New research done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) show that during a period of more than twenty years (1873 – 1995), there have been 33,000 fatalities arising from increases in speed limit in the United States. Charles Farmer, IIHS vice president for research and statistical services, opines that car accident deaths would have been fewer in the same study period if states had not increased their speed limits.
Here’s a historical recap of the raise in speed limits in the US.
In 1073, when fuel was scarce, Congress passed a measure requiring states to set a 55 mph as speed limit in order for them to receive their share of highway funds. This was known as the National Maximum Speed Limit. Although concern over safety was not the main goal of the measure, car crash fatalities decreased considerably. In 1987, with fuel availability no longer a threat, Congress allowed the states to raise speed limits to 65 mph on rural interstate highways. In 1995, this law was totally scrapped.
As expected, the increase in fatalities followed the repeal of the law limiting speed limits. And it is still increasing up to the present. Texas has the highest speed limit at 85 mph and six other states have set their limits at 80 mph.
Taking other factors into consideration, including variables in unemployment, rising number of drivers ages 16 – 24 and alcohol intake, the IIHS research found that an increase of 5 mph in a state’s maximum limit resulted in a 4 percent rise in deaths from car crashes.
The 33,000 fatalities is also possibly a lower figure than the actual because only the increases in rural interstates were considered; yet speed limits for urban interstates have also been raised in several other states. Further, the speed limit raise in some states were not included in the study. Farmer says there is no reversal in the trend for increasing maximum speed limits and it is up to the state officials to consider the fatal consequences of increasing speed limits should they choose to do so.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety conducted its first-ever headlight evaluation on 31 mid-size cars and believe it or not, the Toyota Prius v was the only one to earn a good rating. Eleven cars’ headlights had a rating of acceptable, nine were rated marginal and ten were rated poor. Luxury vehicles, in spite of their high price tags, made up most of the poorly rated.
David Zuby, IIHS EVP and CRO, says that headlights instead of poor vision may be to blame when drivers cannot see at night.
Good headlights are important to enable drivers to see what is on the road, including bicyclists, pedestrians and obstacles. But the standards set by government allow a diverse quantity of illumination in headlights for actual driving at nighttime. This is a critical factor in car crashes since about fifty percent of fatalities are due to nighttime accidents, or the dusk and dawn hours.
Newer headlight technology has created the HID or LED lamps, making halogen lamps obsolete. There is also the new curve adaptive headlights that work along with the car’s steering. However, headlight evaluation focuses not on technology but on sufficient illumination output minus the glare produced by drivers of approaching cars.
The IIHS tests headlights at their Vehicle Research Center at night. It uses equipment that measures light from low beam and high beam as the car is driven using five methods: straight travel, a sharp curve both to the left and right, and a gradual curve also both to the left and right. Glare from oncoming cars are included in the evaluation to determine if it is too much. The results are then compared to a theoretically ideal headlight system.
Lawyers at the law firm of Stephens, Anderson & Cummings welcome headlights testing because they know that many car accidents that occur at night are caused by substandard one. With this evaluation, it is hoped that car companies will ensure that their cars have headlights that will make the roads at night safer for driving.
Road safety proponents are calling for a change in terminology to describe traffic incidents from “accidents” to “crashes.” These advocates include federal authorities, state and local officials and the citizenry.
The word accident, according to them, diminishes the significance of the No. 1 cause of road incidents, which is human error. It’s a mindset that has pervaded society for more than 100 years, and one which advocates believe should now be changed.
In 2014, New York City’s Vision Zero policy includes the statement that NYC “must no longer regard traffic crashes as mere accidents;” San Francisco has followed suit. Massachusetts Director of Highway Safety Jeff Larason says about 28 state departments of transportation have avoided using the word accident to describe a road incident.
Mr. Larason is at the forefront of the campaign to use the term crash instead of accident and is urging media outlets to support his campaign by doing the same. Formerly a TV traffic reporter, Larason created the “Drop the A Word” blog to spread his advocacy and asked for support in persuading The Associated Press to explain to reporters how to use the word accident.
The AP issued its new policy in April, advising reporters to avoid using accident when a crash has been claimed or verified to be caused by negligence, because it can be interpreted as absolving the responsible person of his crime. Mark Rosekind, head of the NHTSA, agrees that using the word accident can be misleading. “It’s like God made it happen,” he says. Merriam-Webster defines accident as “an event that is not planned or intended; an event that occurs by chance.”
