NHTSA: Traffic Fatalities Up 8% In 2016

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) announced some unfortunate news in a press release last week that traffic fatalities were up 8% last year from the year before for the first nine months of each year. The agency’s statistical projection found an estimated 27,875 people died in vehicle accidents during that time in 2016, while 25,808 fatalities were reported for that same period in 2015. Also, the fatality rate for 2016’s first nine months increased to 1.15 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. That represents an increase from 1.10 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled during the first nine months of 2015. The agency noted it relied on the same methodology used to generate the estimates for the first nine months of 2016 as it did to record the fatalities for 2015.

The various articles I have read don’t seem to point any specific reason why. The discouraging news is that these numbers are coming off a year where traffic deaths increased 7% in 2015 over 2014. Experts believe the increased travel is mostly a result of an improved economy and low gas prices. But NHTSA’s data experts said increased travel and a better economy alone can’t explain the rise in deaths. “We still have to figure out what is underlying those lives lost,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said. “If it was simple, we would already know that.”

The increase in deaths is especially concerning because it has happened at time when cars are safer than ever. Nearly all new cars and light trucks now have electronic stability control and rearview cameras, for example. Automakers are also beginning to equip more cars with sophisticated safety technology like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency-braking and blind-spot monitoring.

So what is the answer? The NHTSA isn’t giving us any plausible explanation. My own theory is that people continue to use their phones when driving. They continue to text and not take advantage of hands-free technology. I think this will continue to be the case as long as the penalties for texting and driving are weak. In my opinion, if an injury occurs from an accident where texting and driving was the cause, then the case needs to be treated like a DUI. At the very least the driver needs to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Without significant repercussions, drivers will not be deterred from typing on their phones while driving. This is the only explanation I can come up with as to why traffic fatalities have continued to rise the last two years.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago car crash or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

 

Self-Driving Tesla Involved in Fatal Traffic Accident

 

Self driving cars are the wave of the future. That is what you will hear from the people at Google and electric car manufacturer, Tesla. Manufacturers state that the technology is foolproof and completely safe. Unfortunately, this may not be true as of yet. News hit the wires over the weekend that a motorist whose Tesla vehicle was on autopilot while driving in Florida, was involved in a fatal car crash with semi tractor trailer.  According to news reports On May 7th at 3:40 p.m. on U.S. in Williston, Florida, 45-year-old Joshua Brown was killed when his Tesla Model S went under the trailer of an 18-wheel semi and the roof of his car was torn off by the impact.

According to Tesla’s press release, this is their assessment of what happened:

“Autopilot engaged when a tractor trailer drove across the highway perpendicular to the Model S. Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied. The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk also responded fatal traffic accident on twitter. He stated that the Tesla’s radar did not detect the truck because of its height, and thus the radar probably confused it with an overhead traffic sign.

This is obviously a sad and tragic event. But it also proves that self driving cars are not immune to car accidents, let alone traffic fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently investigating the accident. How does this event affect the family and/or estate of the deceased driver? Well, if it is found that the truck was at fault for negligently pulling out in front of the deceased, then the truck driver could be held accountable in a normal negligence and wrongful death cause of action. The family could also sue Tesla under a product liability or auto defect count. Their attorneys could plead and argue (with expert testimony) that Tesla’s safety system was defectively designed and built because it could not properly detect the difference between a truck and an overhead highway traffic sign.

Regardless, I believe it is fair to say the self driving vehicles are not completely safe and there may need to be modifications as the technology moves forward.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago car accident or from a Chicago auto defect, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Star Trek Actor Died In Vehicle That Was Recently Recalled For Auto Defect

Multiple news outlets reported over the weekend about the freak and tragic death of Hollywood actor, Anton Yelchin, who died when his Jeep Grand Cherokee rolled backwards in his driveway and pinned him against his mailbox pillar and security fence.

It turns out that the 2015 Jeep Cherokee was recently recalled for an auto defect based on complaints from drivers who had trouble telling if they had put the automatic transmissions in park. If they were not in park and a driver left the vehicle, it could roll away.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a global recall of 1.1 million vehicles was announced by automaker Fiat Chrysler in April.  As of April, the company had reports of 212 crashes, 41 injuries and 308 property damage claims potentially caused by the shifters, it said in documents filed with the government.

