Aside from a doubling of the budget for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over the next six years and the removal of the $35-million limit for fining automakers, the plan includes a provision that would punish auto executives if it's discovered they knowingly delayed recalls. How will it punish them, you ask? Oh, you know, just life in prison.
The bill "gives federal prosecutors greater discretion to bring criminal prosecutions for auto safety violations and increases the possible penalties, including up to life in prison for violations that result in death," McCaskill's office told The Detroit News. If a delayed recall led to serious injuries, meanwhile, execs could still face a 15-year stint behind bars.
As for that change in the fine structure for automakers, the removal of the limit is complemented by a hefty increase in the per-vehicle fine, from $5,000 to $25,000. With this change, GM could have been on the hook for $55 billion (with a "b") in fines for its bumbling of the ignition switch recall, rather than just $35 million. The News says, though, that NHTSA has "wide discretion" in handing out the fines. Considering a $55-billion fine is enough to sink any automaker, it is unlikely that such a monumental sum would be handed out. Still, the potential threat of such a death sentence should be enough for any automaker to sit up and take notice.
"With millions of Americans behind the wheel every day, and more than 33,000 killed on our roads each year, we've got to do more to keep our cars and the roads we drive them on safe," McCaskill said, according to The News. "Painful recent examples at Toyota and GM have shown us we also must make it easier to hold accountable those who jeopardize consumers' safety. For too long, auto safety resources have remained virtually stagnant while cars and the safety challenges they present have become more complex."
What do you think? Do you agree with McCaskill's proposed bill? Should the punishments for automakers and execs be more or less harsh? Have your say in Comments.