Can you imagine trying to sell a car without seatbelts? It wasn’t so long ago that doing so was not only possible, but quite common.
In 1966, President Johnson signed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. This groundbreaking legislation set safety standards that has led to things like the presence of airbags, antilock brakes, and seatbelts. It also greatly reduced the amount of auto accidents and traffic-related fatalities. Estimates say that the law has saved 453,000 lives since 1975.
How did the law come about?
It was inspired partially by “Unsafe at Any Speed,” a book written by Ralph Nader (yes, that Ralph Nader). The book notoriously called out automakers for hesitating to add safety features, and the lack of regulation that allowed automobiles to be so unsafe.
It was so powerful that the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was passed a year later. The book – and the law – have shaped the way that the auto industry approaches safety.
It’s been fifty years since the landmark legislation was passed, but Nader is not done fighting for auto safety and the accountability of auto manufacturers. He wants to create laws that would require motorcyclists to wear helmets, highways to have rest stops for commercial drivers, and tighter punishments for cell phone usage in the car.
He is also fighting to enact provisions that were dropped from the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act before it was signed into law. Provisions that Nader says should still be enacted.
The Potential Impact of These New Auto Safety Laws
What would this mean for the auto industry? Auto manufacturers could be sentenced to jail time for covering up or neglecting to acknowledge safety defects.
As of right now, there is a cap on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) ability to fine automakers that do not follow the regulations for recalls.
But a new bill is in the works (introduced by Florida’s own Senator Bill Nelson, along with Connecticut’s Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey) that would not only eliminating this cap, but also allow automakers to face criminal penalties for negligence or failing to follow certain recall and safety procedures.
Take Takata Airbags for example. Malfunctions and defects within the airbags recently caused 10 deaths and hundreds of injuries.
Initially, no action was taken by Takata. But the defects were so unsafe and the resulting auto accidents so gruesome that the airbags were eventually recalled. It was the largest auto recall the world had ever seen.
The NHTSA could only fine Takata. Ralph Nader – along with the authors of the bill – wants to change that.
If You Have Been Injured In an Auto Accident
The bill introduced by Senator Nelson and others concerns justice and compensation for injuries. The families of loved ones who were injured or killed by defective auto parts could see the manufacturers of those parts put away in jail, and may receive more compensation for medical and financial losses.
But there are options under current laws as well. In order to receive compensation for injuries and damages, the value must exceed $10,000 (the amount you can receive under your personal injury protection coverage). If it does, you will be able to file a claim to receive the compensation you need to move forward with your life.
Contact an auto accident attorney today to set up a free consultation where you can discuss your options.
About the Author:
John K. Lawlor, a South Florida personal injury attorney who focuses his practice on complex personal injury, wrongful death, and professional malpractice, founded the law firm of Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1996. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.