The recalled vehicles, including nearly 812,000 in the U.S., have an electronic shift lever that toggles forward or backward to let the driver select the gear instead of moving along a track like a conventional shifter. A light shows which gear is selected, but to get from drive to park, drivers must push the lever forward three times. The Grand Cherokee gear shifters were changed in the 2016 model year so that it works like those in older cars.

It is unclear at this time as to whether the defective gear shift was involved in Mr. Yelchin’s death or whether he had received the recall letter from Chrysler.

If you drive a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, it is highly urged that you take the vehicle into your dealer for defective gear to be replaced.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago auto defect case or Chicago traffic accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

May Is Motorcycle Awareness Month

Spring is upon us and we are seeing a lot more motorcyclists on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has designated May as motorcyclist awareness month and are encouraging all motorists to “share the road” with each other.In a press release the NHTSA pointed out that in2014, 4,586 motorcyclists were killed in traffic crashes, a decrease of 2.3 percent from 2013 (4,692). Those deaths account for 14 percent of the total highway fatalities that year. This decrease in motorcycle fatalities continues to break a tragic trend over the last 17 years, which saw only one other decline in 2009. Injured motorcyclists also decreased from 93,000 in 2013 to 88,000 in 2014.

To help spread safety awareness, the NHTSA provided some tips on sharing the road:

  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate your movement and find a safe lane position.
  • Don’t be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle—it may not be self-canceling and the motorcyclist may have forgotten to turn it off. Wait to be sure the rider is going to turn before you proceed.
  • Allow more follow distance – three or four seconds – when following a motorcycle; this gives the motorcycle rider more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. Motorcycle riders may suddenly need to change speed or adjust lane position to avoid hazards such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
  • Always look for motorcycles by checking your mirrors and blind spots before switching to another lane of traffic.
  • Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Though it may seem as if there is enough room in a single lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, looks can be deceiving. Share the road, but not the lane: a motorcyclist needs room to maneuver safely.
  • If you are turning at an intersection, and your view of oncoming traffic is partially obstructed, wait until you can see around the obstruction, sufficiently scan for all roadway users (pedestrians and motorcyclists included), and proceed with caution. Slow your decision-making process down at intersections.
  • Road users should never drive, bike, or walk while distracted. Doing so can result in tragic consequences for all on the road, including motorcyclists.

The press release also provided safety tips for motorcyclists.

  • Wear a DOT-compliant helmet and use reflective tape and gear to be more visible. NHTSA estimates helmets saved the lives of 1,630 motorcyclists in 2014.
  • Never ride while impaired or distracted—it is not worth the risk of killing or injuring yourself or someone else. Plus, a DUI costs $10,000 on average, and can lead to jail time, loss of your driver’s license, and higher insurance rates.

Don’t drink and bike and always wear a helmet. This seems like obvious advice. But remember that riding a motorcycle can be a very dangerous way to drive and doing so without a helmet is an incredibly dangerous proposition. If you are on a motorcycle and you leave your head unprotected, you increase your odds for a brain injury tenfold. Further, you are increasing your odds of a fatality. According to the NHTSA’s data inn 2014, 41 percent of fatally injured motorcycle riders and 53 percent of fatally injured motorcycle passengers were not wearing helmets at the time of the crash. And as stated above, helmets save thousands of lives every year.

Even though Illinois does not require helmet use, I cannot stress how important of a decision it is. I cannot stress how important it is for motorcycle riders to wear a helmet.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago motorcycle accident or Chicago car crash, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Study Shows Teen Drivers Succumb To Distractions More Than Ever

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety analyzed nearly 1,700 videos that capture the actions of teen drivers in the moments before a crash. It found that distractions were a factor in nearly 6 of 10 moderate to severe crashes. That’s four times the rate in many previous official estimates that were based on police reports.

AAA examined more than 6,842 videos from cameras mounted in vehicles, showing both the driver and the simultaneous view out the windshield. The videos were provided by a company called Lytx, Inc., which offers programs that use video to coach drivers in improving their behavior and reducing vehicle collisions.

The videos revealed that distractions were involved in 58% of the car crashes. The most common forms of distraction were talking or otherwise engaging with passengers and using a cellphone, including talking, texting and reviewing messages. Other forms of distraction observed in the videos included drivers looking away from the road at something inside the vehicle, 10 percent; looking at something outside the vehicle other than the road ahead, 9 percent; singing or moving to music, 8 percent; grooming, 6 percent; and reaching for an object, 6 percent.

