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RECALLS, RECALLS, RECALLS

Posted on Thursday, January 28th, 2016 at 4:36 pm    

2015 has proven to be a banner year for recalls by the auto industry. Here are a few recent ones that you should be aware of:

1. FORD FUSIONS AND MERCURY MILANS

Ford is recalling 451,865 Ford Fusions and Mercury Milans model years 2010 and 2011 to fix a faulty fuel tank valve that can leak and lead to an increased risk of fire. All of these defective vehicles are believed to be in North America.

2. OLDER HONDA ACCORDS

Honda is recalling approximately 304,000 Honda Accords for model years 2008 thru 2009 because the side airbag can deploy if the door is slammed shut too hard or if a heavy object bangs into the door. Honda said that they are aware of 19 injuries as a result of this problem.

3. OLDER MAZDAS

Mazda is recalling 4.9 million vehicles for defective ignition switches. Apparently an excessive amount of grease can accumulate in the ignition switch, overheat and cause a fire. The recall involves primarily Mazda vehicles manufactured from 1990 thru 1998 and includes a Mazda 323/Protégé, MPV, MX-6 and the MX-3.

Source: Articles appearing at usatoday.com, including an article appearing on November 23, 2015 entitled Ford Recalls 451,865 Fusions, Mercury Milans; an article entitled Injuries Stir Recall of 303,904 Old Honda Accords appearing on October 30, 2015 and an article entitled Mazda Orders Recall for Ignition-Switch Defects in 1990’s Cars appearing on October 22, 2015.

THE DANGERS OF DISTRACTED DRIVING

Posted on Tuesday, January 26th, 2016 at 9:12 pm    

A recent article in the USAA magazine published some noteworthy statistics related to distracted driving. Here are some highlights of the dangers of distracted driving posted in that article.

• TWENTY-SIX (26%) percent of all motor vehicle crashes in 2014 are estimated to have involved cell phone use.

• FORTY-FOUR – The number of U.S. states that currently ban text messaging for all drivers.

• FIVE SECONDS – The average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 miles per hour, that is like traveling the length of a football field blindfolded.

• 2X – Text messaging doubles the risk of a crash or near-crash.

• 1 IN 4 – Teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive.

• 10% – Of parents admit they have extended multiple message text conversations while driving.

As a result of these frightening statistics and a growing understanding of the dangers of distracted driving, USAA and AT&T have teamed up in support of the “It Can Wait” movement to help stop texting and driving.

For more information regarding distracted driving and the “It Can Wait” program, see itcanwait.usaa.com.

If you, or someone you know, sustained injuries in a motor vehicle collision in Central Pennsylvania, contact the Law Office of Bill Pelhan at 717-392-6362 to learn more about your rights and legal options.

Source: An article appearing in the Spring 2015 issue of the USAA magazine entitled The Danger of Texting While Driving.

TRIAL SET TO BEGIN ON GM IGNITION SWITCH CASE

Posted on Friday, January 22nd, 2016 at 4:10 pm    

The first trial is set to begin in New York City this month on a case stemming out of GM’s defective ignition switches. According to an AP article appearing in LNP, the case involves an Oklahoma man who blames a defective ignition switch for preventing his airbags from deploying during a crash involving his Chevy Cobalt. This is the first trial to result from hundreds of lawsuits filed against GM related to the defective ignition switches.

While GM has paid nearly six hundred million dollars to settle approximately 400 claims related to its defective ignition switches through a special fund established by GM to compensate victims, the fund rejected more than 90% of the 4,343 claims submitted.

Perhaps, one of the most important rulings to come out of this case was a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Jesse Ferman denying GM’s request to exclude evidence and arguments related to a punitive damages claim. In reaching this ruling, Judge Ferman stated that GM’s long delay in recalling the admittedly defective vehicles was a possible basis for punitive damages.

According to the AP article, GM has told regulators in a recent quarterly report that it still faces 217 wrongful death and injury lawsuits in the U.S. and Canada.

Source: An AP article appearing in the LNP on Monday, January 4, 2016 entitled Trial set to air GM ignition switch recall issues.

TRAFFIC FATALITIES JUMP IN FIRST HALF OF 2015

Posted on Thursday, January 21st, 2016 at 2:59 pm    

NHTSA recently released its estimates for traffic fatalities for the first half of 2015 which showed an 8 percent increase in the number of traffic deaths for that time period. This was in striking contrast to the last decade where there was a general decline in traffic fatalities. And figures released by NHTSA showed that the number of fatal crashes for 2014 declined by 0.1 percent over the previous year.

Although NHTSA officials noted that Americans have been traveling more due to the improved economy and lower gas prices, Mark Rosekind, the Administrator of NHTSA, stated that not all of the increase in traffic fatalities could be attributed to people driving more. And, Mr. Rosekind stated that he suspects that texting and other distractions, driving under the influence, and increased driving by teenagers were probably significant factors in the large increase in the number of fatalities for the first half of 2015.