However, Mr. Larason has his critics, too. In a Facebook group frequented by traffic reporters, one comment said, “What is being solved by this debate? What injustice are we correcting?” Officials at the Virginia Department of Transportation, when asked by Mr. Larason to use crash in lieu of accident, declined, explaining that it could only confuse the people concerned.
Safety advocates are not giving up. Majority of crashes are caused by drunk driving, distracted driving and other dangerous behaviors; only six percent are due to mechanical problems or weather. Mr. Rosekind says that the mentality of people viewing crashes as an unavoidable circumstance must be changed, and changing the language by which traffic incidents are described is part of it.
Buckling up your seatbelt is the easiest and fastest way for you to ensure your safety on the road. It doesn’t take all that much, too, as wearing a seatbelt should practically be an intuitive action for all car drivers and passengers already.
It is in line with this message that local and state transportation departments as well as law enforcement offices such as the NHTSA, IDOT, and CARE have joined forces together to launch the 2016 Click it or Ticket .
Safety Reminders for All
The yearly safety campaign seeks to urge passengers in every vehicle on America’s roads to make sure to first fasten their seatbelt before turning on that ignition. No less than U.S. Transportation Secretary has reiterated the need for every driver and passenger to keep this reminder in mind.
Common as the concept may be, however, it appears that an annual event constituting a reminder for seatbelt use remains to be necessary. In 2014, for example, up to 49% of vehicle passengers killed in a car accident were found to have not been in their seat belts. The numbers go up for night-time accidents, where up to 57% were unrestrained, while daytime accidents recorded 41%.
Men are also more prone to dismissing the safety reminder, with as much as 53% of them involved in fatal crashes having been found to be unbelted. This does not mean that women are in the clear, though, as 40% is still too high a number.
These numbers overshadow what otherwise could have been great news with NHTSA data showing that seatbelt use rate has actually experienced a steady increase to 88.5 in the same year. The lofty–but very possible goal–however, is for casualties to be reduced even up to zero.
A Successful Campaign
This is why a Fort Worth car crash law firm like Stephens, Anderson & Cummings agree that public campaigns backed by official government agencies are all the more important.
With information campaigns like Click It or Ticket, it just might not be long till the Illinois rate of seat belt usage, currently pegged at an impressive 94%, successfully achieve a full 100.
In 2012, an 11-year-old boy’s life was forever changed when the Audi sedan his father was driving was rear-ended in San Antonio, Texas. The backset of his father fell on him, causing him permanent brain damage, partial paralysis, as well as partial loss of vision.
This is the car defect found not only in this particular line of car, but also in a lot of other major brands. The backseat collapse, according to the lawyer of Audi, was intended to be a safety measure for the passenger sitting on it. As for those seated right behind it, they were banking on the backseat passenger’s knees to cushion the fall, so to speak. This kind of logic and expectation, however, does not take into account the possibility that the backseat passenger is a child.
The unfortunate thing about all of this is that parents have been told time and again that the backseat is the safest place for the children. With this new findings, however, this long-standing tenet is now being put to serious doubt and question.
Crash test investigations have found that when the backs of the seat fall upon the row behind it, the impact is immediately and instantly absorbed by whoever is sitting there. A child, however, is obviously going to be no match for strong impacts, and so are at risk of grave injuries or, worse, death.
Perhaps the most unfortunate thing about all of this, especially for families with children who have become victims of this car defect, is the fact that remedying this falling backseat issue would not even cost more than a dollar or some.
While Mercedes Benz, BMW, and Volvo have already taken the initiative to strengthen their seats to protect against seatback failures, there are many more out there that have yet to take action on the matter.
In fact, even the NHTSA itself is seemingly finding it difficult to raise their standards pertaining to this particular issue because according to them, these kinds of cases are actually “rare”.
Understandably, many are infuriated by this seeming lack of concern. One injured child is still one too many, after all. Although personal injury lawyers from firms like Stephens, Anderson & Cummings could very well help families get the reparation they deserve following an unfortunate injury following an accident, it still would be in the best interests of everyone involved to have a safe vehicle on the road from the get-go.
