Legislation would require automakers to provide more information in fatal crashes
|By Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
It would also require the
The legislation was unveiled as the fallout from GM's recall last month of 1.6 million 2003-7
"I believe the federal government has a moral, if not legal, obligation to take all necessary steps to protect innocent consumers," Blumenthal wrote, adding his belief that the company engaged in "deliberate concealment" of the condition involving the vehicles and saying that "constituted a fraud on the bankruptcy court that approved its reorganization."
In releasing their legislation this morning, Markey and Blumenthal said GM "has admitted to knowing for at least a decade about the ignition switch defect in Chevy Cobalts and
But over the years, NHTSA received hundreds of complaints about stalling or air bags not deploying, a fact the senators said warrants a change in the reporting law. Required under a 2000 law passed in the wake of the Firestone tire safety recall, EWR documents on deaths and injuries from crashes -- as well as potentially related components -- are submitted to NHTSA each quarter.
"A massive information breakdown at NHTSA has led to deadly vehicle breakdowns on our roads," said Markey, a member of
"NHTSA's job should be to make life-saving information available, not more difficult to access. This up-to-date, accessible database will be a vital tool for drivers and consumer advocates in preventing future harm," added Blumenthal.
Rather than just submitting summary information on crashes, the legislation would require automakers to provide an accident report or other documentation that first alerted it to any fatality. NHTSA would then be forced to make those documents public unless there is a privacy or competitive reason not to do so.
The bill would also require NHTSA to consider EWR data when investigating safety defects and upgrade its online databases to make them easier to search all at once.
GM has linked 12 deaths and 31 crashes to the defective ignition switches.
"Multiple investigations are ongoing and no hearings have been held," she said. "While we will review the proposed bill, it seems premature to assume there are systemic problems, much less to identify specific legislative fixes, before investigations are complete and the data necessary for thoughtful decision-making are gathered."
Meanwhile, in his letter to Holder, Blumenthal argued that without the
If a case can be made that GM officials knew about the condition and concealed it during bankruptcy proceedings, it could result in the historic 2009 bankruptcy case being reopened. GM spokesman
While it is true that the newly reconstituted GM did not assume liability for claims arising from incidents or accidents occurring prior to
Blumenthal, who was
"Tragically, these warnings have proved true -- and consumer victims may now be barred from any just remedy. They have filed various state court actions, which GM has removed to federal court and asked to be transferred to the
Noting reports that the U.S. Attorney's office in
He also recommended the
Blumenthal will likely get a chance soon to put his questions directly to GM officials: He is a member of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance, which is expected to schedule a hearing on the recall in early April.
Already this week, that subcommittee's top Republican, U.S. Sen.
Last week, Blumenthal asked asked NHTSA Administrator
Today, GM and NHTSA also face a deadline to submit documents to the
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