds can result in less-than-transparent allocation of damages to victims.

He also said that legal action against Takata was necessary to force the supplier to disclose more details on its handling of the defect.

“If you have a compensation fund, it’s not going to give you that opportunity to really understand what happened, and to really understand the scope of potential safety problems for the public,” Mr. Newsome said. “You need litigation for that. You need to be able to put people under oath.”

See http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/10/business/takata-says-no-to-fund-for-victims.html?hpw&rref=automobiles&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well&_r=0

 

Legal Loopholes Big Enough To Allow Crash Deaths Without End or Punishment

Legal Loopholes Big Enough To Allow Crash Deaths Without End or Punishment

July, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

The NY Times reports:“From the factory floor to the corporate suite, employees at General Motors saw indications of a deadly ignition defect and failed to disclose the problem to the government.

Yet even now that prosecutors are closing in on a criminal case against the automaker, their effort to charge individual employees at the center of the case has hit an obstacle: legal loopholes that the auto industry helped create.”  See http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/20/business/laws-hinder-prosecutors-in-charging-gm-employees-in-ignition-defect.html?_r=0

The LA Times in an article “Auto Companies Stay Cozy in U.S. Capital” asked the question:“But when business gets its say on Capitol Hill and the White House too, what’s the ordinary person to do?”  Seehttp://articles.latimes.com/2014/jan/26/business/la-fi-hiltzik-20140126

The successful strategy followed by the auto industry since at least 1971 is laid out in the Lewis Powell memo.  See http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/

As an ordinary person, I tried to identify at least some of the people that were in responsible positions during the period after the selection of George W. Bush as President in 2000.  See https://www.careforcrashvictims.com/assets/CFCV-MonthlyReport-March2014.pdf
We ordinary citizens must do more as voters, researchers, and consumers to protect against motor vehicle deaths and injuries.
Lou

 

 

Fwd: Senators, Safety Advocates Launch Push for Senate Floor Adoption of Safety Provisions in Highway Bill


Fwd: Senators, Safety Advocates Launch Push for Senate Floor Adoption of Safety Provisions in Highway Bill

July, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Here is a release of safety advocates on pending legislation.

Lou

———- Forwarded message ———- From: Bill Bronrott <bronrott@gmail.com> Date: Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 3:59 PM Subject: Senators, Safety Advocates Launch Push for Senate Floor Adoption of Safety Provisions in Highway Bill To: Bill Bronrott <bronrott@gmail.com>

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 20,2015

 

As Debate on Surface Transportation Bill Moves to Senate Floor, Safety Advocates and 

Crash Victims’ Families Join Senators to Launch Renewed Push to

Adopt Pro-Safety Provisions and Dump Pro-Industry Rollbacks

 

Partisan Bill Departs from Traditional Bipartisan Cooperation

To Combat Highway Deaths and Injuries

 

Nearly 200,000 People Will Be Killed and 14 Million Injured in Crashes over 6 Years

Unless Commonsense and Cost-Effective Solutions are Enacted

 

Washington, D.C. (July 20, 2015) — On the day before the multi-year, multi-billion dollar surface transportation reauthorization legislation may come to the U.S. Senate Floor, consumer, public health and safety groups and crash victims’ families joined Members of Congress to launch a renewed push to include lifesaving highway and vehicle safety provisions in the “Safety Title.”

On July 15, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee failed to include significant safety advances and rolled back numerous current safety laws when they voted along party lines to send the Comprehensive Transportation and Consumer Protection Act (S.1732) to the full Senate.  This bill allows 18-year-old truck drivers to traverse across the country, does not address the General Motors and Takata recall failures, and sets back truck, bus, car, and motorcycle safety for years to come.

The group urged the full Senate to adopt provisions in the “Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2015” (S. 1743) sponsored by Commerce Committee Ranking Member Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and co-sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), and the “Truck Safety Act” (S. 1739) sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).  The bills would reduce the growing number of deaths and injuries on the nation’s roadways, correct deficiencies in identifying and investigating vehicle safety defects, increase penalties for automakers that purposely hide defects that lead to deaths and injuries, advance truck safety and consumer information and protections.

