Lawmakers in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are working on new vehicle safety laws that would allow the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to set stricter rules and regulations for auto makers.

Our personal injury lawyer blog has covered the Toyota unintended acceleration crashes in detail, and we hope that tougher rules and regulations might help the NHTSA catch problems like these before they kill another family in a fatal car accident.

Lawmakers ‘compromised’ with auto makers on vehicle safety laws.

The proposed laws — known as the Motor Safety Vehicle Act of 2010 — were first written right after a congressional hearing in February regarding the unintended acceleration problems of Toyota models and are designed to give the NHTSA more power to detect similar design defects before they cause car accidents.

The Motor Safety Vehicle Act will require the NHTSA to set federal standards for electrical components, strengthen the penalties on auto companies that lie or mislead consumers about design defects and forbid NHTSA officials — that are hired by auto makers — from working with the agency for three years.  Vehicles will be required to have a brake override system as well as a “black box” to record any relevant crash information.  The funding for the NHTSA should also triple over the next four years.

“[The Motor Safety Vehicle Act would] dramatically improve the safety of motor vehicles,” Representative Henry A. Waxman (D-California) told the Washington Post, which covered the story.

Lawmakers have since revised the bill after meeting with auto industry officials.  The U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary has some increased power to set rules for auto makers, some deadlines for the new safety standards have been pushed back or eliminated altogether, and safety standards are only required to merely lessen runaway acceleration than actually eliminate the problem.  These are concessions to the auto industry, which claimed that some of the act’s requirements were impossible to complete at this time.

“We can’t prevent a shoe from going under a pedal.  We can’t prevent people from putting in more than one floor mat,” said the spokesperson for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.  “Prevention becomes a very steep hill to climb.”

The House bill is scheduled for a vote this week, while the Senate is still finalizing its version.  Once both bills are approved, they’ll need to be reconciled to form one law, hopefully before the July 4th holiday.  Some elements of this proposed law have been weakened, but at least Capitol Hill is working to improve a system that could prevent disasters from happening out on the road.

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