The Grow America Act is a transportation bill put forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation submitted last month. The bill outlines the department’s hopes for improved authority for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to combat defective vehicles. The bill prioritizes the NHTSA’s ability to identify defects quickly and inform consumers about potential hazards. It also greatly increased the authority to punish vehicle makers for violations related to vehicle recalls. If the bill passes, it could alleviate the problem of car maker and auto parts makers functionally ignoring the NHTSA in their efforts to pin down safety problems.
The bill would also close several areas of concern regarding recalled vehicles. It would give the NHTSA the power to force rental car companies and used car dealers to have known defects addressed before they could rent, sell or lease the vehicles. It would also give the NHTSA the power to stop the sale of vehicles with defects or order car makers to repair vehicles if it found that the defect posed an imminent hazard to consumers.
Perhaps the most important provision of the Grow America Act is that it would give the NHTSA the power to fine a company as much as $300 million for safety violations. The current limit on such fines is $35 million, which in a billion dollar industry represents a slap on the wrist for violators. Between that and an increase in funding for the NHTSA to find and investigate defects, the agency could actually have the power to force car companies into paying attention to vehicle safety.
Source: The National Law Review, “NHTSA’s Enforcement Priorities Made Clear in U.S. DOT’s Transportation Bill (Grow America Act),” by Christopher H. Grigorian, 27 April 2015