By on December 22, 2010

The lame duck congress has adjourned for the year, and with it goes the effort to pass a suite of new auto safety regulations drafted as a reaction to the Toyota recall scandal of early 2010. Different versions of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act passed House and Senate committees earlier this year, but were attacked by industry groups and Republican lawmakers. When Republicans came out ahead in November’s midterm election, it was widely speculated that the MVSA might be one of the legislative casualties. Sure enough, the Detroit News reports that

Despite a late push in recent weeks by congressional aides and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, supporters couldn’t overcome opposition to the massive bill
Of course, the fact that fatalities per Vehicle Mile Traveled on American roads are at their lowest level in history didn’t help. Nor did the fact that the hearings which gave birth to the MVSA were an embarrassment of a mockery of a sham. Nor did the fact that most automakers were already reacting to Toyota’s PR nightmare by making many of the more moderate reforms proposed by the bill. Not that any of that is stopping Rockefeller from trying again: he tells the DetN that he’ll take another shot at passing the MVSA when congress re-convenes.
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27 Comments on “Motor Vehicle Safety Act Dies With Lame Duck Congress...”


  • avatar
    Jimal

    Thank God. They’ve been dumping more and more money into this stuff for increasingly smaller returns. Even if it is a relative drop in the well, save the money.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    While there was some nonsense in there, you can’t use the fact that fatalities are at their lowest level to decide that no more progress needs to be made.  Jimal, the easiest fruit has already been picked.  Improvement will become more difficult and more expensive.  At a given point the return might be judged to be no longer worth it.  Have we reached that point?  i don’t think so.
     
    As for the shelving of the Safety Act, again the Republicans show their true colors.  Business and the monied set over whats good for the population as a whole.  Sorry to go down that road, but when they held unemployment benefits hostage to tax cuts for the top few percent, well that says it all.  Maybe next time the working class in Ohio (or fill in whatever state you like) hit the polls they will remember who cares more about them…

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I believe they have and I also believe that the numbers support my position. The only way to make driving 100% safe is to ban the activity altogether. Maintain the current standards and work on other things. I neither want nor need stability control nor tire pressure monitors, but if I want to purchase a new car I will be required to take both. The next proposals include cell phone jammers and mandatory rear view cameras. Enough already.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Business and the monied don’t pay for this foolishness.   Individual car buyers do.
       
      Another couple hundred bucks of federally mandated revenue for the idiot proofing manufacturers (look up who lobbied for the mandatory TPMS law in 2001, for example) hits the folks who finance a Corolla for 5 years a lot harder than the folks who lease a new RX every three.
       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Nicodemus

      “I neither want nor need stability control”
      Why not? Do you seriously believe it doesn’t work, or do you believe your skills transcend the capabilities of ESC?

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      @Nicodemus
      While driving at reasonable speeds, it would take a serious lack of driving skill to lose control of a car set up for understeer.  Anybody who has spent significant time on a track driving at the limit knows this, and anybody who understands the effects of braking and sudden throttle lift during cornering doesn’t need stability control.  Unless the car is set up for surprise oversteer in bad weather by having good front tires and poor back tires.  But I don’t do that.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      I believe they have and I also believe that the numbers support my position
       
      Well over 30,000 deaths is an acceptable number?  Yes I agree deaths/100M is the real yardstick and that today’s crashes still include older cars so the number is bound to continue to improve, but why accept that if more can be had.  Things like stability control and tire monitors cost very little and for the average “cars as an appliance” folks, are beneficial.  I’m glad you take the time to keep your tires properly inflated; I do as well.  Yet more people ignore their tires than not, so for the vast majority of people these make sense.  Even putting the admittedly low likely hood of a tire failure causing a crash, the fringe benefits of gas savings (and all that comes with that) and a saved tire far more that offsets the cost.  Last set I bought set me back $800.  But I agree with your statement that the fatality number can never be zero.  I don’t approve of cell jammers (unless I buy it and use it on the train) and I certainly have spoken out at TTAC about being vehemently opposed to my car computer ratting me out.  That kind of stuff is nonsense.  But if you can integrate technology into your vehicle that is for all intents and purposes invisible to the operator, why not.
       
      Another couple hundred bucks of federally mandated revenue for the idiot proofing manufacturers (look up who lobbied for the mandatory TPMS law in 2001, for example) hits the folks who finance a Corolla for 5 years a lot harder than the folks who lease a new RX every three.
       
      One, perhaps they will be around to buy that next car in part to some of these mandated improvements.  Not too many safety items are here today because industry thought consumers might like them.  We have the present level of safety now because the carmakers were forced, kicking and screaming every bit of the way, to provide it.  That is a fact.
      Two, if somebody likes to lease every three years, they are throwing away far more money than any of these proposals cost.  Stuff like stability control piggybacks on existing ABS hardware.  There is not much cost to it.  It is not enough to kill the payment of a Corolla for five years.
       

      While driving at reasonable speeds, it would take a serious lack of driving skill to lose control of a car set up for understeer.  Anybody who has spent significant time on a track driving at the limit knows this, and anybody who understands the effects of braking and sudden throttle lift during cornering doesn’t need stability control.  Unless the car is set up for surprise oversteer in bad weather by having good front tires and poor back tires.  But I don’t do that.
       
