NHTSA Safety Recalls: The High Cost of Auto Manufacturing Mistakes

toyotaSafety recalls for defective vehicles are on the rise in the U.S., with millions of cars and trucks affected by recalls during the 2014 calendar year. General Motors led the pack with 80 recalls covering more than 26 million vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for issuing and maintaining records of these recalls on behalf of the public. Investigations by the NHTSA prompt some of these recalls; however, most recalls are initiated by automakers in compliance with regulations designed to protect the safety of drivers on American streets and roadways. Defects in design or function can result in serious accidents. For families struggling with the aftermath of defect-related crashes, working with a Galveston car accident attorney can provide guidance and help in obtaining fair compensation for medical expenses and other costs related to these incidents.

Reasons for Safety Recall Campaigns

The NHTSA categorizes recalls in two ways:

  • Recalls resulting from failure to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in the manufacture of motor vehicle equipment
  • Recalls necessitated by safety-related defects in manufacturing

Both types of vehicle recalls focus on safety issues. Common areas of concern that could prompt a NHTSA recall include the following:

  • Steering issues that could potentially reduce the ability of the driver to control the vehicle
  • Faulty accelerator systems
  • Air bag malfunctions
  • Wiring and fuel system defects that could cause fires
  • Safety belts and child safety seats that do not function as intended
  • Wheels and tires that fail to operate correctly or that can experience catastrophic failure on the road

Auto dealers and manufacturers are generally required to provide a fix for these problems free of charge. Generally, the remedy offered represents the smallest expense possible to the manufacturer while effectively resolving the problem. In some cases, however, the issues identified with a particular set of vehicles may lead to a buyback offer by the manufacturer.

The Cost of Faulty Vehicles

An alarming number of deaths have been linked to defects in manufacturing in the automotive industry:

  • At least 124 deaths have been attributed to an ignition switch problem affecting certain General Motors (GM) vehicles. The switch could unexpectedly shut off, cutting power to the vehicle and disabling air bags and other safety features. The recall was issued in February 2014 and covered 2.6 million small cars. GM has also been fined $35 million for failure to initiate the recall sooner. Investigators found evidence that GM knew of the issue as early as November 2009 but did nothing to alert the public regarding this potential danger.
  • Initial findings by the NHTSA indicate that an estimated 51 deaths may have resulted from post-collision fires in incidents related to a 2013 recall by Chrysler of Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Liberty vehicles. The investigation is ongoing.
  • Defective Firestone tires on Ford Motor Company vehicles resulted in at least 250 deaths and more than 3,000 serious injuries prior to the joint recall announced by both companies on August 9, 2000. The tire treads could separate and cause loss of control for drivers, often resulting in rollover accidents.

In many cases, the failure of automakers to report issues and to act quickly in the interest of public safety has taken a tragic toll in human lives and injuries.

For drivers, passengers and families who have been injured or who have sustained losses in an accident related to a defective vehicle, retaining the services of a knowledgeable Galveston personal injury attorney can provide the expert representation and legal support needed to take on the automakers and to win. Your Galveston auto accident lawyer can provide the expertise necessary to ensure that you and your family receive the highest possible settlement and that your voice is heard by these negligent corporations. By pursuing your case vigorously, you can make a positive difference for other drivers while holding auto manufacturers accountable for their actions.

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NHTSA Announces Changes to 5-Star Vehicle Safety Ratings Program

toyotaThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is committed to reducing the risks for motorists on U.S. roadways. The agency also provides safety ratings for vehicles and performs crash tests to determine the degree of protection afforded by these cars, trucks and SUVs during accidents. On December 8, 2015, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DoT) announced major changes to the NHTSA 5-Star Safety Ratings program that may provide consumers with even more information when purchasing a new or used vehicle. While retaining the services of a qualified Friendswood personal injury attorney is vital for victims of serious automobile accidents, opting for the safest cars on the market may allow drivers to avoid crashes and collisions before they occur.

