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Auto safety key focus of recently passed federal transportation bill

Given the altogether divisive climate on Capitol Hill, it's almost of unheard of for lawmakers from both sides of the aisle to reach an agreement on anything, let alone a billion dollar, multi-year infrastructure bill. Yet this is precisely what happened earlier this month, when the House of Representatives voted 359 to 65 and the Senate voted 83 to 16 to pass a 5-year, $305 billion transportation bill.

While the 1,300-page bill, which has since been signed by President Obama, earmarked significant funds for both repairing and enlarging the nation's highways, bridges and transit systems, it also contained scores of other provisions that, while not directly related to transportation, are nevertheless noteworthy.

For our purposes, consider five auto safety provisions inserted into the bill that could serve to make the roads and highways significantly safer in the near future, especially as far as auto defects are concerned.

  1. Rentals and recalls: A provision expressly prohibits both car dealers with more than 35 vehicles on the lot and rental car agencies from making those vehicles that have been recalled but not repaired available for rent.
  2. Higher fines: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now able to fine automakers that violate safety defect regulations $105 million per violation, a threefold increase from the prior levy ceiling.
  3. Five-star revision: The ubiquitous five-star crash rating system used by the government will be expanded to account not just for passenger protection abilities, but also the presence of crash avoidance technology.
  4. Safety record retention: In order to make it easier to trace auto defects, automakers will now need to keep safety records for 10 years as opposed to five.
  5. Alcohol sensor: $21 million will go to research efforts to develop a passive alcohol detection sensor that would prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver had a high level of alcohol on their body.  

This is certainly an encouraging development. Here's hoping we see Washington continue to make investments in road safety .

If you were seriously injured or lost a loved one in an accident that you believe can be traced to some type of auto defect, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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