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Archive for the category: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Are App Based Car Services Safe?

    If you live in Chicago and use taxis there is a good chance you have heard about Uber, Side Car and Lift. If you think that these car services are a good deal and cheaper than a cab, you may want to think again! The price may be right but the real problem is the drivers may not have proper training or similar licenses to those of taxi or limo driver. Over a year ago, Uber was sued by the taxi and livery companies in Chicago. According to the press release, Uber was accused of violating the Chicago and Illinois laws designed to protect public safety, provide consumer protection and promote fair practices. The taxi industry, which has labeled companies like Uber as a rogue app, has lobbied City Hall for help. The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection proposed a rule that would have banned livery vehicles from using devices such as smartphones to calculate fares based on distance; if passed it would have shut Uber and its competitors down. The proposal is on hold pending the outcome of the federal lawsuit. What makes Uber interesting is that it is a venture capital startup transportation network company, based in San Francisco and valued at 4 billion dollars. Many of these new tech companies are known in revolutionary terms as the SHARING ECONOMY! The company’s app is a marketed as a match-maker in various cities and countries. Cars are reserved by sending a text message or by using a mobile app. The City is working to fill the regulatory vacuum that has given ride-sharing companies an unfair advantage over taxicabs, while providing no safeguards or protections for consumers. A 20-page ordinance is being introduced in a City Council meeting that would license ride-sharing companies as “transportation network providers” and require them to pay an annual $25,000 fee, plus $25 per driver. UberX, Lyft, SideCar and other ride-sharing companies that allow drivers to offer rides in their personal vehicles to passengers who order them on their smartphones also would be required to pay the city’s $3.50 a day per vehicle ground transportation tax, the same tax already imposed on cabs. To guarantee passenger safety, the ordinance would require licensed ride-sharing companies to properly train drivers as well administering drug tests to their drivers, conducting regular criminal background checks and make sure that their ride-sharing vehicles pass an annual 21-point inspection.[READ MORE…]

  • Should Brake-Override Systems in Cars be Mandatory?

    Are brake-override systems necessary? Should they be mandatory for all new vehicles? Federal regulators seem to think so. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration just recently proposed that all automobile manufacturers implement design changes in future vehicles that would include a brake-throttle override system. A number of car manufacturers already include this feature in their vehicles, including Nissan, Volkswagen, BMW and Chrysler. The reason behind this move is the Lexus crash in 2009 caused by a floor mat interfering with the braking system and the subsequent recalls of Lexus and Toyota vehicles because of unintended acceleration. Many believe that brake override systems will effectively prevent crashes of this type from occurring in the future, as explained in this Los Angeles Times article: The systems act as an electronic fail-safe that automatically releases the throttle when a car’s onboard computer senses that the brake pedal is depressed. Designed for cars with electronic throttle control, which use wires and software rather than mechanical cables to connect the gas pedal to the engine, it has been available for nearly a decade. According to proponents of the proposed law, the roads would be safer if the regulations were implemented and American drivers would have more confidence in the safety of their vehicles and the roadways: Safety officials believe brake-override systems — in which the application of the brake pedal by the driver would instantly disengage a stuck throttle — can prevent such crashes… “America’s drivers should feel confident that any time they get behind the wheel they can easily maintain control of their vehicles — especially in the event of an emergency,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “By updating our safety standards, we’re helping give drivers peace of mind that their brakes will work even if the gas pedal is stuck down while the driver is trying to brake.” Of course, not everyone supports this change, least of all the car manufacturers who don’t yet include this feature in the design of their cars, since adding it will affect their bottom line. And, some also dispute the effectiveness of brake-override systems in preventing accidents caused by unintended acceleration. Even so, the addition of this feature can’t hurt, and if it saves lives, then it is undoubtedly worth the cost and inconvenience of adding this feature to new cars. After all, shouldn’t safety  always trump the bottom line? The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com)[READ MORE…]