High-Tech Additions to Testing Procedures

The 5-Star Safety Ratings program is well known within the automotive industry thanks in part to its public awareness campaigns. The crash test dummies used to evaluate vehicle performance in front and side collisions and rollover accidents are expected to see an upgrade that will allow these devices to mimic the human body more closely. Other changes include the following:

  • The addition of a frontal oblique collision test that can provide added information about vehicle performance in these types of crashes
  • Enhanced evaluation capabilities for rear-seat passengers in barrier crash testing
  • Consideration of advanced safety technologies that include crash avoidance, collision mitigation and automatic braking
  • Recommendations for safety equipment on labels provided by the NHTSA
  • Moving from a simple five-star system to one that integrates half-star ratings, allowing consumers to compare vehicles more accurately
  • Increased focus on pedestrian safety outcomes when struck by vehicles under assessment

These upgrades will allow the 5-Star Safety Ratings program to remain relevant and helpful for consumers now and in the future.

New Technologies Critical to Driver Safety

The addition of recommendations from the NHTSA and the DoT regarding the most effective safety equipment for new and used vehicles that bear the 5-Star Safety Ratings label will likely increase demand for and availability of key features that include the following:

  • Adaptive cruise control systems can provide automatic braking and speed reductions when required by traffic conditions or obstacles in the road ahead. By taking some of the potential for human error out of the equation, these systems can save lives and prevent auto accidents. Emergency brake assistance can perform some of the same tasks to keep motorists safer.
  • Modern rollover mitigation and prevention systems not only take action to protect drivers and passengers by tightening seat belts and allowing roll bars to extend. They can also brake automatically to prevent rollovers from happening in the first place.
  • Blind-spot camera systems can prevent tragic accidents when backing up or changing lanes.
  • Alerts for drowsy or distracted drivers can prevent crashes caused by lack of focus on the road.

These systems include lane departure warnings and other alarm systems designed specifically to identify drivers who fall asleep at the wheel.

These systems are currently available in the automotive marketplace and can provide added protection for drivers. Selecting a vehicle that incorporates some or all of these features can be a solid investment in future safety for you and your family.

When accidents do occur, making a call to an experienced and established Friendswood car accident lawyer can ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you can negotiate on an even playing field with the big insurance companies. Your Friendswood injury lawyer can go toe-to-toe with insurance adjusters and attorneys for the other parties involved, allowing you to enjoy greater peace of mind throughout the claims and settlement process. By working with these dedicated professionals, you can ensure the highest possible compensation for your injuries and losses after a serious automobile accident.

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Six New Automotive Safety Innovations on Display at CES 2016

18-wheelers-150x132Self-driving vehicles have long been staples of science fiction and fantasy. Today, however, these advanced transportation options are making headlines at CES 2016 in Los Vegas, widely regarded as one of the top consumer technology trade shows in the world. Technologies designed to make autonomous cars and trucks a practical reality are among the hottest draws at CES this year. These automotive advances are predicted to reduce the number of accidents on the road and to offer added convenience for drivers. For those who have already been injured through the careless or negligent actions of other drivers, consulting with an experienced League City auto accident lawyer can provide added help in managing costs and ensuring a fair settlement. In the future, however, self-driving vehicles may soon provide added protection for drivers on Texas streets and highways. Here are six key innovations currently on display at CES 2016 or planned for release in the very near future.

Computing Connectivity

To provide added safety for modern drivers, on-board computers must communicate accurately and constantly with control systems to monitor traffic, acquire information on road conditions and manage speed for optimal safety. Advanced wireless technologies have made it easier for consumers to stay connected to friends, family and entertainment options. These same principles can allow cars and trucks to download and integrate information to ensure safe operation on public streets and roadways.

Face Time

South Korean automaker Kia has announced a new system that continuously analyzes the facial expressions of drivers to ensure that they are paying close attention to the road. If the system detects a drop-off in the attention level of drivers, it is programmed to pull over automatically to reduce the risks associated with fatigue and distraction.

