Hastings Business Law Journal


Automobile safety is one of the most serious public health issues facing our country. In addition to the costs in terms of personal injury and death, automobile accidents cost society billions of dollars in lost productivity and medical costs. In 1966, there were over 50,000 deaths from automobile accidents. By 2015, this number had fallen to approximately 35,000 deaths and 2.4 million injuries resulting from automobile accidents. By some measures, this is a remarkable reduction that might lead us to conclude that automobile safety is no longer an important public policy concern. This article argues that automobile safety is still a major public health concern in light of the large number of recalls and the highprofile cases of the last few years. This article will further argue and that the current approach (of civil liability supplemented by the NHSTA) is inadequate to deter automobile manufacturers from designing and selling dangerous cars. It then considers possible public policy approaches to better protect consumers. In Part I, this article outlines the two cases used as examples: GM and Toyota.

In Part II, this article will outline the existing regulatory scheme starting with the traditional approach of civil liability and the regulatory scheme adopted by the Vehicle Safety Act implemented by the NHSTA and discuss the alternative of imposing criminal liability for what has traditionally been civil tort liability. In Part III, this article outlines will offer a two-pronged approach for imposing criminal liability.