WASHINGTON (May 20, 2010)—The new auto safety bill before the U.S. Senate doesn't give the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration all the power it needs in case of a safety recall, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation at a May 19 hearing.
“The addition of imminent hazard authority would bring NHTSA's authority into line with that provided to many safety and health agencies,” Strickland said in his written statement. “However, as drafted, the imminent hazard provision à stops short of giving NHTSA full recall order authority in these situations.”
As drafted, the Senate bill allows the agency to notify vehicle purchasers that a vehicle, tire or auto part poses an imminent safety hazard, Strickland said. “(But) such notification does not constitute a recall, which consists of both notification to the owners and the provision of a remedy for the noncompliance or defect,” he said. He offered to work with the committee to amend the bill to ensure consumers get an actual remedy in the case of an imminent hazard.
The Senate and House auto safety bills are not identical, but they contain similar provisions, including the imminent hazard clause; stiffer penalties for violating safety recall and early warning data submission standards; and a provision to place event data recorders in all new vehicles to record what happens during accidents.
At presstime, the House subcommittee in charge of auto safety regulations was preparing to vote the afternoon of May 20 on a revised version of the bill it discussed during a May 13 hearing. Rather than mandating vehicle design changes involving accelerator pedals and other features, the revised bill gives NHTSA authority to study whether such changes are necessary. Senate Commerce, meanwhile, planned to vote on its bill sometime during the week of May 24.