  • Female Crash Test Dummies Now Regularly Being Used

    It may surprise you to learn that it wasn’t until 2003 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began to sometimes use female crash test dummies when simulating crashes to determine the safety of vehicles. Why does it matter whether female crash test dummies are used? Well, because as explained in the ABC.com article, women’s bodies react differently during car accidents than men’s: The reason for using female dummies is simple, says Lynda Tran, spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): Studies show that women, having smaller bones and lower bone density, are at greater risk than men of suffering injury or death in crashes. Their less muscular necks make them more vulnerable to whiplash. In general, smaller people cannot tolerate crash forces as well as can full-sized men. So, it only makes sense that when automakers or governmental agencies like the NHTSA test vehicles to determine crashworthiness, both male and female dummies should used. However, although things have improved somewhat, male dummies are still the norm, especially when it comes to determining the safety of the driver versus the passenger. In that situation, as discussed in the ABC.com article, male dummies are still the most tested and there is, therefore, far less data available regarding how automobile crashes affect women drivers: (A)ny woman trying to use Safercar.gov to determine in which car she would be safest as the driver (as compared to passenger) is in for a frustrating experience: Two out of the three of the NHTSA’s test situations presume the driver to be male: In the head-on crash and the crash into a side barrier, it’s a male dummy behind the wheel. Data for a female driver is not provided. Only in the third test situation–a side crash into a pole–is the driver female. So, while we’ve made some strides to protect women who travel in automobiles, far more needs to be done. After all, women make up more than 50% of the population, so shouldn’t at least 50% of the crash test dummies used to test the safety of cars be comprised of female crash test dummies? It only makes sense and women deserve to know whether a particular car will protect them in the even of a car accident, don’t they? The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. You can reach the firm by calling (312) 346-8780.

  • Are insurers ready for driver-free cars?

    Many of us fondly recall the Jetsons cartoon from our childhoods. It was a show that still seems incredibly futuristic, and yet many of the inventions envisioned in the Jetsons aren’t yet a part of our reality. But one concept–driver-free cars–is already a possibility in 2012. Search engine leader Google is currently testing driverless cars and Nevada has already passed regulations that pave the way for use of these car’s on Nevada roadways. But, are they safe? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, many features of driverless cars make the roads safer, as reported in this Chicago-Tribune article: One argument for driverless cars, is, ironically, an argument for safer roads. The reason the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has required that all new auto models include electronic stability control is that it makes vehicles safer. The agency predicts that once every vehicle on the road has the system, the feature will prevent up to 238,000 crashes and save up to 9,600 lives per year. Windsor said electronic stability control, collision warning systems, adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping systems are good for safety and can help drive down the cost of car insurance. One would think that insurance companies would embrace these safer vehicles, but according to the Chicago-Tribune article, the exact opposite is true. It seems that insurers are instead turning a blind eye to the possibility that use of the cars by the public will likely soon be a reality–possibly within a matter of years. So why aren’t insurers hard at work underwriting policies for these cars? According to the article, it’s because they’re just not ready to accept the idea that these cars will be ready for mass use in just a few years: With companies working to develop completely autonomous vehicles — in which passengers can read, sleep or work on a computer while they travel to their destination — you’d think insurance companies are developing models to underwrite insurance policies on these types of vehicles. Not really. Several companies haven’t looked into it at all, and the ones that have say it will be several years — perhaps decades — before automated vehicles are ready for the market. The insurers may be right. Only time will tell. But knowing how innovative Google can be, it’s a big gamble to ignore the very real possibility that driverless cars may soon be on our roadways–making the[READ MORE…]

  • How much should automakers be fined for not complying with recall rules?

    In late March, the United States Senate approved legislation that would increase the fines levied against U.S. automakers who failed to comply with automobile recall regulations. Currently, automakers are fined a maximum of $17 million but the proposed legislation would greatly increase the maximum fines to $250 million. As explained in a Detroit News article, the rationale behind the proposed increase is to encourage recall regulation compliance on behalf of automakers: National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstrator David Strickland told a House panel on Thursday that higher fines would help deter automakers. Strickland said the $17 million maximum fine is a “pittance to most of these automakers” because of their large size. Not surprisingly, automakers opposed the change alleging that the current fine structure was more than sufficient and higher fines would do little to change the rates of compliance. But consumer advocacy groups disagreed, contending that public safety should be the primary concern and higher fines would ultimately serve the greater good: But Ami V. Gadhia, senior policy council at Consumers Union, said the fines make sense, saying they “will help act as a deterrent against future violations that imperil public safety. While the $250 million figure is the outermost limit of what NHTSA could fine a company for a series of violations, this cap can help ensure that violations do not become a ‘cost of doing business’ for a large, multibillion dollar company.” This argument simply makes sense. After all, if automakers comply with the regulations, the higher fines won’t even be an issue. Not to mention that the higher fines simply encourage automakers to place public safety and the prevention of automobile accidents ahead of their business concerns–and public safety should always trump business profits. Complying with recall rules is the ethical thing to do–and for companies subject to the potentially increased fines–it will undoubtedly be the best business decision as well. The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. You can reach the firm by calling (312) 346-8780.

  • Are School Buses Unsafe?