      Except that if you said “trailing throttle oversteer” to 1000 randomly selected drivers, very few would know what you meant.  At least for us who enjoy hanging out the tail, most systems on performance cars can be defeated, or set to allow some hoonage.  For the vast majority of drivers, many enthusiasts included, stability control has proved to be beneficial.

       
       

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      aspade: Two words answer the TPMS question. “Ford Explorer”. Two more words. “Firestone Wilderness”.
      Nicodemus: rpn453 answered the question for me about perfectly. Sweeping statements about “skills” aside, I was fortunate to spend about 10 years working for a company that had the wonderful benefit of occasionally putting me in high performance vehicles on race tracks and other “off the road” performance activities, so “skills” aside, I’m a little ahead of the experience curve.
       
      I’m also fortunately in that my ’03 Jetta TDI was built before this stuff was mandatory. When I have the occasion to drive my wife’s ’07 Passat wagon, which has ESC, in slippery conditions like snow, I feel like the car is fighting me. Feels that way in other ESC vehicles I’ve driven in similar conditions. It is controllable, but very unsettling.
       
      I understand that these “safety features” are designed to make things better for the average driver. My question is, why do we accept the “average driver” being so below average?
       
      golden2husky: Barring the rollback of current safety standards (which I am neither advocating nor in favor of) the numbers should continue to improve as older cars come off the road. Here in Connecticut within the past month we’ve had a couple tragic examples of accidents that no level of MVSA legislation can prevent:
      - December 7. Four teens were killed and one critically injured in the small town of Griswold when the driver of the car they were riding in lost control and hit a tree. The car was an ’07 Nissan Altima with the modern mandatory safety equipment, conditions were good for driving (mid-afternoon, dry, sunny). What happened? They’re not sure, but they are pretty sure the driver was the unlicensed 16 year-old boyfriend of the girl whose parents owned the car.
       
      - December 21. Two people were killed in the city of Torrington when their car, an ’07 Hyundai Sonata, left the roadway at a high rate of speed, launched off a boulder, flew over a stream, hit a guardrail and rolled back onto the road. The driver was ejected during the accident while the front seat passenger was found in the car. What happened? Police are still investigating, but if I were a betting man I would say a medical issue with the 52 year-old driver. Not wearing a seatbelt probably didn’t help the driver but it isn’t like it helped the passenger…
       
      There are other examples of this as you all know. The point I’m making here is that the days of the car killing you through its design or lack of safety features are kinda over and money spent on more electronic things in automobiles that make driving .01% safer could be better spent on fixing up our failing road network, GASP driver training, or perhaps not spent at all.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Jimal, the obvious answer to rolling SUVs on low tires was mandated TPMS in low cars (that you couldn’t roll at street speeds if you tried) why, exactly?
       

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      For the vast majority of drivers, many enthusiasts included, stability control has proved to be beneficial.
       
      I don’t disagree.  I just don’t think driving skill needs to be able to “transcend the capabilities of ESC” to maintain control of an electronically-unassisted street car that is already set up to be forgiving of driver error at the expense of performance capability.  Put me in a 911 or an Elise, and I’d be far more comfortable going anywhere near the limit with a stability control system.  But I’ve driven vehicles with stability control in snow, and it’s a terrible driving experience if you can’t turn it off.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      For the vast majority of drivers, many enthusiasts included, stability control has proved to be beneficial.

      Can you provide any data to support this claim? Empirically it would make sense to say this, but you could also argue other factors such as the move of most cars to FWD (and good ol’ understeer) and improvements in tire design.

    • 0 avatar
      Nicodemus

      “Can you provide any data to support this claim?”

      http://idisk.mac.com/mpaineau-Public/PAINE_ESC_TESTS.pdf

      http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-01/esv/esv19/05-0135-O.pdf

      http://www.monash.edu.au/muarc/reports/muarc271.pdf

    • 0 avatar
      mazder3

      For the vast majority of drivers, many enthusiasts included, stability control has proved to be beneficial.

      Can you provide any data to support this claim?
      Ask and ye shall receive…
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Active_Stability_Control#Effectiveness

  • avatar
    mazder3

    …he tells the DetN that he’ll take another shot at passing the MVSA when congress re-convenes.
    HAHAHA! Riiiiight. There is a greater chance of GM bringing back the Citation than any MVSA passing through the two houses in the next two years.

  • avatar

    the Dummies in Milford have more sense than the ones in the Ren Cen.

  • avatar
    Ron

    The most important features of the bill are that all vehicles sold in the United States would be required to have 1) a “black box” to record the electronic and mechanical events in a vehicle and 2) a brake override system which would provide a mechanical way to stop even if the throttle is stuck open.

    Toyota already incorporates a “black box” in many of its new cars. Wouldn’t you want to know this information if you or a loved one were injured in a crash? And think of the millions saved on lawyers. As far as brake override systems, many manufacturers already provide this — it costs pennies per car in programming costs.

