The Exploding Air Bag Problem

The media has been buzzing this year with terrifying stories of dangerous and defective auto parts recalls.

 

More recently, airbag manufacturer Takata has come under the gun for manufacturing potentially defective airbags installed in eight million vehicles across the country. These airbags apparently can explode and kill drivers and passengers with their shrapnel. Quite a disturbing defect!

 

All told, 10 different automakers installed the defective Takata airbags in various vehicles. Honda Motor Company alone will have to recall five million vehicles to replace the airbags. But as safety advocates and consumer protection groups rally to get manufacturers to take action, others worry that the “cure” to the exploding airbag problem could be worse than the disease.

 

According to Cyndi Knight, a spokesperson for Toyota, the car manufacturer will disable defective air bags, once it runs out of replacement parts to fix the 800,000 or so Toyota vehicles recalled. Knight says that the company’s decision to disable the airbags is “an indication of how seriously we take the problem.”

 

General Motors (GM), which had has to spend billons of dollars this year to wind back the damage caused by defective ignition switches, only needs to replace 80,000 airbags.

 

Per a CNN Money report, however, not everyone agrees that this strategy makes sense.

 

Clarence Ditlow, the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety, worries that disabling the airbags could actually cause more havoc than it prevents for two reasons:

1.       Only a very small percentage of airbags suffers the shrapnel defect;

2.       Airbags, in general, do save lives and protect passengers and drivers.

 

Let’s say, for instance, that two out of every thousand airbags has a shrapnel problem. But out of a thousand potentially fatal accidents, a driver might survive 570 of them with a working airbag in the vehicle but only 530 of them with no airbag.

 

Calculating the cost benefit trade-off is challenging, but Ditlow insists that “you save more lives by leaving the airbags in place than you would lose lives by the airbag exploding.”

 

Nevertheless, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given Toyota permission to disable the airbags that have been recalled – an act that otherwise would be against the law. Toyota will insert stickers on vehicles with disabled airbags, warning people to avoid riding in the front passenger seat until a replacement to airbag has been installed.

 

GM officials say that that company has enough replacement parts to handle the issue without resorting to disabling airbags.

 

If someone you love needs help with a Washington DC auto accident or product liability case, call the legal team here at Regan Zambri & Long today for a free consultation.

 

Want a quick primer on the related issue of the GM recall? Check this article out: GM Recall Delay Prompts Multiple Investigations

 

Could the Already Enormous Takata Airbag Recall Get Worse?

Another recent dangerous defect with automobiles has recently been exposed. I has now been discovered that approximate 8 million airbags manufactured by the company Takata -- and available in dozens of vehicles spread across 10 automakers -- may be afflicted with a very dangerous safety defect

 

The defective airbags, when inflated, expel shards of shrapnel, which can pierce the bodies of drivers and passengers, much like exploding shrapnel can injure soldiers during war.

 

The vivid nature of this defect, as well as its size and scope, has spurred massive consumer and legal action. Approximately 5 million Honda vehicles and 800,000 Toyotas need to be recalled for these airbag defects. GM only has to recall 80,000 cars. The automaker dodged a proverbial bullet with respect to this recall case – as we’ve discussed a lot this year on this blog, GM has been dogged all year over its multi-billion dollar ignition switch recall.

 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, other car makers recalling vehicles due to these airbags include BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Mazda, Nissan, Mitsubishi.

 

You can read more details about each automaker’s progress here.

 

According to the Center for Auto Safety, the exploding airbags have led to at least four deaths as well as dozens of serious injuries. Thus far, only airbags in Honda and Acura vehicles have been implicated in injury accidents and fatal accidents.

 

What should you do if you’re concerned that the airbags in your car might be ticking shrapnel time bombs?

1.       Go to the Center for Auto Safety website or the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA) website to research the latest news.

2.       Schedule a time to bring your vehicle in to get a replacement part as soon as possible, if your car needs a new airbag.

