Senate passes measure to increase cap on fines charged to automakers for violating safety laws.

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Senate passes measure to increase cap on fines charged to automakers for violating safety laws.

— The U.S. Senate took the first step to increasing the monetary fines that could be placed against automakers for violating federal safety laws.

Tucked inside a six-year transportation bill passed by the Senate is a new cap to replace the current maximum $35 million the government can fine automakers. The new cap, set at $105 million, is still less than the $300 million safety groups requested, with some advocates wanting the cap removed completely.

The bill also makes it illegal to rent recalled vehicles with safety defects that haven't been repaired. Additionally, dealerships would be asked to check for open recalls when a customer brings their vehicle in for any type of service.

The measure would also mandate every new car window sticker include information about crash avoidance technology and information.

Although the bill means an increased fine of $105 million, safety advocates complained the increase in civil penalties means nothing without the threat of criminal penalties. The Senate avoided that issue without making it a crime for auto executives to withhold information about known safety defects.

The final Senate vote on the transportation bill was 65-34, but it still must be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by the president before the $105 million cap and other safety measures would become law.

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