The following are quotes from today’s speakers:

Jackie Gillan, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (www.saferoads.org). “The congressional battle is critical because this bill will set the agenda for the next 6 years for the safety of our cars, our highways and our families. It will either determine whether we stop cover-ups by the auto industry or allow them to manufacture defective cars and parts with near impunity. The bill will either direct NHTSA to move forward on finding and implementing technology solutions to save innocent children from dying in hot cars and prevent fatigued truck drivers from falling asleep at the wheel and plowing into a line of stopped traffic, or just hope these preventable tragedies don’t happen to any of us. The bill will either allow dangerous and unscrupulous motor carriers to hide their safety scores from public view or allow consumers to know if they are hiring household goods movers, bus companies and trucking firms that have safe drivers and safe operations. The bill will either mean we are serious about reducing the unnecessary highway death and injury toll or are willing to accept the ‘business as usual’ approach in S. 1732 where corporations and not consumers are in the driver’s seat when it comes to safety.”

 

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, “This week the Senate will consider legislation that makes our roads more dangerous by failing to address loopholes in our nation’s auto safety laws, giving companies a free pass to place profit over safety and human life. I will fight to ensure that adequate safety provisions are included in the final legislation reviewed by Congress, including truck safety and recall reform to increase safeguards for all who use our transportation systems.”

 

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, “In the wake of recent preventable auto safety tragedies, we need to drastically increase accountability and prevent history from repeating itself. But when the opportunity for real auto safety reform presented itself last week, Senate Republicans approved a bill in committee that puts safety rules in reverse. Instead of accepting this partisan assault on critical safety protections and regulations, we need stronger reporting rules and transparency for the Early Warning Reporting System, increased accountability for automakers and programs that would get more car owners to fix their defective, recalled cars. I will be fighting on the Senate floor for a transportation bill with the strong auto safety reforms that the American people deserve.” 

 

Georges Benjamin, M.D., Executive Director, American Public Health Association, “”From my experience as a physician, I am aware of what happens when preventive care is not available.  The surface transportation bill being debated in Congress is an opportunity for our federal lawmakers to provide ‘preventive care’ to the millions of American families who use our roads and highways every day.  By the end of the 6 year authorization of this bill, we can expect that there will be nearly 200,000 deaths and more than 12 million injuries. The death toll represents the entire population of Sioux Falls and Aberdeen, South Dakota, two of the largest cities in that state.  The injury toll is equivalent to injuring everyone in the state of Nebraska.  These figures are staggering and unimaginable to think that the populations of entire cities and states are the equivalent to the injury and death toll on our roads and highways.  This bill must save more lives than it harms.  I urge the Senate to consider the real world consequences and impacts on families of passing this bill and urge lawmakers to put safety first.”

 

Angelia Sujata, Takata airbag victim, “I support the stronger provisions outlined in the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2015 (S. 1743) to be included in the ‘Safety Title’ of the surface transportation authorization bill. When automakers and suppliers purposely hide deadly defects that kill and severely injure people, their consequences should be severe. Today the consequences do not match the harmful actions and that needs to change. As a result of my crash and the metal pieces from the Takata airbag that cut my chest, I had to have two surgeries to remove the fragments, and am left with permanent scarring, lingering pain in my chest as well as anxiety when driving. However, it wasn’t until one year after my crash that I received a letter that there was a recall on my car for its Takata airbag system. An airbag was supposed to save your life, not hurt you. That’s why I’m speaking out, I hope what happened to me doesn’t happen to anyone else. More needs to be done to ensure that such important vehicle defects and recalls do not get covered up. People have a right to know about dangerous defects their cars might have, and all responsible parties, including vehicle manufacturers have a duty to report and make this information available. I hope action is taken soon to help protect the lives of others.”

 

Lindsey Rogers-Seitz, Esq., child safety advocate, “One year ago, my own 15-month old son, Benjamin, died from heatstroke after being left in the back seat of our car unknowingly by my husband.  As an attorney and grieving mother, it was startling for me to learn that safety advocates had been urging Congress to pass legislation requiring NHTSA to address this vehicle safety concern for over a decide, legislation which could have potentially saved my son’s life.  This is not a partisan issue; this is a human issue with our children’s lives at stake.  NHTSA has made little if any progress addressing the potential for technological solutions on its own without Congressional directive.  How many more children will lost their lives before Congress can align in a bipartisan fashion to act and force real progress on this important transportation safety concern?”