 

In addition, pay attention to other potential issues with your car, truck, or vehicle. Don’t just focus only on the airbag issue: get your car checked out and serviced regularly, and keep it clean. Engage in safe driving behaviors. Don’t drink or take drugs or medications before you get behind the wheel. Don’t drive while you’re angry or fatigued. Stay off of your phone -- even talking on hands free headsets can cause fatal distractions.

 

Adhering to these good driving habits can all significantly decrease your likelihood of being involved in a crash. The legal team at Regan, Zambri & Long would be happy to discuss your case, if you need an insight from an experienced Washington DC car accident law firm. Call us today for a free consultation.

 

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New Research: Further Confirmation of Dangers of Drowsy Driving

Posted by: Salvatore J. Zambri, founding member and partner

Picture of Salvatore J. Zambri

Several years ago, the National Sleep Foundation sponsored a public awareness campaign about the effects of drowsy driving. As I blogged about the problem in 2011, drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. It actually handicaps drivers with slower reaction times, vision impairments, lapses in judgment and delays in processing information. 

New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates that 21% of all fatal crashes involves driver fatigue.  Although safety experts have long been aware that drowsy driving is a serious traffic safety problem, these new statistics show that the official statistics from NHTSA underestimate driver fatigue as a cause of accidents and fatalities (approximately 1-3%). According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research:

  • one-third of crashes involving a drowsy driver result in injures;
  • more than 6,000 fatigue-related crashes each year result in at least one fatality;
  • 33% of young drivers ages 19-24 admitted to driving while drowsy during the last month;
  • drivers 75+ and 16-18 were least likely to report driving while drowsy.

According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety president and CEO Peter Kissinger,"This new research further confirms that drowsy driving is a serious traffic safety problem. Unfortunately, drivers often underestimate this risk and overestimate their ability to combat drowsiness behind the wheel.”

Driving drowsy is not responsible. Crashes caused by drowsy driving are preventable and should not happen. I agree with Mr. Kissinger, who said, “Despite the fact that 95 percent of Americans deem it ‘unacceptable’ to drive when they are so tired that they have a hard time keeping their eyes open, more than 28 percent admit to doing so in the last month.

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Was Your Car Recalled and Repaired? How Can You Tell?

Whether you're renting an automobile or buying a car used, you want to know that your vehicle is safe and fit for your purposes. Unfortunately, many consumers have no idea that their cars' parts have been previously recalled.

 

This ignorance can lead to safety hazards and legal challenges, if you're ever in an accident.

 

For instance, let’s say you rent a car and get into a major fender bender, because the steering fails at a crucial moment. Perhaps some part related to the steering system had been recalled (or recalled and replaced inadequately) prior to the accident. Unless you investigate and learn about the recall, you might have no idea that a defective product could have been to blame. Likewise, you might never be able to collect compensation from the appropriate person or party for damages that you sustained to your vehicle or yourself.

 

Here's the complicated thing, though. Cars are made up from a diverse catalog of products, any one of which can be recalled. The can include brakes, fuel lines, ignition switches, airbags, transmission systems, tires, etc. Recently, for instance, Honda started the process of recalling 6 million vehicles to fix airbag issues. This recall could be on a scale as big as GM’s recent multi-billion dollar ignition switch recall!

 

In the past, identifying how and when to identify problematic car parts presented a massive logistical problem for concerned consumers. But a new federal government recall site, www.safercar.gov, allows you to get insight immediately into potential problems.

 

Here's what you need to do:

 

1) Write down your vehicle's VIN number or take a picture of it with your phone. It’s usually located at the bottom of the windshield or on the inside of your door.

2) Enter the VIN number at www.safercar.gov, and you will get information on any recalls.

 

This process only works for cars made in the last 15 years, but this digital tracking should go a long way towards helping consumers protect themselves and their families.

 

If you or someone you love got hurt in a car accident, and you believe that a defective auto part might have been to blame, contact the Washington D.C. car accident attorneys here at Regan, Zambri & Long today to schedule a confidential consultation with us.

