New Auto Safety Bill Draws Industry Opposition

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has announced its opposition to a proposed safety reform bill designed to increase the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s budget, and give it new powers.  According to Alliance spokesman Wade Newton, “Auto companies are working on a variety of exciting new vehicle safety technologies, any one of which will do more to advance traffic safety than this bill. New technology, not new taxes, is the best way to make our roads even safer.”

The proposed legislation, which was re-introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) on Friday, would impose a new $3 sales tax on new vehicle sales. The tax would increase to $9 over the next three years.  Revenue from the new tax would reportedly increase the NHTSA’s budget by more than $100 million by 2017.  Earlier this month, the Obama administration proposed increasing the agency’s budget to $31.7 million.

The proposed legislation was originally introduced in 2010, but failed to muster much support and was never brought to a vote.  Schankowsky’s office said the bill now has the support of fellow Democrat Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, and at least four other House Democrats.

A Senate panel recently approved a bill that would allow for increased compensation for whistleblowers in the auto industry.  On Friday, Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) said he plans to review the Senate bill.  In a recent statement Upton’s office said, “The committee is eagerly awaiting the government watchdog report requested last year, which will provide important additional information and recommendations. While it’s not clear that a massive shake-up of our laws and regulators is necessary, the failures we exposed last year will be addressed, and we look forward to working with the new NHTSA head in that effort.”

In addition to imposing the new sales tax, the proposed bill would also require used car dealers to repair recalled vehicles and make prospective buyers aware of the repairs, and would give the NHTSA the authority to immediately remove vehicles from the roads for “any condition that substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death if not remedied immediately.” It would also require the agency to enact new standards aimed at improving safety for back-seat passengers, and reducing the number of injuries and fatalities among cyclists and pedestrians involved in collisions with motor vehicles.

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