    Although automobile safety has changed by leaps and bounds over the last few decades, safety standards on school buses haven’t changed much since the 1960s. Unlike cars, seat belts aren’t mandatory and many school buses aren’t even equipped with them. A number of recent and very serious school bus crashes, one on Washington and one in Indiana, have resulted in the call for higher safety standards for school buses. Neither bus was equipped with seat  belts and one child and a bus driver are now dead, with many other children sustaining serious injuries. Despite these accidents, the National Highway Transportation Safety Association maintains that school bus standards are sufficient and seat belts aren’t necessary, since buses are larger and thus less vulnerable when an accident occurs. The NHTSA also asserts that the higher seat backs protect children as well. However, as explained in this ABC news article, the American Academy of Pediatrics takes a different view: But the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly disagrees that seat belts aren’t necessary on scho0l buses. It wants all new buses equipped with lap/shoulder belts to “ensure the safest possible ride”, according to Dr. Phyllis Agran, a pediatrician. Agran said that according to her research, approximately 17,000 children are treated in emergency rooms annually, having been injured in school buses, with 42 percent of those injuries involving crashes. The American Academy of Pediatrics isn’t alone in this viewpoint. As discussed in this CNN article, another organization devoted to advocating for the safety of children, the National Coalition for School Bus Safety, believes that new school bus regulations should be passed to protect children from injury: But seat belt advocates say current safety measures are not enough.  The National Coalition for School Bus Safety says the study that the government cites for its data is dated and inadequate. For one thing, seven out of 10 “real world” accidents are not frontal, according to the coalition.  And when it comes to side-impact and rollover accidents, the NCSBS says compartmentalization is less effective – and that seat belts are essential to saving lives. Right now there are no plans to revamp school bus safety regulations on a national level. Instead, it’s up to the states and local municipalities to make the decision to require seat belts and other safety measure that would protect our children from serious accidents caused by school bus crashes. Hopefully this will change at[READ MORE…]

  • Safety Advocacy Group Seeks Enactment of Rear View Mirror Safety Regs

    Safety advocacy groups play an important role in forcing the enactment of safety regulations and thus protecting consumers from dangerous products. A particularly vulnerable sector of our society is children. If anyone requires advocacy on their behalf, it’s children–especially when it comes to automobile safety. Fortunately, KidsandCars.org is in their corner, constantly pushing for safety regulations to be passed which will make it safer for children in cars. Most recently, KidsandCars.org advocated for the requirement that all newly manufactured cars be equipped with rear view mirror cameras. This is because, as reported in this New York Times article: On average, two children die and about 50 are injured every week when someone accidentally backs over them in a vehicle…And more than two-thirds of the time, a parent or other close relative is behind the wheel. Unfortunately, although the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration was initially set to approve the regulations that would require the installation of rear view mirror cameras, as reported in this Money.cnn article, the NHTSA delayed their decision until 2014: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has decided to postpone the creation of a new rule that would have required rearview back-up cameras in all new cars, pickups and SUVs by 2014. The agency had been expected to announce the rule Wednesday. Instead, NHTSA issued a statement saying that “further study and data analysis” were needed before a final regulation could be issued. “The Department remains committed to improving rearview visibility for the nation’s fleet and we expect to complete our work and issue a final rule by December 31, 2012,” NHTSA said. This is truly an unfortunate turn of events and one that will undoubtedly result in the unnecessary deaths of our nation’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens. Our children deserve better and it’s advocacy groups like KidsandCars.org that work hard on a daily basis to prevent the tragic car accidents that could be prevented through the installation and use of appropriate safety devices in cars. The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. You can reach the firm by calling (312) 346-8780.

  • Sudden Increase in Teen Deaths From Car Crashes

    You may find it surprising to learn that car accidents are the leading cause of death for United States teenagers. And, sadly, according to the results of a new study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the number of teen deaths caused by automobile accidents increased in the first half of 2011. This increase was particularly surprising since teen deaths from car accidents had been declining in the years prior to 2011. The data collected and analyzed by the GHSA was shared with the National Highway Traffic Safety  Administration, with the goal being to assist the federal agency in reducing the number of teenage deaths on our nation’s highways. As explained in this Washington Post article, although there was a definite increase in the number of teenage deaths, it was not a markedly large change: The raw numbers of the increase were not huge — the number of 16-year-olds killed increased from 80 to 93, and among 17-year-olds it went from 110 to 118 — but in an era when teen deaths and overall highway fatalities have been in steady decline, they raised alarms with safety advocates. Although the reasons for the increase are still unclear, one reason offered was the failure of many teens to use seatbelts. Another contributing factor suggested by some was distracted driving due to the use of smart phones while on the road. As discussed in the Washington Post article, the statistics regarding the use of smart phones by teens while driving are striking: A Pew Research Center survey said 43 percent of teenagers said they have talked on a cellphone while driving, 48 percent said they had been in car with a driver who was texting and 40 percent said they had been in a car when the driver used a cellphone in a way that put themselves or others in danger. So, while the exact reason for the increase remains unclear, what is certain is that steps need to be taken to reduce the number of deadly car accidents that teenagers are involved in. Enforcing existing safety regulations, including anti-texting laws and seatbelt laws are a start. Another important step would be to increase the number of programs which educate teenagers about the dangers of distracted driving. Hopefully, these steps will help to stop the latest trend and reduce the number of teenage car accidents in 2012. The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. You can reach the[READ MORE…]