A lot may be impressed by those new keyless ignition systems being offered by the latest car models. Not everyone is enamored by this technological development in the automotive industry, though, as critics are quick to point out that this feature could, in fact, prove to be fatal.
According to the president of safety group KidsAndCars.org, there have been at least 19 cases of fatalities that are clearly related to this features since 2009. Another 25 close calls have also been recorded. What makes the keyless system a danger, however, is that it does away with the traditional relationship between the metal key and ignition.
The Silent Killer
Here’s how it works. The key fob is actually necessary to turn on the engine. However, the same is not true for turning it off. What happens then is that the engine is left running, fully unnoticed, until eventually, it runs out of fuel. When it does, carbon monoxide can fill the car, or in fact any enclosed space, in effect poisoning the air inside.
This is actually what happened precisely to a family of six in Issaquah, Washington back in November–and it didn’t even happen in the car. According to the father, he parked his Toyota van in the garage, taking the fob with him into the house. He did not, however, remember to completely turn off the engine.
Fortunately, all of the family members were rushed to the hospital in time. Their fate could have turned into a much darker turn otherwise, because the fire police reports that the carbon monoxide levels found in the home reached potentially fatal levels.
Information and Awareness
The thing is, no less than the NHTSA has taken notice of the danger of keyless ignitions as early as December of 2011. Despite this spot-on prediction, however, action still has yet to be taken.
A car accident attorney in Fort Worth agrees that car manufacturers should improve their best practices to avoid keyless ignition troubles such as the one mentioned above. An alarm or warning system could very well be a huge step in making all the difference between making sure that the engine is fully shut off or not.
The struggles of Takata, Japanese supplier for automotive safety, is far from over. The company has been in the throes of a massive recall–the largest in the automotive history, so it’s been dubbed–of their defective airbags, and the end is looking nowhere in sight.
Originally, some 24 million vehicles from 14 manufacturers sold in the U.S. had been involved in the recall this past decade. With the latest judgment of federal regulators, however, an additional 40 million more are set to be included, too. While the total number of involved vehicles do not have a clear figure (some vehicles do use more than just one Takata airbag), what is certain is that this airbag recall is happening, and it couldn’t come quite sooner.
The airbags in question have been the subject of numerous investigations due to various reports of it firing off over-aggressively. More than just simple injuries, these airbag deployments have also been found to have caused 11 deaths already. As it turns out, reports have further claimed that these Takata contain an explosive compound, ammonium nitrate, in its inflators, which only further complicate the situation. A Fort Worth auto accident lawyer can easily see how this airbag is a serious lawsuit waiting to happen.
On top of the ordered recall, Takata was also the subject of intense Congressional hearings last year, where they were also slapped with a $70 million fine. There could be more on the way, though, if they fail to comply with the NHTSA-imposed targets for improvements to their safety performance.
For their part, the company has so far been showing its readiness to cooperate with whatever the federal regulators are imposing on them, if this would mean a faster resolution to the issues.
Recalling had been tough, and replacing required parts have proven to be quite the challenge for manufacturers. Some, like Toyota and BMW, have already turned to other airbags suppliers just so they can replace the recalled units of their clients as soon as possible.
As of April 22nd, however, it’s been reported by NHTSA that some 8 million vehicles already had their airbags replaced and fixed. It’s a considerable number on its own, but in light of the overall tally of affected vehicles, this barely makes a dent on all the other units that manufacturers and Takata have to deal with.
Car manufacturer Nissan is stepping on the brakes in the distribution of its 3.5 million vehicles because of a possible airbag malfunction. This was the report stated on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website on Friday.
Airbag Deployment Issue
The recalled vehicles include some 622,000 Sentras from the 2013 to 2016 lines. According to the reports, there is an existing malfunction in the model’s mechanisms, which could then cause the airbag to deploy in the event of a crash, even when it isn’t supposed to. One such instance when the airbag should not be able to deploy is when there is a child seated as a passenger.
Nissan spokesman Steve Yaeger has previously stated in an email that the company has been made aware of “at least three crashes” wherein passengers–no word on whether children were involved–suffered from “moderate injuries” because the airbags deployed incorrectly.
