Oct. 12, 2000

Congress Passed Auto Safety Legislation Under Pressure; Should Revisit It In Spring

Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook

Pressured by the public, Congress was pushed to pass a bill this election year to remedy the kinds of egregious coverups we have seen with the Ford/Firestone fiasco and the court-ordered recall in California. Unfortunately, in its haste, Congress passed a face-saving bill for industry, not a life-saving bill for the public. The worst aspect is that it allows the Secretary of Transportation to keep safety information secret, which is the direct opposite of what the Firestone/Ford tragedy taught us is needed.

While the bill makes some important improvements in DOTs enforcement authority by increasing civil penalties and extending the time during which DOT can order a recall, it doesnt include new authority to impose criminal penalties for the knowing failure to recall unsafe vehicles, or the authority to swiftly impose civil penalties.

Public Citizen and the many families who came to Washington to lobby for effective auto safety legislation urge Congress to revisit the issue in the spring. We thank Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) for making major improvements in the House bill. And we deeply appreciate Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) tenacity and his compassion for the families who have lost loved ones. We thank him for his acknowledgment that the bill is imperfect and his pledge to work next spring to correct it.