USA Today Editorial for Auto Safety vs. Congressman Against
Thanks to an Editorial by USA Today people can read support for their future safety.
“If there were Academy Awards for members of Congress, several lawmakers would surely be Oscar contenders for best dramatic performance at a congressional hearing.
As Congress investigated deadly auto defects that were hidden from the public, senators called the moment a “wake-up call” and a time for accountability. One told GM its actions were “criminal.”
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., deserves a special nomination. At a hearing last year, Upton told General Motors CEO Mary Barra he found reports of GM actions “disturbing and downright devastating,” adding that they had “fatal consequences.”
The collective outrage seemed genuine — until it came time to do something about it. The massive highway measure Upton helped write, to be voted on as early as Thursday, would do little to stop carmakers from doing the same thing again.”
The recalls followed revelations that some carmakers and suppliers have for years secretly flouted laws and regulations meant to get defective cars off the roads. GM hid ignition switches that failed to deploy air bags, killing at least 124. Takata air bags, used in millions of cars, have exploded, spewing metal shrapnel into drivers and passengers.
Last year, safety advocates and some Democratic lawmakers pushed for stricter laws, but they were beaten back in both the House and Senate. This year, the problem isn’t so much what’s in the highway measure. The problem is what’s missing.
Among the missed chances:
- The current penalties for violating safety laws are chump change for giant automakers. While Congress will triple the maximum to $105 million, that’s still not a huge deterrent for a company such as GM, which earned $2.8 billion last year. Some lawmakers sought to eliminate the cap.
- No one — not engineers, lawyers or executives at GM — has faced an individual criminal charge for decisions made to hide a deadly defect for years and go on hiding it after people started dying. Individuals who make such decisions might be deterred by the prospect of going to prison. Yet a push by several senators for criminal penalties in the vehicle safety law failed to gain traction in Congress.
- Recalled cars that have not been repaired can be dangerous. Under the new measure, rental car companies will no longer be able to rent them to customers. But a huge hole still allows used-car dealers to sell cars with unfixed defects to unsuspecting buyers, such as the Houston-area driver killed this year when a Takata air bag exploded in the used Honda he purchased less than a year earlier.
- Government safety scores on trucking companies, which have been publicly available in recent years, will have to be removed from a public website. Never mind that the scores were used by companies that hire truckers to comparison shop, or that they encouraged trucking companies to improve their safety standards.
- Proposed additions to what carmakers must report to the government about fatal accidents involving potential defects did not make it into the measure. The changes would have provided earlier warnings of hazards” See
“No one understands better the importance of putting safe vehicles on the road than those of us in the auto state. For over a century, Michigan has had a proud tradition of developing innovative technologies, advancing safety, reducing emissions and improving the driving experience.
But it has been a disappointing year for automakers that have failed in their safety responsibilities and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for its inability to effectively protect American drivers. We can and must do better….
The vote this week will advance safety reforms in a must-pass package. But the highway bill is not the end of the conversation; rather, it is an important step forward. With the holiday season upon us, families across the country can rest assured that Congress continues to prioritize auto safety, and that those responsible for safety issues will be held accountable.
I am proud of the improvements we were able to add to the bill. But we never put the brakes on safety, and we will continue our bipartisan work in the New Year.
Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.” See