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GROW AMERICA: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Summary of NHTSA Provisions

While the nation experienced a nearly 25 percent decline in motor vehicle fatalities between 2004 and 2013, in 2013 there were still 32,719 fatalities on America’s roadways and over 2.3 million people injured.  The GROW AMERICA Act ensures that safety remains our number one priority by supporting and improving the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) programs, that focus on combatting distracted and impaired driving and improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.  Specifically, the Act:

Combats Impaired and Distracted Driving and Improves Education for New Drivers: Improvements to the National Priority Safety grants program will improve education and standards for new drivers and prevent impaired and distracted driving.  The GROW AMERICA Act amends program criteria and includes separate grants to give states additional flexibility and incentives for meeting requirements, enacting and enforcing more rigorous laws, and increased flexibility to spend funds on education and awareness.  In addition, the GROW AMERICA Act continues support for administering anti-distracted driving campaigns, such as the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over initiative.

Improves Safety for Bicyclists and Pedestrians:  Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities have increased in recent years; in 2013 alone, over 4,700 pedestrians and 700 bicyclists were killed on our nation’s roads.  The GROW AMERICA Act amends existing authorities to address pedestrian and bicycle safety as critical priorities.  The Act requires States to spend certain funds on bicycle and pedestrian safety if fatalities in these areas meet a specified threshold.  The Act also includes provisions for states to address older driver safety and emergency medical services response. 

Allows NHTSA to Immediately Address Dangerous Conditions: Currently NHTSA cannot require manufacturers to immediately stop sales of vehicles or equipment or immediately repairing vehicles or equipment without following substantial and time-consuming procedural steps. Further, recall investigations can take time and under certain circumstances put travelers at risk of injury or death if regulators do not have the ability to take immediate action where the likelihood of death or serious injury is imminent. The GROW AMERICA Act will allow NHTSA to issue an imminent hazard order requiring manufacturers to immediately take action to alleviate harm in cases where there is an imminent risk of injury or death. This authority will allow NHTSA to respond immediately without first determining that a defect exists or hearing the views of the manufacturer, as required under current law.

Holds Companies Accountable for Vehicle Defects: The GROW AMERICA Act protects car renters and owners by expanding authority to penalize bad actors for selling or renting faulty equipment. To ensure that motor vehicle companies comply with safety standards, the GROW AMERICA Act increases the limit for civil penalties for violators from $35 million to $300 million.  It also amends recall authority to require rental companies and used car dealers to fix vehicles before making them available to the public.

Improves Vehicle Recall Notifications for Consumers: Today, if a safety defect is discovered the manufacturer must notify NHTSA, as well as vehicle or equipment owners, dealers, and distributors. With nearly 64 million recalls in 2014 alone, consumers need more assistance in tracking open recalls.  Vehicle recall completion rates for motor vehicles are too low, leaving many in the public at risk of death or serious injury. Many consumers get their vehicles serviced at independent repair shops, which don’t participate in recall services.  Some consumers who get a recall notice may not act on the notice before selling their vehicles to others who are unaware of the open recall.  The GROW AMERICA Act will address the consumer notification challenge in two ways:

  • Requires franchise dealers of a motor vehicle manufacturer to check VINs for open recalls every time a vehicle from that manufacturer is brought in for service and notify the vehicle owner; and
  • Addresses the problem of notice to subsequent purchasers and consumers who do not use franchise dealers for repairs, by establishing a pilot grant program under which a participating State will inform each consumer, at the time of registration in the State, of any open recall on that vehicle.

Improves Tire Recall Efforts: Tire defects can be every bit as deadly and widespread as defects in motor vehicles.  However, tire recall completion rates are low (42 percent), especially compared to vehicle recall completion rates (78 percent). Current law requires franchise tire dealers to register tire sales with the manufacturer, so that manufacturers can contact consumers in case of a recall. Independent tire dealers are not bound by this requirement, meaning consumers that purchase tires from independent dealers are far less likely to be notified of a recall, putting them at greater risk of injury from defective or faulty tires. In addition, under current law, consumers may only receive a free remedy for tire recalls if they seek a repair within 60 days from the time of notification. The GROW AMERICA Act will give DOT the authority to require independent tire dealers to follow the same registration procedures as franchise tire dealers. To improve recall completion rates, the time period for consumers to receive a free remedy for defective tires will be increased from the current 60 days to 6 months.

Supports Development and Enforcement of Fuel Efficiency Standards:  The GROW AMERICA Act supports development of future efficiency standards for cars and trucks–including the next round of standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, which the President has directed DOT and EPA to complete by 2016. The Administration finalized the first-ever fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks for model years 2014-18, which will save vehicle owners and operators an estimated $50 billion in fuel costs and save a projected 530 million barrels of oil, and put in place standards for cars and light duty vehicles through 2025, which are already saving vehicle owners at the gas pump and will roughly double fuel economy by the end of the program.  The GROW AMERICA Act also expands authority to enforce compliance with efficiency standards through inspections and, if necessary, investigations.

Supports Important Safety Research and Demonstration ProgramsThe GROW AMERICA Act supports safety goals through behavioral research and demonstration programs that focus on issues like distraction and combatting impaired driving, as well as on collecting and analyzing crash data.  NHTSA research programs also focus on testing alternative fuels, electronics, and emerging technologies, to ensure that they are safe for use.

Updated: Monday, March 30, 2015