By on June 16, 2010

Before the TREAD act came about in the year 2000, I had a PowerPoint chart showing the inside of a U.S. jail, along with inmates (I won’t show the image to avoid a discussion of racism). The headline was: “This is where your career can end.” It was for internal Volkswagen consumption only. Somehow, imprisonment never became law. This was then, this is now: If Washington lawmakers get their wish, managing a car company can imperil  livelihood and freedom of the top managers. (Read More…)

By on May 20, 2010

Rep Henry Waxman’s version of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act passed the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection today, and will go before the full Committee On Energy And Congress. The subcommittee markup [in PDF format here] includes a number of provisions that the industry and others had argued against, such as a $9 fee on each new vehicle sale, and mandatory event data recorders (EDRs) which would “continuously record vehicle operational data” and store all data from 60 seconds before, and 15 seconds after a crash. According to Automotive News [sub], Rep John Dingell is in negotiations with committee chairman Waxman to mitigate two key proposals: the removal of a cap on NHTSA fines, and the granting of so-called “imminent hazard” authority.

(Read More…)

By on May 20, 2010

Yesterday’s Senate Committee On Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing on the proposed Motor Vehicle Safety Act [full text of proposed Senate version S.3302 in PDF format here] was a surprisingly low-key affair. Discussion didn’t seem to move much beyond the battle lines drawn at House hearings two weeks ago. NHTSA Administrator David Strickland continued to argue passionately in favor of so-called “imminent hazard” powers, which are included in Henry Waxman’s House version of the bill, but not the Jay Rockefeller-sponsored Senate version. Meanwhile, debates over nearly every proposal in the legislation rage on, as the industry seeks to mitigate what it considers the bill’s most onerous and intrusive measures. But Strickland framed NHTSA’s mission in zero-tolerance terms: if one American dies on the road, he argued, NHTSA should be doing more to prevent it. This philosophy is underlined by the presence of hard-core safety advocates Joan Claybrook and Clarence Ditlow at nearly every DC hearing on auto safety since the Toyota recall. The flip side to this position is the argument that cars have literally never been safer, and that deaths per vehicle mile traveled are at all time lows. This yawning divide in perspectives towards automotive safety is begging for discussion, so let’s have it. Are cars safe enough? Which new regulations make sense, and which are more onerous than they’re worth? Where should the government define an acceptable number of roadway deaths? And are cars the problem, or are people?

Because this is a political topic, please make the extra effort to make your comment constructive. Complete prepared testimony from yesterday’s hearing can be found here.

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