  • Should Motorcyclists Be Subjected to Safety Checkpoints?

    Congress is currently considering legislation that would provide monetary grants to states mandating random safety checkpoints for motorcycles. Georgia and New York already have similar programs in place and the grants under consideration would encourage other states to implement similar laws. According to this Los Angeles Time article, the impetus behind the passage of this legislation is to reduce the number of motorcycle accidents: In 2009, 4,462 motorcyclists were killed, a decrease of 16% from the previous year, according to the most recent figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Twenty-two percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2009 were riding without a valid motorcycle license at the time of the collision, compared with 12% of drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes who lacked a valid license, according to the agency. So, how effective are the checkpoints? Do they actually prevent accidents and protect motorcyclists and others on the road? Perhaps. Unfortunately, the jury’s still out: Of approximately 27,000 motorcyclists that passed through their checkpoints last year, about 2,500 were stopped for closer inspection, Halvorsen said. Of those, 380 were ticketed for an illegal helmet. Six motorcyclists were arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. Forty-nine motorcyclists were ticketed for operating a motorcycle without the proper license class. A total of 1,665 tickets were issued. Not everyone supports this proposed legislation. According to opponents of the law, including the American Motorcyclist Association, the potential benefits don’t outweigh the significant violation of motorcyclist’s rights. Instead the association argues that efforts to protect motorcyclists should be aimed at preventing crashes rather than arbitrarily stopping and searching motorcyclists. And, even some lawmakers agree and have suggested that taxpayer dollars would be better spent on educational programs intended to prevent crashes from ever occurring. What do you think? Is it fair to target motorcyclists over other types of motorists? Do these types of laws have the intended effect of making the roads safer by preventing motorcycle accidents or do they unnecessarily violate the rights of motorcyclists? The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. You can reach the firm by calling (312) 346-8780.

  • Replacing Children’s Car Seats After an Automobile Accident

    Car accidents are a fact of life. If we escape with just a few scrapes and dents to a fender and no injuries, most of us consider ourselves lucky. But, even if you and your loved ones emerge from the accident unscathed, what about your child’s car seat? Is it still safe to use after an automobile accident? Unfortunately, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), there’s no clear cut answer to that question. Instead, it depends on the specific circumstances surrounding the car accident. In most cases, after a minor accident, car seats likely do not need to be replaced. However, according to the NHSTA, car seats should be replaced after severe or moderate accidents. But, how do you know for sure? Well, as explained in this ABC affiliate’s article, the NHSTA has issued guidelines to assist in determining whether your child’s car seat should be replaced:  Child safety seats probably do not need to be replaced if all of these conditions are met: 1. The vehicle was able to be driven away from the scene of the accident. 2. The door nearest the safety seat was undamaged. 3. No vehicle occupant was injured in the accident. 4. The airbags did not deploy. 5. There is no visible damage to the safety seat. Of course, even if the car seat is unharmed after a car accident, it only provides adequate protection if you use it properly. As we explained in a prior post, it’s important to install your child’s car seat correctly and appropriate use of car seat tethers is key. Guidelines for proper installation of car seats can be found on the Safe Kids USA Web site or on the Web site for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. You can reach the firm by calling (312) 346-8780. Related articles Crash test dummy unveiled for larger children (cnn.com) Auto Insurance Co. Promotes Car Safety for Children (news.onlineautoinsurance.com) U.S. Car Accident Map and Chicago Bicycle Accident Map (thechicago-injury-lawyer.com) How to Buy a Safe and Affordable Car Seat (couponshoebox.com)

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    Our firm handles workers' compensation and personal injury claims in Chicago, Berwyn, Joliet, Cicero, Waukegan, Chicago Heights, Elgin, Aurora, Oak Park, Oak Lawn, Schaumburg, Bolingbrook, Glendale Heights, Aurora, Niles, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Naperville, Plainfield and all of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, McHenry, LaSalle, Kankakee, McLean and Peoria Counties.