 

No matter how safe your vehicle is, if you text while driving it, you're asking for trouble. Learn more: Texting While Driving - Now a Primary Offense in Virginia

 

Sports-Related Concussions: What Progress Are We Making?

As awareness about the lasting impact of concussions grows among athletic organizations, athletes, and their families, authorities wonder how sports teams can best prevent and treat these potentially devastating injuries.

Earlier this year, the NFL cited statistics indicating that the number of concussions in the sport had decreased by 13 percent between 2012 and 2013. They attributed this statistic to a change in the culture of the NFL, new safety techniques, and enforcement of new rules in the league.

This shift represents a positive change for professional sports, but injuries continue to plague a disturbing number of young athletes. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 3,000 high school players in that state alone sustained concussions in 2013. Interestingly and counterintuitively, a significantly higher percentage of female athletes than males experienced concussions.

3 Lessons for Athletes and Parents

In light of these seemingly contradictory reports, athletes and their parents can take several lessons from the existing data:

1.    More needs to be done
. With so many young people experiencing severe injuries in sports, schools and other organizations must enact new ways of preventing and managing concussions and brain injuries.

2.    Improvement is possible. As the NFL has demonstrated, changing the atmosphere in which athletes compete – and enforcing existing rules – can lead to demonstrable improvements to athletes’ safety and welfare.

3.    Players play a role.
Under the leadership of their athletic organizations, athletes have an obligation to engage in responsible sportsmanship, as well as to report and receive treatment for head injuries as soon as they occur.

Seeking Compensation for a Sports-Related Concussion

Although injuries during full-contact sports seem inevitable, solid safety precautions and treatment plans can help mitigate the risks. If you or your child sustained a sports-related concussion, and your school or organization mishandled it, talk with a Northern Virginia personal injury lawyer today to discuss the legal options available to you.

President Obama and his team aren't standing idly by. Read more here: White House Summit on Sport Concussions
 

What Do Consumers Need to Know About Recalls That Might Affect Them?

Earlier this year, we spilled a lot of virtual ink addressing the GM recall debacle. As you may remember, the federal government scolded and fined the car company GM for manufacturing vehicles with defective ignition switches. This multi-billion dollar recall worried millions of consumers and consumed a lot of media oxygen.

But what exactly IS a recall? More importantly, when do you personally need to be concerned?

The government, under the aegis of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and in conjunction with manufacturers, can seek to remove potentially dangerous products from the marketplace to protect consumers. This act is known as a recall. (The Food and Drug Administration as well as the National Highway Traffic Administration also have the power to recall products.)

Almost any product imaginable can be recalled, including toys, cribs, car parts, and pieces of industrial machinery. The CPSC identifies potentially dangerous goods in numerous ways. Sometimes, the manufacturer will identify issues through independent testing. Other times, people get hurt, and these incidents prompt action. Thousands of products in diverse industries get recalled every year, but distracted consumers often don’t ever hear about them for a variety of reasons. First, manufacturers don’t particularly love to advertise that they have sold defective products. Instead of rolling out massive ad campaigns to alert buyers, they often issue the minimum possible publicity, such as basic press releases. Second, consumers are just overwhelmed. Finally, some people just don't know where to look to get information.

So how can you protect yourself and your family? Sites like http://www.saferproducts.gov can help you check out reports from other consumers. You can also search for recall notices on the websites of the FDA, NHTSA, and the CPSC or call the Consumer Protection Agency at 1-800-636-CPSC. In general, be vigilant, especially when you research and purchase children toys.

If someone in your family got hurt or even killed due to what you believe might have been a defective product, contact the Washington D.C. defective product lawyers at Regan, Zambri & Long to schedule a free consultation with our team.

Be a more mindful parent. Learn how to choose the right car seats for your kids by reading: DOT Reveals Powerful New Tools, Technologies and Ideas to Boost Car Seat Safety

 

Tracy Morgan Shocked By Walmart's Accusations in Truck Injury Case: Is This How Fatigued Truck Drivers Should Defend Themselves?

Comedian Tracy Morgan suffered massive injuries earlier this year when a Walmart-owned truck hit his limousine, fatally injuring a fellow comedian, 63-year-old James McNair.

