Articles Posted in Auto Safety

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This week lawyers claimed in a class action suit in Miami that four major automobile manufacturers knew the airbags they bought from Takata Corporation were dangerous but they continued to install them anyway.

The internal company documents allegedly show that Ford, Toyota, Nissan, Honda and possibly BMW knew the bags were lethal but wanted to save a few dollars each on their expensive vehicles.

As a result, at least 11 people have been killed, two from Texas, and over 100 people have been injured, many seriously, after their airbags ruptured. Shards of metal were shot into drivers and passengers when canisters with dangerous gases overheated and inflaters exploded..

Wait, aren’t airbags supposed to prevent injuries?

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High tech junkies, take note: the Alliance for Transportation Innovation will conduct rides in its new shuttles from 9:30 a.m. through 1:00 p.m. at the Arlington Convention Center.

The U.S. Department of Transportation just announced that Arlington is one of 10 out of 60 applicant cities that have been picked to tArticles-Transportation-Autonomous-Vehicle-01-30-17est out driverless cars. In a research partnership with Texas A&M University, the program will test the vehicles out on the University of Texas at Arlington campus, in the Entertainment District (the area surrounding Six Flags Over Texas, AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park), and on the HOV lanes between Dallas and Fort Worth on I-30.

Government and business leaders will also conduct a a round table Thursday to talk about how Arlington can begin using these vehicles. The fact that Arlington, the largest city in the country with no mass transit, is interested is a good step as our highways get more congested and unsafe.

Other Texas cities that are a part of this study include Houston, San Antonio, Austin, College Station-Bryan, and El Paso, making us the epicenter of driverless car research.

If you’re like me, sitting inside a fast moving vehicle, relying on its computers, sounds scary. Riding on DFW Airport’s shuttle is the closest we’ve probably come to that other than a roller coaster. But almost all (94%) of collisions are caused by driver error, so who knows, perhaps this is a good alternative.

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Takata’s defect has killed 11 people and injured over 100 othersdreamstime_xs_7781316-300x205

Capping an extraordinary week for corporate crime busting, on Friday Takata plead guilty to fraud charges and agreed to pay a whopping $1 billion fine. And three Takata executives were criminally charged for their part in the deadly cover-up. The indictment accuses the three executives of falsifying test data that resulted in at least 11 deaths — two of whom were Texans — and over 100 injuries, many serious.

Takata airbags in 42 million vehicles sold in the U.S. from 2002 have exploded and sent deadly medal shards shooting into the car’s interior and into the driver’s or passenger’s face, neck, or chest.

Furthermore, on Wednesday six VW executives were indicted and the German company was fined a staggering $4.3 billion for lying about its emission ratings. This brings the total cost it will have to pay, including lawsuit settlements to consumers, to an astonishing $20 billion, the largest amount in history.

After eight years of coddling giant companies, the Obama Administration is certainly going out with a bang.

Since 2004, three enormous corporations  in particular — General Motors, Trinity Industries, and Takata — had been producing deadly vehicles or highway guardrails. And company executives knew about the defects and covered up damning evidence, even though they could have recalled their products and saved dozens of lives.

What had been the cost? Not that much. While they were fined millions of dollars and a huge verdict was taken against Trinity Industries, they continued to make excessive profits. G.M. raked in a whopping $43 billion and earned almost $3 billion — just in its most recent quarter — yet fought tooth and nail to avoid paying its victims.

All in all, the consequences for knowingly creating seriously dangerous vehicles and roadside barriers were relatively minor. Until last week.

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dreamstime_xs_9036348Looking for a cheap car? You could hit up one of the many Texas police department auctions.

Abandoned vehicles are sold at rock bottom prices to the highest bidder. Cars go for as little as $350 and almost always for substantially less than the sticker price.

An unbelievably good deal, right? Actually, it is.

The cars are cheap for a reason. Look carefully at the terms of these auctions.

“All merchandise is sold ‘As Is’ ‘Where Is’. There are no warranties, no guarantees. All sales are final.”

You drive the car off the lot and it’s yours, dangerous defects and all.

Prior to bidding, you have a few moments to inspect the car during designated preview times. That’s it. You don’t get to take the car for a spin. You have minimal opportunity to fully research the car’s crash and recall history. If you win the bid and there is a problem with the car, too bad. You bought it “as is” and the sale is final.

It’s one thing to get less than you paid for. But, what is truly scary about this setup, is that you could accidentally buy a defective vehicle — from the police department, frustratingly enough. Continue reading

12DITLO-OBIT-1-blog427The passing of attorney Clarence M. Ditlow III (no, not the similarly named Clarence Darrow, another legal giant) received little press coverage last week. The brilliant lawyer was the long-time director of the Center for Auto Safety.