Mr. Rosekind also stated that “these numbers are a wake-up call” and he urged people to stop using their phones while driving, not to drive while impaired and to always wear their seatbelts and use helmets when riding motorcycles.

NHTSA’s research shows that human decisions cause 94% of all crashes. And accordingly, Mr. Rosekind stated that “It is important for Americans to know that human behaviors are by far the largest cause of fatalities”.

If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by another driver and are thinking about taking legal action in Central Pennsylvania, contact the Law Office of Bill Pelhan today at 717-392-6362 for the experienced legal assistance you need.

Source: LNP article by Tom Krisher entitled Spike in traffic deaths blamed on distractions which appeared in the LNP on Wednesday, November 25, 2015.

WINTER DRIVING TIPS

Posted on Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 at 3:00 pm    

Although we haven’t had much snow yet this winter, historically, our heaviest snowfalls have occurred between January and March of the winter. And, we all know that snow can make winter driving hazardous. While there are many websites that offer helpful tips for safe driving in the winter, here are a few of our favorites:

1. AAA Tips found at www.exchange.aaa.com

2. Click & Clack of Car Talk offer tips at www.cartalk.com

3. The National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) Tips found at www.nhtsa.gov

4. Winter Driving Safety Tips found at www.travelers.com/resources/auto/safety-driving/winter-driving-safety-tips

In reviewing these sites, three things seem to jump out; namely, preparation, caution, and practice.

PREPERATION: This includes making sure that your car is ready for winter driving. For example, having your car inspected by your dealer or local garage to be sure such things as your tires, windshield wipers, lights, battery, heater and other important systems are in good working order before winter arrives. And, everyone should prepare for the unexpected and real possibility of becoming stranded or stuck in the snow. Most of these sites offer valuable tips for a winter emergency kit, i.e., what you should carry with you in your car during the winter season such as a flashlight, blankets, boots, water, etc.

CAUTION: All of the sites stress the need for caution when driving in snowy or icy winter conditions. Especially the need to SLOW DOWN when driving in snow or ice and to allow plenty of extra time to get to your destination safely. Also, another important suggestion is to ask yourself whether or not you really need to go out when the weather turns bad and the roadways become hazardous.

PRACTICE: Most of these sites suggest that inexperienced drivers practice driving in snowy conditions in a vacant lot under the direction and guidance of an experienced winter weather driver.

Another important thing to remember is the need to be cautious around snowplows. Check out PennDOT’s suggestions for safety around snowplows archived at our blog article at January, 2014.

NHTSA ISSUES A SAFETY ADVISORY FOR BRAKE LINES ON OLDER VEHICLES

Posted on Friday, January 15th, 2016 at 3:13 pm    

NHTSA recently issued a safety advisory regarding the possible corrosion of brake lines in trucks, SUVs, and passenger cars for model years 2007 and older. According to NHTSA brake linings of older vehicles can suffer from corrosion which can lead to brake failure. Risk of corrosion is especially high in states using salt to de-ice the roads in winter.

NHTSA’s safety advisory urges owner’s of trucks, SUVs and passenger cars that are more than 7 years old to:

• Maintain your vehicles and prevent corrosion by washing the undercarriage regularly throughout the winter and giving it a thorough washing in the spring to remove road salt and other de-icing chemicals that can lead to corrosion.
• Monitor the braking system for signs of corrosion by having regular professional inspections and watching for signs of problems, including loss of brake fluid, unusual leaks and a soft or spongy feel in the brake pedal.
• Address severe corrosion, marked by flaking or scaling of the metal brake pipes, by having the full assembly replaced.

NHTSA’s recommendations came as a result of an investigation into complaints of brake line failure in General Motors trucks and SUVs in model years from 1999-2003. The advisory followed a 4 year investigation which led NHTSA to conclude that there was not a defect that would warrant a recall of the General Motors vehicles. However, NHTSA conclude that there was a safety issue that vehicle owners should address.

NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind said “Older-model vehicles, often driven in harsh conditions, are subject to corrosion over long periods of time, and we need owners to be vigilant about insuring they, their passengers, and others on the road are safe.” Mr. Rosekind strongly urged owners of older vehicles who live in cold weather states where salt and de-icing chemicals are in common use in the winter to follow the steps provided in NHTSA’s safety advisory.

Source: www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/2015/nhtsa-closes-brake-line-failure-investigation

WINTER SAFETY TIPS

Posted on Thursday, January 14th, 2016 at 2:41 pm    

USAA Insurance Company offers the following safety tips for your car and home for the winter season.

I. AUTO:

1. SLOW DOWN. USAA recommends that when roads are icy that you should, at least, double the distance between you and the car ahead of you. The reason for this is that sudden braking can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Therefore, it is recommended that you allow extra distance between you and the vehicles in front of you in order to allow you to slow gradually rather than brake suddenly.

2. PACK A WINTER SURVIVAL KIT: USAA recommends that you keep a winter survival kit in your automobile which should include jumper cables, a wool blanket, gloves, a flashlight, energy bars, folding shovel, tow rope, flares and a first aid kit.