The videos provide “indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of accidents than we previously realized,” said Peter Kissinger, the foundation’s president and CEO. The NHTSA previously reported that only 14% of teen car crashes were caused by all kinds of distractions.

What is the solution to this problem? Drivers of all ages (not just teens) are glued to their phones and unfortunately this includes while being behind the wheel. I have suggested over and over that there should be stiffer penalties for texting or phone use while driving. Should a teen’s license be suspended if they are caught texting and driving? Should there be higher fines? If teens are not afraid of the repercussions that come with texting and driving, then it will be tough to convince them to cease their behavior.

The other alternative could be left to the auto makers. Maybe there is technology on the horizon that would disable all phones in vehicles unless they are in a “hands free” mode.

Regardless, it appears that distracted driving is a much more dangerous issue than first thought, and that legislation and possibly, technology, should be improved.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

New Study Shows That Device Would Prevent 59,000 Drunk Driving Deaths Per Year

Bloomberg News reported last week that a new University of Michigan Study revealed that if a drunk driving device was installed into every vehicle, it could prevent up to 59,000 traffic fatalities every year. Current ignition interlock technology, which has been around since the 1960s, prevents a vehicle from being started if a driver’s breath registers a certain amount of alcohol. In recent years, some states have mandated their use for convicted drunk drivers.

Typically, this type of device is only required if someone has been charged with a DUI and their license has been suspended for blowing over the legal limit or refusing to blow. For instance, in Illinois, if someone has their license suspended by the secretary of state, they can legally drive during their suspension if the driver pays to have this device installed. Other times, judges can order that this type of device be installed as part of probation for repeat offenders.

It can be assured that this type of technology will seek opposition. First, there will be the cost by automakers and consumers. Will they want to pay for this device and should they be forced to?  Also, it will be interesting to see if there will be any backlash from the ACLU as this could be viewed as an infringement on people’s privacy.

I think safety advocates will view this similar to the seat belt and air bags. Before those two devices who introduced into the marketplace, they were viewed as too expensive and the government pushing too far into what drivers can or cannot do. Obviously, through the years we all know that seat belts and airbags have saved thousands of lives and prevented serious injuries. Further, driving in this country is not a right. Driving is considered a privilege. A privilege that you have to qualify for by passing tests, paying for insurance and following the rules of the road.

University of Michigan’s Injury Center and Transportation Research Institute said in the study, released Thursday, that cost savings from widespread use of ignition interlock technology could outweigh the expense of the devices after three years.

“The goal is to develop a system that can accurately and reliably detect when a driver is above the legal alcohol limit and that could be offered as original equipment in new cars on a voluntary, market-driven basis,” Gordon Trowbridge, a NHTSA spokesman, said in a statement.

“Automakers will have to be convinced, and make sure that the costs of the technology are something that consumers are willing to pay for and they want,” said Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

NHTSA Calling For Nationwide Takata Airbag Recall

Wired magazine, among other news outlets, reported last month that Takata, a manufacturer of airbags, are recalling their product on 7.8 million vehicles. The recall is based on a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NTSA”), which states that airbags that could explode with too much force when they inflate. Extra force can be enough to rupture the airbag’s container, sending plastic and metal fragments into passengers.

The car manufacturers affected by the recall include more than 50 models from Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, made between 2000 and 2011. NHTSA is telling drivers of affected vehicles to “take immediate action,” meaning get themselves to a car dealership and get their airbags checked out. It’s especially concerned about drivers in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Guam, Saipan, American Samoa, Virgin Islands and Hawaii (all hot, humid spots).

The New York Times reported today that the NHTSA is now calling for a nationwide recall rather than specific states or territories that are more prone to humid weather. The agency said a recent airbag failure outside the regional recall area had prompted it to take the action.

What does this all mean for Takata and the automakers? For one, it is going to cost a lot of money for the millions of airbags that need to be replaced. Second, both Takata and the automakers have or will face wrongful death lawsuits that are attributed to flaws in the airbags. At least five (5) deaths have been attributed to faulty airbags. This could increase the longer these faulty bags are being used.

