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New penalties proposed for delaying car recalls


Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has introduced bills that could subject auto companies and auto executives to tough new penalties for delaying a recall.

McCaskill, a Democrat, has been leading an investigation into GM's ignition switch recall scandal.  The company admits it delayed a recall of 2.6 million small cars for ten years - and at least 13 people died as a result.

McCaskill's Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Enhancement Act of 2014 would:

-double funding for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to help it modernize and meet increasingly complex auto safety challenges

-eliminate the cap on NHTSA fines for delaying recalls.  Currently the maximum fine is $35 million.

-give federal prosecutors greater discretion to bring criminal prosecutions for auto safety, and increase the possible penalties to up to life in prison for violations that result in death

-prohibit rental car companies from renting or selling cars that have been recalled.

How McCaskill's bill will fare, however, is anybody's guess. 

The Act is part of a six-year reauthorization of the Highway Trust Fund.  Congress failed to reach a compromise and pass a long-term reauthorization this summer, instead, approving a temporary, six-month funding bill. 

That happened just days before the Trust Fund was set to run out of money, placing thousands of highway and bridge projects across the country at risk.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.