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NHTSA may get boost in funding and authority under new bill

In light of the year of record auto recalls in 2014, it should come as no surprise that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received a fair amount of criticism. When major scandals about automotive defects become public, it seems as though NHTSA officials always say they were aware of problems but did not have the resources to fully investigate or the authority to intervene.

The agency's claim may finally be put to the test. The multi-year surface transportation funding bill proposed by the Obama administration is currently under consideration by congress. Provisions in the bill would dramatically increase funding for the NHTSA's defect investigations office and give the agency considerably more power over vehicle sales in cases where major defects have been identified.

One provision seeks to give the NHTSA "imminent hazard authority." This means that “in cases where there is an imminent risk of injury or death,” the NHTSA could order automakers to halt sales of certain vehicles until or unless those defects are fixed.

If passed, the legislation would also bolster the agency's defect investigations office by doubling its staff and nearly tripling its funding. Finally, it would also allow the NHTSA to impose maximum fines against automakers of up to $300 million, as opposed to the current $35 million maximum.

Legislators seem to be realizing that major auto recall scandals are not going away and appear to be getting worse. As such, we need to start addressing the problem by adequately funding and authorizing the agency tasked with policing the auto industry.

Source: AutoNews.com, "NHTSA would get stop-sale power under U.S. bill," Ryan Beene, March 30, 2015

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