If you have a vehicle that you believe contains a faulty airbag you should click here to determine if the year, make and model contain a Takata airbag.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a Chicago auto defect accident or Chicago car crash, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer Aaron Bryant for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

 

NHTSA Announces “5 To Drive” To Promote Safety For Teen Drivers

The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration announced a new campaign last week, “5 to Drive,” to
reduce the high rate of teen driver deaths. The campaign challenges parents to
discuss driver safety with their children. The announcement coincided with
National Teen Driver Safety Week, which took place October 20-26. 

“Safety is our
highest priority, especially when it comes to teens, who are often our least
experienced drivers,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.
“The ‘5 to Drive’ campaign gives parents and teens a simple,
straightforward checklist that can help them talk about good driving skills and
most importantly, prevent a tragedy before it happens.”

 The
“5 to Drive” campaign encourages parents to visit 
www.safercar.gov/parents/teendriving and
discuss with their teens one safety topic each day during national teen driver
safety week. The “5 to Drive” campaign topics are:

 

1.     
No cell phone use or texting while
driving,

2.     
No extra passengers,

3.     
No speeding,

4.     
No alcohol, and

5.     
No driving or riding without a seat
belt.

These probably appear to be fairly
obvious safety considerations for all drivers, but teens can be forgetful and
cavalier when they begin driving and it is important to continue to remind them
of these very easy things to do before getting behind the wheel.

If you or someone you love has been
injured in a Chicago car crash or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago car accident attorney, Aaron Bryant, for a free consultation at 312-588-3384. 

Federal Law Enforcement Grant To Focus On Texting & Driving

The Nation Highway
Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) announced this week that they
are issuing a federal grant in the amount of $550,000 to police departments in Massachusetts
and Connecticut allowing them to crack down on texting and driving. Police
officials throughout the country have discussed how difficult it is to actually
catch someone who is texting and driving. This new grant will pay for officers
whose sole focus will be staking out drivers who are typing on their phones and
driving. The plan is for the officers to patrol in unmarked or undercover
vehicles and place themselves on overpasses. 

Currently it is illegal
to text and drive in 38 states and in 10 states it is illegal to use any type
of hand held device while driving. Although this is a positive step to curbing
the dangers that come from texting and driving, the question remains whether
this will be enough. I would like to know what the typical punishment or fine
that comes along with a texting and driving ticket. As I have written numerous
times in the past: without higher fines and stricter punishment, it will be
hard to convince drivers to change their habits.

If you or someone you
love has been injured in a Chicago auto accident or Chicago truck accident,
then call Chicago personal injury attorney, Aaron Bryant, for a freeconsultation at 312-588-3384 or go to the firm website at www.blgchicago.com. 

Ford Recalls 485,00 Escape & Maverick SUVs

The Associated
Press 
reported last month that Ford Motor Company has recalled nearly
500,000 of its Escape and Maverick sports utility vehicles. The announcement
from Ford stated that the recall is based on sticking gas pedals that can cause 
car accidents.  The worldwide recall affects the 2001 through 2004
model years that are powered by 3-litre V-6 engines with cruise control.

The National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration has received 68 complaints about the
problem, including 13
 crashes crashes, nine injuries and one death. A teenage girl
died when an Escape crashed in Arizona in January. It’s the third recall
in two weeks for the Escape, which was the top-selling SUV in the U.S. last
month. A week ago Ford recalled 11,500 of the all-new 2013 models with
1.6-litre engines because the fuel lines can crack and leak gasoline, causing
fires. A few days before that, it recalled 10,000 2013 Escapes to fix carpet
padding that could interfere with braking.

NHTSA said investigators would look into whether
the sticky throttles could have been caused by repairs made as part of a 2004
recall of the same vehicles. About 590,000 of the vehicles were recalled in
December of 2004 to fix an accelerator cable defect, and NHTSA documents say
the repairs could have damaged the cruise control cable.

This is similar to the type of auto defect and
recall that Toyota made two (2) years ago, which involved sticky pedals, pedals
being caught in the carpet and sudden acceleration. This is good to see this
recalls as there are already a reported 68 complaints and 13 car accidents. Hopefully
this will prevent any future car accidents.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago car accident or believes they have aChicago auto defect case, then call Chicago personal injury attorney Aaron Bryant for a free consultation at 312-588-3384 or go to the firm
website at www.blgchicago.com.