This batch of recall actually marks the end of a two year-long process and efforts carried out by federal regulators to get Nissan to fix issues with their vehicle’s occupant sensing system.
Nissan had already recalled some 990,000 vehicles in 2014 because of issues with this system, which was supposed to be able to detect if the passenger occupying the seat is a child or an adult. The problem, though, is that the sensor system may not even be able to identify whether there is a passenger sitting there, or if it should even deploy because the passenger is a child.
By August of last year, an investigation was opened after as much as 124 complaints were raised by Nissan car owners.The NHTSA were then compelled to look into whether or not the car manufacturer did fix the said issue, which had been plaguing them for a good while already.
Other Nissan vehicles included in the recalled lineup are: 2013-2016 Altima; 2013-16 Leaf; 2013-2017 Pathfinder; 2014-2016 Infiniti Q50 and QX60; 2014-2017 Rogue, and 2015-216 Murano.
A high school senior was killed when the Honda Civic 2002 she was driving rear-ended a Honda CRV in March this year. The cause of death was the car’s Takata airbag that ruptured upon impact and shrapnel from its inflator cut the teen’s neck and carotid artery. The accident happened at Fort Bend County, Texas. The young woman crashed into the vehicle in front of her while it was waiting to make a left turn. The victim was pronounced dead immediately. County Sheriff Danny Beckwith said that the driver was not speeding and was wearing her seatbelt. Damage to the car was moderate and could not have resulted in death, if not for the exploding air bag.
This incident brings the number of fatalities from ruptured Honda airbags to ten in the United States, nine of these fatalities were in Honda vehicles and one in a Ford. Honda says they had mailed several recall notices to the owners, but the repairs were never done. Honda is currently facing numerous federal and state lawsuits over car crash deaths and injuries due to its defective airbags.
The five-year recall campaign has seen Honda replacing the defective airbag inflators of 54% of its total vehicles for recall, the highest completion rate among US automobile companies. But Honda spokesperson Jeffrey Smith says they are not letting up on their efforts and have even increased the customer relations team handling this issue to twice its size. They have sent over 26.8 million mailers, postcards and emails in addition to 12.8 million direct and automated telephone calls to the owners. They have used social media and targeted ads to reach out to Honda car owners to convince them to have their vehicles repaired.
In spite of these, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) said the car companies and Takata have to increase their efforts to find the vehicles to prevent similar tragic events. The NHTSA is ordering automakers that have Takata airbags in their vehicles to achieve 100% completion rate in recalling and replacing the defective air bags.
The lawyers at Stephens, Anderson & Cummings hope this article has made Honda car owners aware of safety risks associated with Takata airbags, so they can get it fixed immediately.
The recall of Takata airbags in 28.8 million vehicles in the United States has brought about a related problem: what will the affected car owner use while waiting for the fix? The magnitude of the recall will result in a wait for months as the cars are repaired. While dealerships have supposedly said they will pay for rental cars, some customers say they are having some difficulty actually getting them.
According to investigative reports, the Takata airbag problem was already known to the airbag manufacturer and Honda as far back as 2004 but the companies did not report their findings to the NHTSA and even tried to conceal it. The affected airbags can explode upon deployment with its inflators breaking into fragments, thereby shooting pieces of metal into drivers and passengers, causing injuries and death. So far, there have been 11 deaths and more than 100 injuries reported due to the faulty airbags.
One issue with the car rentals is the driver’s age. Those under 25 years of age and with limited insurance coverage are denied or must pay surcharges while others have to assert their rights to be given a rental car. Such was the case of San Fernando Valley writer Amanda Biers-Melcher who was initially told she could keep driving her car, but was later referred to a car rental company after she stood up to the dealer. Another Honda Fit car owner says his 16-year old son was refused a rental car even though the car was on the recall list. But Honda spokesperson Chris Martin clarified that only the registered owners of the cars will be supplied with loaners, including teens. The son, in this case, was not the registered owner.
Still, another complaint comes from a luxury car owner whose BMW was recalled. She got a Kia for a loaner and was not happy with the lower class vehicle. A Fort Worth car crash law firm can counsel car owners on the proper action to take in such cases.
Regulating agencies have set rules for the repair of air bags. Factors like car’s age, failure rate, and the length of time the car has been in an area with high humidity will determine when a recalled car will be repaired.