Blumenthal visits Colchester test track, touts vehicle safety bill
Ryan Blessing/ NorwichBulletin.com
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal visits the Consumer Reports auto testing facility Monday in Colchester, where he looked at new vehicles with rear collision avoidance systems.
A visit to the track and test facility where Consumer Reports magazine rates cars and trucks also served as a chance for U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to hammer home the need to enact new vehicle safety rules that he said will save lives.
Blumenthal met Monday with Consumer Reports executives, including President and Chief Executive Officer James Guest, at the sprawling test facility tucked away near a residential area of Colchester.
The tour was a chance for Consumer Reports to demonstrate the rear collision avoidance systems that are becoming standard on newer vehicles.
“There have been these horrific back-over deaths of children, even in their own driveways, simply because someone couldn’t see them,” said Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at the Auto Test Center.
New devices designed to curb the accidents include both rear-mounted sensors that warn of objects in a vehicle’s path and wide-angle cameras that let a driver see what’s behind them as they back up. Stockburger said more than 45 percent of new 2012 model vehicles offered rear-view cameras as an option.
Blumenthal has held congressional hearings and advocated for rules to improve rear visibility in cars. Congress mandated action in 2008 to expand rear visibility in and around cars to protect children from injury. The rules have been stalled before the federal Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for nearly two years.
“The law requires these devices,” Blumenthal said. “The regulation has been sitting in the office that’s supposed to review it before it’s issued for almost two years. The limit is 90 days for that office to review it.”
Blumenthal also recently co-sponsored the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2013 to prohibit rental car companies from renting or selling vehicles until all necessary recalls have been repaired.
The proposed legislation is named in memory of two sisters who were killed in 2010 while driving a rental car that had been recalled due to a defect in a steering component. The car had not been repaired before Raechel, 24, and Jacqueline, 20, rented it. The defect caused a fire under the hood and loss of steering control, leading to the fatal accident.
“The current loophole is that auto dealers cannot sell a car that’s under recall without the defect being repaired,” Blumenthal said. “A rental company can rent a car that’s under recall without repairing it — and without telling you that the car has a serious safety defect.”
Also part of the tour was a look at child car seat safety. The Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, and Blumenthal are advocating for higher weight standards for the seats.