Bill introduced to toughen auto safety penalties

In the wake of the mishandled General Motors vehicle recall, legislation has been introduced that would greatly increase penalties for automakers that manufacture unsafe vehicles. The bill would provide for up to life in prison for auto-safety violations that result in fatalities.

The bill was introduced by Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. It may have little chance of passing this year, but the proposed legislation is seen as a response to car safety violations that have led to deaths. GM has been a particular target after a defective ignition switch on recalled vehicles was linked to at least 13 deaths. 

Sen. McCaskill called GM executives before a Senate committee on two occasions earlier this year to question them about the recall. GM engineers allegedly attempted to cover up the defect by changing a part without changing the part number. Investigators working for personal injury attorneys uncovered the change.

The proposed legislation, the Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Enhancement Act, would raise penalties for car safety violations from $5,000 to $25,000 per violation. It would eliminate the current cap on penalties at $35 million. In addition, under the bill, federal prosecutors could seek sentences of up to life in prison for those involved with safety violations that cause death.

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