3. NEVER POUR HOT WATER ON YOUR WINDSHIELD TO MELT ICE. This could cause your windshield to crack. Additionally, during the winter months you should use an all season windshield washer fluid that won’t freeze at low temperatures.

II. HOME:

1. CHECK HEATING EQUIPMENT. Faulty heating equipment is a leading cause of home fires in the United States according to the National Fire Protection Association. If you do use a space heater, be sure to use one that is equipped with an automatic shut-off device and be sure to plug it directly into a wall outlet.

2. CLEAN YOUR GUTTERS. Cleaning your gutters is important so that snow can melt and drain away from your home and not onto sidewalks or porches. This is also important to help insure that the water does not damage the foundation of your home.

3. STAY INFORMED. USAA recommends that you download the free Red Cross Emergency app to get severe weather alerts. The Red Cross app monitors more than 35 different types of emergency alerts.

Source: An article appearing in the Winter 2015 edition of the USAA Magazine entitled Prime Your Car and Home for Winter’s Chill.

NHTSA SLAPS FIAT CHRYSLER WITH ANOTHER BIG FINE

Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 at 2:58 pm    

It looks like Fiat Chrysler is about to be slapped with another multi-million dollar fine by NHTSA. This time, according to a report by Reuters, NHTSA is imposing a $70 million fine on Fiat Chrysler for under-reporting vehicle crashes, deaths and injuries tied to its vehicles.

This fine comes on the heels of a fine of $105 million against Fiat Chrysler in July of 2015 as a result of the company’s poor performance with 23 recalls involving 11 million vehicles over several years.

According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, in December of 2015 NHTSA had notified Fiat Chrysler about discrepancies in the crash data provided by Fiat Chrysler which suggested that the automaker had under-reported the accidents.

Honda similarly agreed to pay a $70 million fine earlier this year for failing to disclose more than 1,700 reports of death, injuries and other “early warning” information to NHTSA.

This fine appears to be part of NHTSA’s efforts to take a stronger stand against automobile manufacturers following recent recall scandals such as GM faulty ignition switch recall and Toyota’s recalls for its vehicles unattended acceleration defects.

Source: An article appearing at freep.com on December 9, 2015 entitle Report: FCA faces $70 million fine from NHTSA by Brent Snavely.

NISSAN TESTS SELF-DRIVING CAR ON PUBLIC ROADS

Posted on Friday, January 8th, 2016 at 3:10 pm    

According to a recent AP article, Nissan recently gave reporters a short ride in its test version of a self-driving car on public roads in Japan. AP writer Yuri Kageyama reported that the test drive, which took place on a scenic but preprogrammed course on Tokyo’s roads, was a bit like being driven around by a very cautious person, maybe like your grandmother.

According to the article, the Nissan vehicle did not require the driver to steer or operate the foot pedals as it made its way on the roads. And, the vehicle was smart enough to navigate intersections without lane markers, safely brake to a stop without crashing into vehicles in front of it, and to discern the difference between a red traffic signal and a red tail lamp. During the short half hour test drive, the vehicle also made turns, changed lanes and crossed a bridge over the bay.

However, the writer reported that the car was painstakingly careful and was still unable to deal with unexpected situations such as moving to the side of the road when an emergency vehicle approaches.

Nevertheless, Nissan expects to offer the autonomous driving option for some of its vehicles going on sale in 2020. As more and more companies enter the self-driving car arena, it seems like most major car manufacturers will be offering some sort of self-driving system within the next decade.

Source: An AP article appearing in the LNP on September 5, 2015 entitled Nissan test car safely drives itself by Yuri Kageyama.

WILL CARS SOON BE TALKING TO ONE ANOTHER?

Posted on Thursday, January 7th, 2016 at 8:15 pm    

For the past few years, researchers have been quietly working on and testing vehicle-to-vehicle (VTV) communication in Ann Arbor, Michigan. These systems are designed to alert the driver of a dangerous situation that the driver may not be aware of because of limited or obstructed visibility. For example, if a driver is moving along in a line of traffic, his view forward may be blocked by a truck or a bend in the road and when someone up ahead suddenly stops, the driver may not be able to observe that event quickly enough to react. The so-called VTV communication systems are designed to warn the driver of such a dangerous situation even before he is able to see it, thus allowing him more time to react and avoid a collision.

While Google is already experimenting with driverless cars, the VTV communication technology being tested could be retrofitted into existing cars. A recent report from NHTSA estimated that such technology could result in about 600,000 fewer crashes annually involving left-hand turns or intersections. NHTSA also estimates that the cost of adding this technology to a vehicle in 2020 will be as little as $350.

Car manufacturers point out that one of the challenges for VTV communication is to make sure that the warnings provided are not false alarms because people don’t have a lot of tolerance for things that become nuisances.

Source: A New York Times article by Aaron M. Kessler “New Era in Safety When Cars Talk to One Another” – August 20, 2014.