The Senate Commerce Committee approved changes to an auto safety bill as part of a possible overhaul of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that, among other things, could entice automakers to issue safety recalls sooner rather than later, if passed into law. This means that if you own a car that is potentially unsafe, there is a greater likelihood you’ll know about it sooner.

The bill would raise the maximum fine for an automaker delaying a recall from $17.35 million to a staggering $250 million, reports The Detroit News. “For more than a year, proponents have pushed Congress to strengthen auto safety measures in the wake of sudden acceleration concerns in Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles.”

The campaign to overhaul NHTSA has recently gained momentum, reports Autoblog. Numerous safety measures were added to the bill, giving it the stamp of approval by the Senate sub-committee.

The bill, which has yet to be voted on for passage into law, “wouldn't take effect until one year after it passes,” reports MSN Autos.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which includes Toyota and General Motors, among many others, said in a letter to Congress that the proposed fine increases are  “out of proportion” relative to other penalty structures, The Detroit News reports. The Alliance does not disagree with all aspects of the bill, however.

One part it favors is a mandate for all cars to be equipped with on-board data recorders, known as black boxes, which are currently equipped in all airplanes. If you’re ever in an accident, these recording devices would help investigators determine the actual cause of the accident, be it driver error, an equipment malfunction or another vehicle.

Another aspect of the bill allows states to receive financial grants for outlawing texting while driving and teen cell phone use behind the wheel. Texting while driving is already outlawed in several states. On Tuesday, the NTSB proposed a nationwide ban on all cell phone use by drivers.  

Also included in the bill is further funding for research of in-car breathalyzers. These units would prevent the car from starting if it senses that the driver’s blood alcohol content is over the legal limit.

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