 

Months after the disaster, the 30 Rock star filed a lawsuit against the Bentonville, Arkansas retailer, claiming Walmart's truck driver, Kevin Roper, hadn’t slept for 24 hours before the accident. The multi-billion dollar company recently responded to the accusations by arguing that Morgan and McNair’s injuries stemmed in part from their “failure to properly wear an appropriate available seatbelt restraint device.” Morgan (and many of his fans and legal observers of this case) reacted with outrage: was Walmart really trying to pass the buck?

 

Rather than delving into the legal particulars of Morgan’s lawsuit or Walmart's potential defense options, let’s pull back and consider this case in context. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), truck accidents claim approximately 5,000 lives every year in the United States and cause around 150,000 injuries. When trucks collide with smaller vehicles (like passenger cars and limousines), the results tend to be bad for the smaller cars. When massive vehicles collide with much less massive vehicles, the physics just don’t work out well for the lighter vehicles. Think about it this way -- to generate the same amount of force that a 20-ton truck produces when it into a plows into a stationary car at 20 miles per hour, a 400 pound lineback would have to run head first into that car at about 2,000 miles per hour, roughly four times the average speed of a commercial airliner.

 

Per The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 20,000 people suffer injuries and 750 people die annually as a direct consequence of overly sleepy commercial truck drivers. Commercial drivers are not allowed to drive for more than 10 hours without resting 8 hours. In a 200 study, the FMCSA found that crash risk doubles from the 8th to 10th hour of continuous driving and then doubles yet again from the 10th to 11th hour.

 

Do you need help understanding your rights or potential avenues to collect compensation after an accident? Call a Washington DC truck accident attorney at Regan, Zambri & Long today.

 

Sleeplessness isn't the only thing that can cause fatal distractions. Talking on a cell phone, even hands-free, is not good news: Hands-Free Is Not the Same as Distraction-Free

 

Could Changing from Daylight Saving Time Cause You to Get into a Car Accident?

As the end of Daylight Saving Time (DST) rapidly approaches, most Northern Virginia and D.C residents are probably more excited about getting an extra hour of sleep than they are worried about potential dangers caused by the time shift.

But surprising and compelling research suggests that the transition to DST can lead to all sorts of havoc, including accident hazards at work, on the road, and elsewhere. An article on www.lifescience.com summarizes how Daylight Savings can impact our mental acuity and concentration. Certain countries, like Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, don’t even acknowledge DST, but the United States and 60-plus other countries do. The tradition of DST harkens back over 230 years ago to 1784, when Benjamin Franklin recommended the process to conserve energy during the winter.

Academic studies of DST’s effects on driving have been ambiguous. Some studies suggest that the time shift causes car accidents, perhaps by changing average sleep habits and altering the circadian rhythms of drivers. Other studies suggest that the effect, if there is one, is negligible. One study published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health in 2000 surveyed car accidents in Finland from the late 1980s through 2006; it found that DST did not cause any extra problems. Another study published the same year in the Journal of Safety Research suggests that DST actually might help prevent car accidents, possibly because the increased morning visibility helps drivers see better.

Other studies in different domains suggest that DST is not all good news.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2009 found that DST sparked an increase in workplace injuries of almost 6%. And a study from Sweden published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that heart attacks increased by 5% on average during DST.

If you or someone you love got hurt in automobile accident recently, contact the Washington D.C. car accident attorneys here at Regan, Zambri & Long to schedule a free case consultation.

Changes to our circadian rhythms can lead to crashes. To learn more, read: How Safe Are Drivers the Morning After Taking Sleep Aids?

 

Halloween Safety Guide: How to Keep Your Kids Safe during Trick or Treating

As October 31 rapidly approaches, kids across the D.C. and Northern Virginia region are excitedly picking out costumes and planning their trick or treating routes.

But parents and caregivers should spend time thinking about how to protect young charges from potential dangers. To that end, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has compiled a list of important trick or treating tips, categorized under the acronym “S.A.F.E H.A.L.L.O.W.E.E.N.”

