Toyota's Recalls Accelerate Push For Tougher Auto Safety Standards

Congress is currently considering bills to raise safety standards in the auto industry. The bills would require new brake override systems and "black box" data recorders. The proposed legislation would also strengthen government oversight of the industry.

Toyota's Problems Inspired Overhaul Efforts

Sponsored by Democrat Henry Waxman of California and Democrat Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, the proposals come in the wake of the Toyota recalls at the end of 2009 and earlier this year. The Japanese auto giant recalled nearly 9 million vehicles worldwide over problems with dangerous acceleration due to sticking pedals and improper floor mats.

In the House version of the bills, motor vehicles would have to be equipped with brake override systems that could stop vehicles even while the throttle is open or accelerator pedal is depressed.

Black Boxes

The legislative proposal also would require carmakers to install data recorders widely referred to as black boxes. These would store information about what takes place a minute before a crash and 15 seconds afterward.

The House bill would also empower the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to order immediate recalls of vehicles posing a safety threat. The bill also removes a cap on civil penalties that can be imposed; the Senate bill raises the cap from $5,000 per vehicle to $25,000 per recalled vehicle.

The House bill would also give the NHTSA not only the power to issue immediate recalls, but also the personnel with which to make safety enforcement decisions. A $3 fee (rising to $9 over three years) on all new vehicle sales would add $100 million annually to NHTSA's budget.

How The Law Affects You

Auto industry observers say carmakers are still fighting the regulatory changes, hoping to soften regulations requiring redesigns of gas pedals and to do away with or delay the fees on new vehicles. However, it appears Congress isn't inclined to grant automakers great concessions in the wake of the highly publicized Toyota sudden acceleration problems.

Motorists across the nation and in West Virginia are likely to see significant improvements in both vehicle braking and government oversight of an industry often slow to respond to consumer safety complaints.

If you or a member of your family has been injured in a car crash or traffic accident due to manufacturer defects in the vehicle, contact a West Virginia personal injury attorney. A personal injury lawyer will assess the facts, inform you of your legal options and enable you to use the law to protect yourself and your family.