 

Jack Gillis, author of The Car Book and Director of Public Affairs for the Consumer Federation of America, “It is incomprehensible that such a bill would surface when nearly every day for the past 18 months, the press has been reporting hidden problems with safety equipment in our cars; when every week there are millions of cars being recalled for serious defects that kill and injure; and, when every month there is a another congressional hearing that reveals misbehavior by automakers and missteps by NHTSA in acting on defects.  And, every time this happens, there are key lawmakers who lack the political courage to stand up and adopt measures to improve the system and protect consumers. Unfortunately, at last week’s mark-up of safety legislation the leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee crashed at every turn on the road to addressing the tragic impact that vehicles have on America’s public health.   The Republican leadership failed to hold auto industry executives accountable for their decisions that caused deaths and injuries.  They failed to give National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the essential legal and financial tools it needs to fulfill the agency’s mission of protecting the public.  And, they failed the American public by putting auto and trucking industry profits ahead of public safety.” Gillis continued, “While we applaud the inclusion of Senator McCaskill’s amendment prohibiting rental cars from leaving the lot unless they have been repaired, they failed to provide the same protection to consumers purchasing used cars by not adopting Sen. Blumenthal’s amendment to protect used car buyers.  This is an appalling disregard for the safety of tens of millions of consumers who can only afford, or choose to buy, used cars.  Nearly, four times as many of us buy a used, versus a new car, and buying a second hand car should not mean that these consumers and their families should be subject to second rate safety protections. The Senate needs to close this safety loophole.”

 

Jackie Novak, a Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) volunteer, whose son Chuck Novak and his girlfriend Theresa Seaver were killed in a North Carolina truck crash that claimed five lives and several people injured, “At a time when we need to be addressing key issues on our highways, this legislation is more concerned with the economic well-being of trucking companies than with the safety of the American public. Senate bill S. 1732, the Thune bill, includes language that will increase deaths, when they should be trying to save more lives. We need more elected officials like Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) who will be sponsoring an amendment requesting the Department of Transportation to conduct rulemaking on Double 33 tractor trailers.  Superseding states’ rights and forcing Double 33s on this country without knowing what the effect will be is irresponsible.”

 

Joan Claybrook, Chair, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “For far too long vehicle manufacturers have been getting away with murder, selling deadly cars with defective equipment to consumers without any serious consequences – and we wonder why it keeps happening over and over again.  S. 1732 will do nothing to curb the industry’s misbehavior and actions to misinform the public and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Under Federal Law, an individual who points a laser at an airplane and jeopardizes safety can be sentenced up to 5 years in prison.  However, auto executives who purposely hide a defect that kills and seriously injures hundreds of people face no threat of time behind bars.”  Claybrook continued, “Safety groups also support provisions in the legislation sponsored by Sen. Nelson, Sen. Blumenthal and Sen. Markey which would impose new requirements on Early Warning Reporting requirements on auto makers when deaths occur in their vehicles.  The bill directs more transparency and access by the public.  Automakers are purposely submitting misleading and incomplete information to the agency in order to hide defects. At numerous hearings on GM and Takata, the Republican committee leaders and members of the Senate Commerce Committee liked to roar like lions indignant about auto industry misbehavior when the TV cameras are rolling.  However, when the TV cameras are off and they are drafting a bill, they purr like kittens trying to help their friends in the industry avoid tough oversight and accountability.”

# # #

For more information contact:

Bill Bronrott, 202-270-4415

 

NY Times Editorial On Senate “Safety” Bill To Make Us All Less Safe


NY Times Editorial On Senate “Safety” Bill To Make Us All Less Safe

July, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

The NY Times Editorial Board warns: “Last month the House passed an appropriations bill that would put bigger trucks with overworked drivers behind the wheel on the nation’s highways. If that weren’t irresponsible enough, the Senate is now considering legislation that would allow trucking companies to hire 18-year-old drivers for interstate routes and undermine safety on roads and railroads in numerous other ways.”  See

To improve safety legislation the following information was created.
*  Nearly $4 Trillion in losses can be expected in the six years under this proposed legislation.  More than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. See http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812013.pdf *  More Americans will die and be injured in crashes in Red States than in Blue States.  Seehttps://www.careforcrashvictims.com/assets/MonthlyReportforJuly2015final.pdf *  Crash Death statistics for the past decade by State and Congressional district are available at https://www.careforcrashvictims.com/CrashDeathMappingTools.php

Hoping this helps build a Safer America,
Lou

 

What More Will Be Learned On GM Ignition Switch Defect Coverup?


What More Will Be Learned On GM Ignition Switch Defect Coverup?

July, 2015

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

The NY Times carries an article that notes:“Last week, plaintiffs suing G.M. asked the Federal District Court in Manhattan to find that the company and its outside lawyers engaged in criminal or fraudulent activity by covering up the defect. That, the plaintiffs say, allows the court to lift the veil of confidentiality over their communications.

This request presents a significant threat that could reveal even more embarrassing information about how the automaker’s lawyers dealt with the defect.”

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/14/business/dealbook/lawsuit-against-general-motors-tests-attorney-client-privilege.html?hpw&rref=automobiles&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well

And will communications with DOT officials also become public?