We’re just going to summarize the critical safety concepts as opposed to going through the entire lengthy acronym:

  • Keep any pointy costume accessories (such as knifes and swords) soft and bendable;
  • Use reflective tape to allow drivers to see the kids;
  • Bring a flashlight;
  • Walk (do not run) from house to house, particularly if you need to cross busy streets;
  • Be a smart pedestrian: look both ways before you cross the street, and use sidewalks and crosswalks, if possible.
  • When going from home to home, avoid touching candles or other luminary sources;
  • ravel in groups: responsible adults should accompany young children;
  • Choose costumes wisely; they can cause considerable injuries. Make the sure costumes are comfortable and do not cause trip and fall hazards or allergic reactions.
  • Test make up on a small area of the skin first before applying it in broad swaths to the face or body, so that you don’t set off hives or other major unpleasant reactions.
  • Avoid wearing decorative contact lenses, which can cause eye injuries;
  • Do not take rides from strangers;
  • Avoid dark houses or homes that have hazards on the property, such as open pits or potentially dangerous dogs and other animals.
  • In terms of the treats you collect… use caution! Do not accept unwrapped homemade treats from strangers, and watch for choking hazards.
  • Limit the amount of candy your children consume on Halloween night and subsequently. Even if your children are young, vigorous, and blessed with a healthy metabolism, scientists increasingly believe that sugary treats can cause diverse metabolic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, stroke and gout. When eaten in moderation by people who can tolerate them, sweets can make for a fun treat. But watch out, particularly if your child is diabetic or has other health issues.

If you have questions regarding a Washington D.C personal injury case, contact the team here at Regan Zambri & Long today for a free consultation.

 

Autumn fires can also pose safety hazards for kids. Learn more: October Is Fire Safety Awareness Month: 8 Key Tips to Protect Your Family


 

"What You Know That Just Ain't So": Is Conventional Wisdom about Certain Products Harming Us?

For individuals trying to live a healthy lifestyle, constantly changing recommendations can be confusing. For those following a low-fat diet high in whole grains, the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) recent study is alarming.

The NIH conducted a study over a year with a group of 150 men and women from various racial backgrounds. One group received instructions to limit the amounts of carbohydrates they consumed, and the other to limit fat consumed. Neither group had to keep track of or limit caloric intake.

After a year, researchers found the group eating a low-carb diet high in fat -- precisely the opposite of the diet recommended by public health authorities enamored of the high carb, low fat food pyramid -- experienced considerable benefits over the low-fat group, including better weight loss, muscle versus fat retention, and improved health indicators.

These results seem to contradict conventional dietary wisdom, which emphasizes fat as more detrimental to health than carbohydrates.

How to Distinguish Truth from Fiction in Product Warnings

With so many sources asserting claims about what is best for us, it can be difficult to make the healthiest and safest choices for you and your family. As an informed consumer, questioning popular opinions about foods or products can be in your best interest.

When considering whether a study or report has relevance for you, ask yourself several questions:

•    Who funded this study? If an industry or special interest group sponsored research, chances are the results reinforce their marketing message.

•    What are my health goals?
While a fad diet or product may claim to help “shed pounds fast,” do its ingredients or required lifestyle help you meet your health objectives?

•    What are the results? If people trying a healthy behavior (such as low-fat diets) have seen few benefits, perhaps it’s time to reconsider. (As respected researchers and journalists like Nina Teicholz and Gary Taubes both reported on at length in their best selling books, The Big Fat Surprise and Good Calories Bad Calories, the popular demonization of dietary fat has never had good experimental support. In fact, in 24 head to head comparisons of low carb and low fat diets, low carb has won every time.)

Have you or a loved one suffered as the result of a misleading health claim on a product or program? Talk with a Washington D.C. personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options.
 

What other "things you know that just ain't so" might be putting you and your family at risk? For more eye-opening insights, check out:  Hidden Dangers of Swimming Pools Highlighted Again in Recent Death of Child.