    Finally, remember that the cost of safety items plummets once they are in volume production. For example, the mechanical parts of an airbag (explosive, initiator, bag, metal canister) now cost less than $30.

  • avatar
    AaronH

    What was really in that bill, Jay Rockefeller?…you parasitic psychopath.

  • avatar
    dculberson

    How many of you are done with work for the year already?  Do you have time off until January fifth?  Of those, how many of you make $174,000 per year?  That’s what I thought.  Zero people have their hands up.
     
    Get back to work, congresspeople!  You have at least seven productive days left.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      <em>Get back to work, congresspeople!</em>
      I’d rather they didn’t.
       
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2010/12/time_to_put_down_the_lame_duck.html
      “When an election is held in most countries, that is it. No coming back for a second bite. No humiliated groups hanging around the chambers of power diminished, defeated and embarrassed for the last few weeks. You finish up that session, face the electorate and come back – or not.”
       

  • avatar
    aspade

    “… he tells the DetN that he’ll take another shot at passing the MVSA when congress re-convenes.”
     
    That’s the most depressing thing I’ve read all night.  When we lose one it’s a freedom gone.  New permission slips to fill out, new hands in my wallet, new decisions made for me, new toys I can’t have anymore.
     
    When they lose one, like they did today, they don’t lose a thing.  The leash remains just as short as it was yesterday.  Tomorrow is a new day to try again.

    • 0 avatar
      rpol35

      Couldn’t agree with you more; it seems that Rockefeller and Waxman have nothing better to do than to try to regulate every aspect of everyone’s life. They must be miserable people with nothing better to do. Who keeps re-electing these clowns?

      The best antiseptic for poor auto saftey isn’t the car, it’s the distracted driver. Ditch the latte, lock up the I-phone, pitch juniors’s dvd’s, skip the alcohol, wear the seatbelt and learn how to drive defensively while fully engaged. (Minimum IQ test for a driver’s license isn’t a bad idea either but I guess were getting back into gov’t regulation with that thought.)

    • 0 avatar
      windswords

      “Minimum IQ test for a driver’s license isn’t a bad idea either but I guess were getting back into gov’t regulation with that thought.”
       
      I’m ok with that as long as it’s the local/state government. Yeah, they do stupid things too, but you have a lot more control and say on what goes on, than if it comes from a central government hundreds or thousands of miles away.

  • avatar
    windswords

    It would help if I knew what was in the bill. Oh yea, I know some things, like the “black box” requirement. But I want to to know what’s in the whole bill, all the added pork and “gotcha’s” that these congress critters like to throw in there. Then I can judge whether it’s good or bad it didn’t pass. Until then I will fall back on my default that it’s good if a bill doesn’t pass and even better if Congress is not in session.

  • avatar
    carve

    I’m for all safety features that don’t infringe on the privacy and liberty of the driver (well, except for breathalizers, which are for known offenders only)

    Car wrecks are still the number one cause of death for people under 35.  We still have a long ways to go, although yes- the lowest hanging fruit has been picked already.  I think there’s a lot of room left still in ways to prevent accidents, rather than just survive them.  ABS & ESC is a huge leap in safety- particularly for the average person who knows nothing about at-the-limit handling, and even for those of us good at handling cars who are caught by surprise or in bad conditions.  (Just look at how many idiots out there don’t know how to put their car in neutral!)

    Accident avoidence systems like Volvo is starting to offer is another great thing, as is electronic brake force distribution and max-braking when the pedal is applied quickly.  Active handling features, like torque-vectoring diffs &  active suspension may also offer future safety enhancements.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    It becomes more and more obvious that the main problem with this country is that we have Too Much Government.
    The reason why this is the case becomes apparent when one reads people in this thread pushing for yet more government, yet more regulations.

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      I generally agree, but you shouldn’t paint with so broad a brush.  Government intervention often makes things worse, but not always.

      The consumer just doesn’t have the technical information available to evaluate safety claims, or the economic costs and benefits of such.  Look at the days before safety regs- most carmakers had NO safety features.  They didn’t even want to have seatbelts for fear that the consumer would think their car was dangerous and crash-prone!  When options did become available, they were hugely expensive.  Airbags, ABS, and ESC used to be multi-thousand dollar options.  Now, combined, they probably add a few hundred bucks to the cost of a car due to economies of scale.

      The same goes for emissions.  Low emissions would be pointless to have as an option, because it only makes a difference if EVERYONE has emissions controls.  The air in LA & other big cities is MUCH cleaner than it used to be.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      The reason why this is the case becomes apparent when one reads people in this thread pushing for yet more government, yet more regulations.
       
      Sometimes the free market is the best way, sometimes it is not.  There isn’t a chance in hell that today’s vehicles would be as clean, safe, or fuel efficient if it was not for regulation.  Manufacturers fought virtually every thing that has made today’s cars as good as they are.  Obviously regulation is not the answer for everything, and sometimes there is a push to over-regulate.  Good government is about striking that balance – choosing what is needed to balance the need of the many without overly penalizing the few.  Spock was right when he said the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one…
       


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