Bill Would Create Program To Notify Drivers Of Safety Recalls When Applying For Registration

Earlier this year, legislators introduced a bill that would require consumers to fix any outstanding safety recall on their vehicle before a registration renewal would be granted. While that measure has gone nowhere since March, a newly introduced highway reauthorization bill includes a provision that would create a pilot program for a similar plan.

The Detroit News reports that on Tuesday Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Barbara Boxer of California unveiled what they call a compromise six-year highway reauthorization bill [PDF] that includes some proactive auto safety measures.

Among the auto safety policy measures in the 1,030-page bill, is a two-year pilot program that would assess the value of informing consumers of vehicle recalls at the time they apply for a registration renewal.

The pilot would be available to just six states and funded by grants from the Secretary of Transportation. Each eligible state would be required to provide vehicle owners or leases with free information about any recall tied to their vehicle at the time they apply for registration.

After the two-year period, the state would have 90 days to report on the performance of the program, at which time the Secretary of Transportation would then have 180 days to determine if the state notification program should continue.

The bill, which is expected to be discussed on the Senate floor today, also includes updates to the way in which vehicle owners are notified by car manufacturers about safety recalls.

Currently, the companies are required only to send notification via first class mail. Under the legislation, car makers would be required to also send notification by email.

While the bill’s updated notification systems and pilot programs are an improvement on current recall regulations, legislators have continuously pushed for additional protections.

However, attempts to tack on safety measure have often been thwarted throughout the legislative process.

Just last week, a number of auto safety reforms – including one that would impose criminal penalties on auto executives who fail to disclose deadly defects – failed to make it out of committee and into the latest version of the transportation bill.

Many of the legislators who introduced the reform bills showed their irritation at having their proposals struck down with little negotiation. In fact, some simply removed their bills from consideration before they could be heard in the committee.

While a majority of the reforms introduced as attachments to the larger bill went nowhere, some managed to make it through, including those that increase the maximum civil penalty imposed on automakers from $35 million to $70 million and one that would increase funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – so long as the agency implements recommendations recently set forth by the Transportation Department’s Inspector General.

These measures are still included in the newly released compromise bill.

Highway bill would double auto recall fines [The Detroit News]

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