Radar and Remote Sensors

Cameras, lasers and radar arrays have been available in the luxury car marketplace for some time. These advanced systems are now finding their way into less-expensive vehicles and can provide improved control over speed and braking. When an obstacle or traffic slowdown is detected, these cars and trucks can adjust speed automatically to ensure a greater degree of safety for drivers and passengers. Quanergy is currently debuting its Lidar system at CES 2016; these advanced lasers can provide 360 degrees of data and can generate 3-D maps to provide more precise guidance for vehicles in real-world driving situations.

Artificial Intelligence

The processing power needed to manage the extensive amount of data collected by modern automotive systems once took a prohibitive amount of space. Today, computing companies are working to bring down the size and weight of these modern supercomputers. Nvidia has already launched its own computing solution; about the size of a child’s lunchbox, this processing unit is expected to see implementation on Volvo cars and trucks in the near future.

Beefed Up Security

After a few friendly demonstrations of the vulnerability of self-driving cars to hacking attempts, automakers are in search of improved security options to protect motorists against a computerized takeover of their vehicles. In response to this demand, parts manufacturer Visteon is implementing advanced encryption in its entertainment systems to prevent unauthorized access to these systems.

Integrated Home Systems

As the communication capabilities of modern vehicles continue to expand, Ford and BMW are planning the release of new apps that can allow cars and trucks to interface seamlessly with home automation systems to provide increased control over thermostats, appliances and lighting. These systems are expected to become available over the next couple of years.

As autonomous vehicle systems become more common in the automotive marketplace, experts predict an overall reduction in the number of accidents on U.S. roadways. Until this occurs, however, working with a League City personal injury lawyer can provide the support and guidance needed to navigate the insurance claims process and to pursue your case in court. Your League City accident lawyer is your strongest ally when seeking fair compensation for losses and injuries incurred due to the actions of others on Texas streets and highways.

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Four Key Safety Tips for Motorcycle Passengers

motoMotorcycles present significant risks for operators and passengers alike. According to figures compiled and released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 4,668 motorcyclists lost their lives on U.S. streets and highways in 2013. While motorcycle operators made up the bulk of the fatalities, passengers accounted for a full six percent of those deaths. Working with a knowledgeable Pearland accident lawyer can help victims of these accidents achieve fair compensation for their injuries and losses. Here are four safety tips to help motorcycle passengers avoid becoming just another unfortunate statistic on Texas roadways.

Use a Helmet

The National Occupant Protection Use Survey is conducted annually by the NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis. For 2014, this survey indicated that only 51 percent of passengers wore helmets each time they traveled by motorcycle, while 67 percent of operators were observed to wear helmets. Because the risks for these two groups are essentially the same, the lower rate of usage represents a serious risk for motorcycle passengers. Figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that motorcyclists without helmets accounted for 42 percent of the motorcycle fatalities in 2010. States that enforce a universal helmet law for motorcyclists and their passengers are estimated to save eight times more lives each year than those without such laws. Although Texas enforces a strict helmet law for riders aged 20 and under, the Lone Star State has not yet enacted a universal helmet law. Nonetheless, wearing a helmet on every ride is one of the most important safety precautions available to motorcycle drivers and passengers.

Examine the Motorcycle

To ride a motorcycle safely, passengers must be able to reach the footrests or foot pegs and must keep their feet firmly planted on these components at all times. This provides added stability and reduces the risk of a nasty spill. Keeping feet and legs away from mufflers can prevent burns and other unintended consequences on the road. Finally, holding on to the passenger handholds or the driver is a must to prevent unexpected shifts that can result in an accident. Taking a little time to become familiar with the various parts of the motorcycle and the right way to ride can help prevent injuries on the road.

Know When to Say No

According to the NHTSA, 28 percent of fatality motorcycle accidents in 2013 were alcohol-related. By way of comparison, 21 percent of all accidents in the U.S. for that year involved alcohol use. Riding with a motorcycle operator who is under the influence of any amount of alcohol can significantly increase the chances of being involved in a serious accident. Politely declining a ride from someone who has been drinking can be a life-saving choice for motorcycle passengers.

