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The Drive for Criminal Charges Against Car Company Execs

Consumer, health and safety groups want Congress to look at tougher safety laws for automakers and executives. Credit:
Consumer, health and safety groups want Congress to look at tougher safety laws for automakers and executives. Credit:
September 4, 2015

HARWOOD, Md. - Safety is top-of-mind as people hit the road for the Labor Day weekend, but all the precautions in the world can't protect against an unknown automobile defect.

More than 100 consumer, health and safety groups want tougher laws on the books to protect people, especially when car defects are known but hidden from the public. In the General Motors (GM) ignition switch case, a defect was connected to more than 120 deaths.

Laura Christian of Harwood lost her daughter in a car crash 10 years ago due to that defect.

"I speak to countless family members who have lost someone in the GM ignition-switch defect, and the one thing they're asking for, they're not asking for money, the only thing we want is we want someone held accountable," says Harwood.

The groups are backing the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2015, which would establish criminal charges for automobile executives who cover up defects, as well as lift the cap on fines against companies caught with safety violations. Car companies oppose the bill, and there are also questions about whether a person should be held criminally accountable for company decisions.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a bill co-sponsor, says the system of addressing safety issues has long been based after-the-fact, and more safety assurances are needed up front.

"Lives would have been saved if car companies had been honest and transparent and if the regulator had not been asleep at the wheel," says Markey.

Executives caught concealing safety issues and related deaths would face up to five years in prison under the bill. The legislation would also encourage state motor vehicle agencies to let drivers know that their cars have been recalled for safety defects.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD