Fatal Car Accidents on the Rise in Connecticut and U.S.

Unbelted drivers accounted for over 50% of all traffic fatalities in 2016.

The fervent hope of traffic safety experts and automakers was that new safety technologies would make automobile accidents, particularly fatal ones, increasingly rare.

Add technology to concerted efforts to curb driving under the influence and the use of cell phones by drivers, and roads should be the safest they have been in years – right?

Data from 2016 shows just the opposite with a 10% jump in the number of people dying in car accidents in Connecticut in 2016, the second consecutive year of such increases.

And the U.S. as a whole – also two consecutive years of rising death rates (up 14%) – the first such two-year rise in more than 50 years.

So what’s going on?

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What Tired Drivers Have In Common with Drunk Drivers

Photo credit: CountyLemonade via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo credit: CountyLemonade via Foter.com / CC BY

Much has been written about the dangers of drinking and driving – and for good reason. Alcohol dramatically affects a driver’s ability to operate a car or truck. Those effects include:

  • Reduced reaction time
  • Impaired vision
  • Feeling relaxed and drowsy
  • Reduced concentration
  • Difficulty doing several tasks at once

Interestingly, researchers now report that drivers who are sleep deprived are as dangerous as drivers who have had three or four drinks before getting behind the wheel.

Put another way – a drowsy driver is essentially a drunk driver.

What’s more, sleep deprivation is considered a serious public health problem in Connecticut and around the country. It’s estimated that 35% of the adult population in the U.S. gets fewer than seven hours of sleep a night and that 12% get less than five.

Why do we think driving when tired is a problem?

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A Leading Cause of Injury and Death…? Greed.

photo-credit-tony-webster-via-foter-com-cc-by

In the 1990’s, a little known manufacturer from Japan named Takata, approached GM with a less expensive airbag system that could be deployed in GM vehicles.

GM was impressed and asked their current manufacturer, Autoliv, to match the price or risk losing the business.

Anxious to retain the GM account – Autoliv immediately investigated the new, less expensive alternative.

What they discovered about the Takata airbag system alarmed them – and they alerted GM.   Engineers at Autoliv had discovered that the new system in question used an extremely dangerous and highly volatile compound in its inflator.

The compound, called ammonium nitrate, was discovered to expand so quickly that it blew the inflator to bits – literally turning the metal components of the device into potentially deadly shrapnel.

In the end, Autoliv told GM they were not willing to replicate the Takata device… and lost GM’s business.

Over 100 injuries, some fatal, and over 100 million vehicle recalls later, investigators are still working to understand the choices auto manufacturers made when they fatefully decided to buy from Takata.

Sadly – the motivation to improve profit margins at the expense of vehicle safety seems to have been at the center of the choices made by GM.

So just what was the difference in cost?

A few dollars per airbag.

Were the Autoliv revelations about the dangers of ammonium nitrate new?

No.  Research studies going back decades warned of the dangers surrounding the compound – particularly when it is exposed to dramatic temperature shifts and moisture.  In fact, given its dangerous volatility, Takata has often struggled to find suppliers of ammonium nitrate.

Given all that is known about Takata’s dangerously flawed technology – one would assume car makers have stopped using their products – right?

Nope.

Takata continues to manufacture airbags with this compound — and incredibly automakers continue to buy them.  These airbags have been built into the 2016 models of seven different automakers.   Even more incredibly – the Takata bags are being used as replacement airbags for those being recalled.

How is all of this possible…?

Sadly, tragedies like this one happen when automakers press suppliers to put cost before all else – including safety.

If you suspect that you or a loved one have been harmed by a Takata airbag, call a qualified Connecticut product liability lawyer.  A knowledgeable and well trained product liability lawyer can help you fight powerful corporate interests when you’ve been hurt, ensuring that you’re not harassed or abused and that your rights are protected. 

For over 60 years, the Connecticut product liability attorneys at RisCassi and Davis have been working hard to protect our clients.  Please contact us if we can help you. The consultation is free and there is no obligation of any kind.  And – there is no fee or other costs unless we are successful on your behalf

 

Photo credit: Tony Webster via Foter.com / CC BY

 

 

 

 

 

Could This Simple Road Sign Save 4,000 Lives a Year?

Fatal car accidents are a daily occurrence on U.S. roads.  Head on collisions tend to be particularly deadly – with one in five resulting in a fatality. Did you know that a growing number of these car crashes are caused by people going the wrong way on exit ramps?

4,000 annually to be exact…

What is causing these accidents in the first place and what can be done about it?

Predictably alcohol plays a major role. Intoxicated drivers cause more than 80% of these wrong way car crashes.

Highway safety experts say that improving markings on the highway, adding red reflectors, and lowering “Wrong Way” and “Do Not Enter” signs could make a real difference in reducing this type of car accident.

Why might lowering the height of signs make a difference?

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What Causes One in Four Car Accidents In America?

Can you guess?

Cell phone use.  Twenty-six percent of all car accidents in 2014 – or 1.3 million – were caused by drivers using their mobile devices while driving.

And that, according to the National Safety Council represents a one percent increase from 2013.

While driving, have you ever observed drivers to see how many of them are on their cell phones while they drive?

How can you tell?  In one of two ways… either you can actually see the phone next to the driver’s head or you can see the driver looking down for extended periods of time (this guy is the MOST dangerous of the group – for obvious reasons).

Look when you next go out.  The number of people you will see every single day driving while talking or texting – ignoring the laws and your personal safety – will shock you.

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Fatal Car Accidents and Teens. What Causes Most of Them?

The teenage years are exciting for many reasons…

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There are so many new freedoms and new adventures at that stage of life.

Sadly, it can also be a dangerous time – particularly when it comes to driving.  Car crashes are the leading cause of death for 18-25 year olds.  And 1 in 5 of 16-year-old drivers has an accident within their first year of driving.

First – the entire experience of driving is new. And many of the challenges that one encounters as a lifelong driver are as yet unfamiliar to the new driver. Then there is the danger that cell phones pose and the distractions of texting and talking.

Perhaps the greatest dangers to a young driver are the dangers as old as time – drugs and alcohol. Did you know that according to a recent Columbia University study, over 57% of the fatal car crashes involving a teen in Connecticut and across the U.S. involve a teen who was either drinking or using drugs or both?

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Prescription Drugs – Big Contributor To Fatal Car Crashes

 

If you are like many Americans, you consume a prescription drug or drugs of some kind daily.

Just doing what the doctor recommended – right?

Did you know that in the CDC’s Public Health Reports, they show that prescription drugs caused fatal car crashes at three times the rate of marijuana? Add alcohol to your diet of prescription drugs – and the chance of a fatal crash jump even higher.

Which class of drugs are most often to blame?

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Good News For Parents of Small Children

It is estimated that over 200 fatalities and 15,000 injuries in the U.S. each year are caused by cars and trucks backing up and hitting pedestrians.  Thirty-one percent of those fatalities and injuries involve small children five years old and younger, with one-year olds suffering the most.  Tragically – 70% of these accidents occur with a parent behind the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to do something about the problem and has just proposed a rule making reversing cameras mandatory on all light vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2018.

This news comes just weeks after a 7th grade math teacher, Dawn Mallory-Bushor, at Rham Middle School in Hebron, was critically injured and later died after a parent, who was dropping off her children, accidentally backed into Mallory.

In related safety news, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (AAM) is seeking to have side mirrors replaced by cameras in future models.  The organization claims that replacing side mirrors with small digital cameras inside the cabin of the car would reduce both drag and noise – while improving driver visibility.

While we wait for these safety improvements – what can each of us do now to reduce the number of these tragic accidents?

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