The bipartisan Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act will incentivize whistleblowers in the auto industry to inform federal regulators of unreported safety defects; Delayed recalls of defective products that have caused serious injuries and deaths highlight the need to hold automakers accountable for the safety of their products
One Minnesota woman was killed in a 2006 accident involving a GM car with a faulty ignition switch and another was blinded last year when a Takata airbag deployed
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced that bipartisan legislation she cosponsored to improve motor vehicle safety by encouraging whistleblowers to come forward with information about unreported safety defects has passed the Senate. The bipartisan Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act will incentivize whistleblowers in the auto industry to inform federal regulators of unreported safety defects. Delayed recalls of defective products that have caused serious injuries and deaths highlight the need to hold automakers accountable for the safety of their products. One Minnesota woman was killed in a 2006 accident involving a GM car with a faulty ignition switch and another was blinded last year when a Takata airbag deployed.
“In Minnesota, we have seen the incredible tragedies that can be caused by defective car products,” Klobuchar said. “We can help prevent injuries and deaths like these if we hold the auto industry accountable for the safety of their products, and this bill will encourage employees in the automobile industry who have information related to a defect to help save lives by coming forward.”
The Motor Vehicle Safety Whistleblower Act would allow employees or contractors of motor vehicle manufacturers, part suppliers, and dealerships to receive up to 30 percent of the monetary penalties resulting from a Department of Transportation (DOT) or Department of Justice enforcement action that totals more than $1 million if they share original information not previously known to the DOT relating to any motor vehicle defect, noncompliance, or any violation of reporting requirements that is likely to cause risk of death or serious injury. The bill protects the identity of the whistleblower and considers whether the whistleblower had the opportunity to report the problem internally.
In 2006, Natasha Weigel from Albert Lea, Minnesota, was a passenger in a Chevy Cobalt when without warning the car’s electrical power suddenly went out, and the car veered off the road and came to a stop nearly 60 feet from the roadway. The airbags never deployed and Natasha and another passenger were killed. In 2013, Shashi Chopra from North Oaks, Minnesota, was a passenger in a 2002 BMW that was involved in a crash, deploying a Takata air bag. The investigation surrounding this case remains open but Ms. Chopra was left permanently blind.
Klobuchar has continually worked to hold automakers accountable for producing and distributing defective products. She urged Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to work quickly to find out why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) waited to respond to mounting evidence linking GM cars to fatal crashes, including the crash that killed Natasha Weigel. Klobuchar also questioned the CEO of GM and NHTSA officials about why they failed to act more aggressively in the face of mounting evidence of defective ignition switches. Following reports of defective Takata airbags, she repeatedly called on Takata to immediately issue a nationwide recall and to ensure all vehicles with defective components were removed from the road.