Tag Archives: Care for Crash Victims

From 1994-2014, 5,081 truck underride deaths (on average, 4/week) recorded by NHTSA.

April 19, 2016

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:


Marianne Karth asked NHTSA for information on Truck Underride Deaths.


NHTSA provided a revealing and disturbing set of data.


For twenty years about 4 people every average week an American motorist died of their injuries according to NHTSA’s FARS data.  From 1994-2014 the total amounting to 5,081 deaths were recorded by NHTSA.  See attached.


Year after tragic year the number has remained almost constant at more than 200 deaths each year.

See http://annaleahmary.com/2016/04/truck-underride-fatalities-chart-from-the-fars-1994-2014/

Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) have access to such data, so why don’t we see more stories?  See DOT and NHTSA databases available at IRE at


Let’s get the media focusing on our clear and present dangers here at home in the U.S.A. today.


Let’s get the media to produce change for the better with news we can use.



Death by Rental Car; How the Houck Case Changed the Law

I just heard about a new book about traffic safety advocacy. Find out about it for yourself from Lou Lombardo, a safety advocate who does important work by watching out for timely news in the realm of traffic safety and sends out regular emails to keep others informed.

In Lou’s latest email below, I particularly noted the NY Times article, which stated that,  without a law, safety advocates and regulators say, consumers must take the rental car company’s or dealer’s word that the repairs were made, and have limited ability to seek redress without that assurance. This emphasizes the need to go beyond voluntary measures:

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

On “October 7, 2004, two Houck sisters were killed in “a Chrysler PT Cruiser rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, that had been recalled for a safety defect that could cause an engine fire, but the corporation had failed to repair it.”

On December 4, 2015, the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act was signed into law.

This is an important story.  More important to Americans than the coverage of most of what is seen on TV and in the papers.  The NY Times covered some of the battles, but not the victory yet as far as my search could find.  See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/09/business/recalled-used-cars-roam-the-roads-as-federal-legislation-stalls.html?_r=0

Reasons Why This Is An Important Book


*  The inequality of power of people vs. corporate and governmental power and money has never been greater.

*  Safety victories are too rare in the U.S.A. today.
*  The American people need to know that safety advances can be made with persistence plus political and community support.
See the press release below by one of my safety heroes Ben Kelley, about the struggles, on our behalf, of Carol Houck and her family.
Inline image


