Hundreds of people lose their lives on Oregon roads every year. Every loss of life is highly regrettable, of course, but Portland auto defect lawyers have become increasingly frustrated at the number of road deaths caused by malfunctioning vehicles that give occupants little or no chance of escaping serious injury or death in the event of a crash.
Failing brakes, vehicles that roll over far too easily and airbags that don’t deploy when they should and do deploy when they shouldn’t are just some of the causes of loss of life on Oregon roads. Now, Congress is under pressure to make it more difficult—and expensive—for car manufacturers to leave vehicles with known defects out on the roads.
Not surprisingly, automobile manufacturers want Congress to reject a proposal to increase fines for failing to recall defective vehicles in a timely and proper manner. The current maximum fine that can be imposed is $17 million. The new bill currently under discussion would see that increased to $250 million. Even if passed, however, the new law wouldn’t come into effect for at least a year.
As well as increased fines for manufacturers, other provisions of the proposed new legislation include:
- Huge increases in fines for odometer fraud from the current maximum of $100,000 all the way up to $1 million for certain offenses
- Development of an improved vehicle recall database and website
- Creation of a safety hotline for mechanics, dealer and auto workers to make anonymous calls regarding vehicle safety concerns
- New regulations on pedal placement and push button ignition systems
- A mandate that all new vehicles be equipped with event data recording systems
The money that would allegedly come in as a result of the increased fines has already been targeted as well. Proposed uses for these funds include:
- Paying grants to states that ban texting by drivers
- Paying grants to states that completely ban the use of cell phones by teenage drivers
- Funding research into the development of in-vehicle interlocks, which would prevent an intoxicated driver from starting the vehicle.
Car Companies Oppose the Fines
A very powerful coalition which includes the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the Association of Global Automakers, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American International Automobile Dealers Association have unsurprisingly urged the Senate to say “no” to the increased recall fines. They feel the proposed increases are “so out of proportion…to the penalty structure for other manufacturers under the Consumer Product Safety Act as to appear unfairly punitive.” In a letter to two leading senators, the group asked for the increases to be “scaled back to a more appropriate level.”
One of the arguments auto makers put forward for rejecting the increased fines was the decrease in road deaths over the past number of years. They point out that only about 33,000 people were killed on American roads in 2010. Portland auto defect lawyers and other proponents of the new bill would point out that 33,000 men, women and children equate to the size of a reasonably large town.
Recent Fines Paid Show Car Manufacturers Are Still Negligent
Even with a number of recent high-profile recalls, existing fines are rarely used. Two of the most recent include:
- Toyota paid almost $50 million to settle not one, but three, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) complaints that the manufacturer delayed recalls of defective vehicles. Major concerns were expressed over “sudden acceleration” problems with a number of Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles.
- BMW AG paid a relatively paltry $3 million after a review of no fewer than 16 recall campaigns in 2010 showed the company had not notified the government within the required five day time limit after detecting a defect.
Fines May Be the Best Way to Insure Manufacturers Are Safe – Money Talks
Portland auto defect lawyers have joined the chorus of those who believe that the threat of very large multi-million dollar fines may be exactly the right thing to make auto manufacturers stop delaying recalls of vehicles they know to be defective. They point out that the fines are not for building and selling defective and dangerous vehicles, but for delaying the recall of those vehicles when the defects become apparent.
Manufacturers who have policies in place to issue prompt recalls would have nothing to fear. As one product liability lawyer put it, “If the moral issue of leaving defective cars on the road is not enough, if the bad publicity is not enough, let the threat of enough money being extracted from corporate coffers induce automobile makers to act responsibly.”
When all is said and done, it’s probably not realistic to believe that all Oregon road accidents can be eradicated. Human nature, the weather, even wild animals and just pure bad luck can all play a part in causing traffic accidents. However, when people are injured or killed because the vehicle in which they’re traveling isn’t fit to be on the roads, and when the company that made that vehicle knew it wasn’t safe but delayed calling it back in to try to save money and maximize profits, then those companies need to be held accountable.
If you have been the victim of such blatant profiteering, you shouldn’t hesitate to contact Portland auto defect lawyers who will take on the big corporation on your behalf. A delayed recall of a defective vehicle that ends up injuring you or a member of your family is inexcusable, and the right personal injury attorney will see to it that you and your family get the compensation from these major corporations that you deserve. You will also be helping to ensure that other people are protected from suffering the same fate as you.