Mr. Ditlow was responsible for some of the most important improvements in vehicle safety. His tireless advocacy led to airbags, seat belts, lemon laws, child safety seats, anti-texting legislation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the countless recalls of defective vehicles.

Ditlow’s mentor was the preeminent consumer rights lawyer, Ralph Nader, who founded the CAS. Nader kicked off his career back in 1965 by writing the landmark book Unsafe At Any Speed which documented the easily exploding Ford Pinto and the incompetent automobile manufacturing industry.

But who then could have imagined that the Pinto wasn’t just an anomaly, but was instead a harbinger of the next 50-plus years of deadly vehicles? Just in the last few years, Toyota’s cars acceleratingGeneral Motors’s vehicles not shutting off, and Takata’s airbags exploding have killed or injured thousands of people.

And there’s apparently no end in sight. Last year, a shocking 51 million vehicles had to be recalled due to defective safety designs.

Ditlow also fought for bans on the now rampant cell phone use and texting while driving — constant rants of mine here since these dangerous practices lead to so many crashes.  Continue reading

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The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has just announced Road to Zero, a coalition dedicated to eliminating traffic deaths. I support this plan wholeheartedly.

The NHTSA has committed $3 million to support auto safety organizations over the next three years. The coalition of organizations will work together on innovative approaches to saving lives.

A similar program in Sweden reduced deaths from only seven in 100,000 to only three in 100,000 in just 15 years.

Let’s hope we get the same results. Our highways are death traps. Continue reading

dreamstime_xs_29651212Vehicle Safety Features Allow Elders to Remain on the Road

A car is a necessity, especially in the spread-out suburban and rural areas of North Texas. Not being able to drive can cause someone to be home bound.

I think about this a little more now that I’m almost 62 — and driving much more cautiously. And our country is graying. However, smart cars help seniors remain safely on the road for many more years.

Already some smart features are helping all of us drive more safely.  For example, the beeping noise and camera screen can alert the driver to stop backing up before hitting an object. A blind-spot warning system can indicate a motorcycle, car or pedestrian in the peripheral. Pacing and braking systems can keep a car at a safe distance from the one in front and brake if the driver fails to respond.

These features are continually improving and becoming more cost-effective. I’m excited to see what’s in the pipeline. After 36 years of representing thousands of auto accident victims, I’m a big fan of anything that can improve roadway safety.  I blogged about this important topic here earlier this week. Continue reading

Self driving vehicle

Self driving vehicle

Terrorists? Immigrants? You can bet that Trump and Clinton don’t talk about this tonight in their first debate, but one of the worst problems we have in our country are the millions of car and truck collisions each year.

Did you know that a whopping 37,000 people are killed and 2.35 million are injured here each year on our roads but by comparison, 32 Americans were killed by terrorists in the five years from 2010 to 2014?

Could technology make our highways safer? Of course. But when the U.S. Department of Transportation made an announcement last week that it will allow our car manufacturers to design self-driving vehicles, but that our government will somehow regulate their safety, you have to wonder if we can trust GM and Toyota to protect us.

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The race car movie star Paul Walker died in a fiery crash in 2013 that devastated his fans. His friend and business associate — also a race car driver and the owner of a Porsche dealership – was driving a 2005 Porche Carrera GT. Both men died.

The super car, which sold for $450,000 and was powered by a giant V-10, 610-hp engine, was reportedly being driven at a speed of 80 to 90 miles per hour on a suburban street outside of Los Angeles. The driver lost control, hit a curb, the car spun, hit a tree, and erupted into flames.

A lawsuit filed by representatives of Paul’s 15-year-old daughter settled for $10 million.

However a second lawsuit against Porsche claiming that the car was defective and failed to protect its occupants lost in court.

Speed is by far the leading reasons collisions happen here in Texas. We were just hired to represent the victim of one of those crashes today. Last year, over 100,000 so-called accidents were caused by drivers driving excessively fast and failing to control their speeds.

But in addition to the Porsche driver’s recklessness, what was the cause of that — and far too many other — crashes?
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Guard+Rail+052316Have you ever noticed the massive concrete posts that support Texas bridges? From an engineering point of view, the posts are impressive. They support tons of weight and stand up to intense conditions.

From a safety point perspective, however, the posts are accidents just waiting to happen.

The huge concrete posts sit directly next to the highway, with nothing to pad them or block cars from hitting them. TxDOT might as well construct a big brick wall along the side of the highway and demand cars stay on course. Continue reading

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