Driving up Capitol Hill

Congress is gearing up for a comprehensive overhaul of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, implementing some significant safety measures for automobiles along the way. The campaign, encouraged by safety advocates for over a year now, has gained significant ground as the Senate Commerce Committee endorsed a series of measures which it will seek to incorporate into a highway reauthorization bill due for approval early in the new year.

According to The Detroit News, measures approved by the committee include significantly stiffer fines for automakers delaying necessary recalls. Currently the maximum fine that can be imposed in such instances is $17.35 million, but the new regulations would up that to a whopping $250 million. Naturally, many automakers are opposing this particular measure, but they are, however, backing an additional regulation that would equip all new vehicles with 'black box' data recorders.

Automakers aren't the only ones targeted by the new measures, however, as the new regulations would also increase fines for using electronic devices (like mobile phones) while behind the wheel, and up the penalty tenfold for fraudulently rolling back a car's odometer.

The bill, sponsored by two Democrat senators, would take at least a year to be put into effect should it be voted into law.