Wear the Right Gear

Motorcycle jackets and leather chaps are more than the regalia of seasoned riders. They are also essential protective equipment for motorcyclists and passengers alike. In the event of a spill, this clothing can provide an extra layer of armor against road rash and other injuries. While the helmet is the most critical protective component, wearing sturdy and roadworthy clothing can help prevent some injuries if an accident should occur.

Motorcycles provide little protection to riders if a crash should occur. If you or someone you know has been injured in a motorcycle accident due to the negligence of others, consulting with a Pearland personal injury attorney right away can help you achieve a fair settlement with insurers and responsible parties. A qualified and experienced Pearland car accident lawyer can be your best ally in obtaining compensation for injuries and losses sustained in a motorcycle accident. These dedicated legal professionals can deliver the solutions needed to help you move past these incidents and get on with your life.

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Windshield Wipers: Critical Elements in Driving Safety

windshields-150x150Windshield wipers are legally required in the state of Texas and are designed to provide clear visibility in rainy weather. These safety devices are also used in conjunction with windshield washer systems to wash away dirt that can accumulate over time. Maintaining your vehicle’s windshield wipers in tip-top condition can help you enjoy an unobstructed view of the road ahead. This can prevent accidents caused by impaired visibility and can keep you and your passengers safer on Texas streets and highways. If you are involved in an accident, contacting a Houston car wreck attorney can ensure that you receive the compensation to which you are rightfully entitled under the law.

The Role of Windshield Wipers

The first windshield wiper system is believed to have been patented by Mary Anderson in 1903. This manually operated system allowed drivers to operate a lever that moved a brush or wiper across the windshield to clear away water. Modern windshield wipers typically consist of three parts:

  • A motor that powers the wiper system
  • An arm that connects the motor to the blade
  • A wiper blade that clears away water and debris from the surface of the windshield

Each of these elements plays a key role in ensuring visibility for drivers and should be repaired or replaced at the first sign of trouble.

Risks of Impaired Visibility

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TDoT), impaired visibility was a factor in 49 fatality accidents and more than 3,800 crashes in 2014. Nearly two-thirds of these incidents occurred in urban areas of Texas. Properly functioning windshield wipers can provide added protection against these potentially deadly crashes and can allow you to react more quickly to traffic conditions as they arise.

Legally Required Safety Equipment

Texas law requires motorists to maintain windshield wipers in good working condition on the vehicles they operate. Cars and trucks without working windshield wipers cannot pass inspection in the state of Texas. Additionally, if the wipers do not make proper contact with the windshield due to cracks in the glass, the vehicle may not pass inspection. Driving without working wipers can also be grounds for a traffic citation, especially if the wiper blades no longer make contact with your windshield due to cracks or dents in the glass surface.

Signs of Wear and Tear

Over time, wiper blades deteriorate and lose their effectiveness. A number of factors can affect this process:

  • Excessive heat and sun damage can break down the rubber in some wiper blades.
  • Chips and cracks in the windshield can cause structural damage over time.
  • Cold temperatures can cause blades to become brittle and to break down more quickly.
  • Dirt and debris can also react chemically with wiper blades to cause added damage.

Most automotive experts recommend replacing wiper blades every six to 12 months to ensure the best possible performance. Some common warning signs of impending blade failure include the following:

  • Streaks and reduced visibility in certain areas during operation
  • Visible discoloration or damage to blades
  • Squeaks or rattling when in use
  • Lack of contact between blades and windshield

Replacing wiper blades regularly can help to prevent costly damage to your windshield and can reduce your chances of visibility-related accidents on the road.

Maintaining your vehicle properly can provide added protection against breakdowns and accidents. If you are involved in a collision, however, working with a qualified Houston personal injury lawyer can provide you with added support in pursuing your claims against the parties responsible. Your Houston car crash lawyer will work with you to determine the extent of your damages and to negotiate a fair settlement with the attorneys and insurance adjusters on the other side, allowing you to enjoy added peace of mind during this difficult process. By evening the playing field in this way, you can achieve the best possible outcomes for your case and your family.

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