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SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog and the Consumer Federation of California today joined in calling on Sen. Barbara Boxer to ensure that the highway bill now before Congress protects consumers and their safety.

The highway bill, known as The Drive Act, has been passed by both the Senate and and a Conference Committee is reconciling the differences between the two versions.

In a joint letter to Sen. Boxer, Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California and John M. Simpson, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog, wrote:

“For decades you have been a true champion of consumers and safety. However, this is the first highway bill in 25 years without a bipartisan agenda of safety improvements. As a major sponsor and advocate for The Drive Act, you have a responsibility to influence the direction taken by the Conference Committee to ensure the final highway legislation that emerges truly protects consumers and their safety.”

Read the consumer groups’ letter to Sen. Boxer here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrbox111715.pdf

One troubling provision in the legislation being considered by the Conference Committee would allow teenagers as young as 18 to drive big rig trucks and buses in interstate commerce. “We urge you to get this ill-advised provision stricken or the safety of these youthful Americans and all those with whom they will share the roads will be threatened,” the letter said.

Then letter warned that neither the House nor Senate version of the bill requires repair of used cars subject to a manufacturer safety recall before sale by any dealer.  “All vehicles subject to manufacturer safety recalls should be repaired before any dealer or rental car company allows the public to drive them,” the letter said.

Also of concern is the lack of funding for the National Highway and Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA), the letter said:

“The Drive Act inexplicably continues a starvation diet for both NHTSA and FMCSA.   The Senate bill is better than the House bill that cuts $90 million off of NHTSA’s requested reauthorization.  But this situation is an emergency.  NHTSA has a total motor vehicle budget covering research and operations for the U.S. of a measly $130 million.   And FMCSA’s total budget for operation and program is only $271 million.  These are not even footnotes for the Department of Defense yet one third of our armed forces deaths occur on the highway.  The Federal Aviation Administration’s budget is $3 million per fatality while NHTSA’s is $5,000.  NHTSA and FMCSA need an infusion of serious money to get their very large and complex jobs accomplished.  Why are these agencies being starved for funds? Please correct this unacceptable situation.”

The letter said the Drive Act does not do enough to target auto manufacturers who sold killer defective vehicles and covered up the deficiencies. “Over 200 people have been killed by companies who have delayed recalls, sometimes for years, and hidden the defects. The lack of any or very little remediation sends the message that cover-ups and business as usual are fine,” the letter said.

“Unless new safety measures are enacted, it is estimated that nearly a million people will be killed and injured in crashes over the next six years,” the letter concluded. “This is Congress’s big opportunity to make a difference.  Senator Boxer, this is your opportunity to put the safety of us all before corporate greed.”

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