WASHINGTON (March 27, 2014) — Two U.S. senators introduced a bill March 25 to expand the public's access to auto makers' safety filings with regulators, saying federal reforms could prevent fatal crashes like those linked to a defective General Motors Co. ignition switch.
The bill from Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is the first to be introduced in response to GM's ignition switch defect. It signals that GM's decade-long delay in executing the recall—combined with Toyota Motor Corp.'s record $1.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice last week for misleading customers about the company's response to cases of unintended acceleration—could lead to a broad overhaul of the nation's auto safety laws.
Messrs. Markey and Blumenthal's bill would allow private citizens, including safety advocates and trial lawyers, to see the “early warning reports” that car companies must submit to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“Timely information can save lives when it reveals lethal defects,” Mr. Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, said in a statement March 25. “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.”