New Book Gives Gripping Account
Of Eleven-Year Legal Saga Triggered
By Sisters’ Defective Rental Car Deaths
Monterey, CA –When the Houck sisters were killed in a fiery head-on collision late one afternoon in October 2004, California state police blamed it on Raechel Houck, 24, the driver. She had made an “unsafe turning maneuver,” they said. “It’s a very rural stretch and people can fall asleep or lose control easily or not pay attention.”
But in reality, a defective Chrysler PT Cruiser and a huge rental car company’s callous indifference to customer safety caused the tragedy. Even though Enterprise Rent-A-Car had been notified more than a month earlier that the PT Cruiser was under recall, it rented the vehicle to the young women without fixing its lethal defect – a flaw in the power steering hose that allowed flammable power brake fluid to leak onto hot engine surfaces and burst into flames.
The Houck sisters’ violent deaths were the start of an incredible eleven-year saga that culminated in the congressional passage last December of a landmark law, the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2015, banning rental car companies from keeping recalled vehicles in service without fixing their defects.  A new book, “Death by Rental Car: How The Houck Case Changed The Law,” by Ben Kelley, documents that saga in spellbinding detail. A “real-life courtroom thriller” that “reads like a suspense novel,” reviewers wrote.
In a foreword to “Death By Rental Car,” Ralph Nader calls it a “compelling story of corporate eva­sion and duplicity” and the “dedicated, persistent personal injury attorneys” who fought for the Houcks in their lawsuit against the giant rental car corporation – and ultimately won. The Houcks “saw beyond their own personal tragedy” when they pursued their lawsuit, Nader writes; it was a way to “advance the public’s right to know what both Chrysler and Enterprise Rental wanted kept secret. Drivers and passengers on the roads were in danger.”
“Death by Rental Car” gives a blow-by-blow account of Houck v. Enterprise, the parents’ hard-fought lawsuit against Enterprise. Drawing from the testimony of experts and witnesses in the lawsuit, the book takes the reader inside the litigation, in which the rental car corporation, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, aggressively attempted to blame Raechel Houck for causing the crash.  But what caused the crash was the defect, which triggered an engine compartment fire. Smoke penetrated the passenger compartment, frightening Raechel and causing her to veer off the road and into the path of an oncoming tractor-trailer.
Challenging Enterprise’s campaign to shirk blame for the crash were two lawyers, Larry Grassini and Roland Wrinkle, who represented the Houck parents. They resolutely fought back against Enterprise’s “blame the victim” legal tactics and secrecy strategy and brought the case to a successful conclusion. When Enterprise tried to settle the case by paying the parents a few million dollars in return for their agreement to hide the facts of the crash and Enterprise’s role in causing it, they joined the Houcks in rejecting the offer. Grassini said he was “inspired by the bravery” of the Houck parents, who “refused to take any amount of money in exchange for muzzling them from exposing Enterprise’s business practice of renting recalled cars.”
After the trial in Houck v. Enterprise, the sisters’ mother, Carol “Cally” Houck, embarked on a crusade to win passage of new laws to forbid rental car companies from keeping recalled vehicles in service without first repairing them. Her criterion for an effective law was simple: “If it would have saved my daughters, it’s a good law. If it wouldn’t have, it’s no use.” Her effort, supported by leading safety advocacy groups in California and Washington, led to passage in December of the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act.
“Death By Rental Car” is available from Amazon.com in print and Kindle formats at this link. The book’s Table of Contents is below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ben Kelley is a nationally renowned expert on auto safety issues. The Los Angeles Times called him a “pioneer in vehicle safety research.” His commentaries have appeared in newspapers throughout the country and are featured on the www.Fairwarning.org consumer information website. His biography and bibliography are atwww.producthazardconsulting.com.
CONTACTS: For information about the book or to obtain review copies, please contact ben.kelley@yahoo.com, or phone him at (831) 920 2460. To contact or arrange interviews with Carol Houck or Larry Grassini, please use the following email addresses and phone numbers: Carol Houck,spendard@juno.com, (805) 479 2545; Larry Grassini, lpgrassini@gmail.com.      (818) 348 1717

I recommend our community buy this excellent and important book, read it, and be both educated and inspired by it.



We need all engineers and federal officials concerned with public health to take the professional Hippocratic Oath “Do No Harm”.

This post is from a recent demand for accountability from Care for Crash Victim’s Lou Lombardo entitled, “Seat Back Failures: Who Has The Power? & Who Has the Responsibility?”:

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

Please watch this excellent video and report by CBS News on Seat Back Failures.

The failures of both government and industry to protect the public from foreseeable tragedies – for decades – are described.  See


The Center for Auto Safety has documented the efforts by citizens that were ignored over decades.  Profits were placed ahead of people decade after decade.  See

NHTSA Urged to Warn Parents of Seatback Collapse Dangers to Children in Rear Seats & How to Reduce Risk While Keeping Children in Rear

March 9, 2016

The Center for Auto Safety (CAS) today petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to “take action to protect children riding in the rear seats of vehicles from the risk of being killed or severely injured when struck by a collapsing front seatback in a rear-end crash.” The petition asks NHTSA to warn parents as follows:

If Possible, Children Should Be Placed In Rear Seating Positions Behind Unoccupied Front Seats. In Rear-End Crashes, The Backs Of Occupied Front Seats Are Prone To Collapse Under The Weight Of Their Occupants. If This Occurs, The Seat Backs And Their Occupants Can Strike Children In Rear Seats And Cause Severe Or Fatal Injuries

As the petition states, “The problem underlying the need for the warnings sought by petitioner is, of course, the poor performance of seatbacks in rear-end crashes, and of serious inadequacy of the federal motor vehicle standard, FMVSS 207, which specifies minimum seat and seatback crash performance levels.” Attached to the petition is a timeline, “Collapsing Seatbacks And Injury Causation: A Timeline Of Knowledge,” which summarizes “the history of manufacturer and NHTSA inaction to ensure that in rear-end crashes, front seats provide adequate protection not only for their occupants but for people in the rear seats behind them.”

Separately, the Center filed a detailed analysis of lawsuits, police reports and litigated cases that shows the dangers of seat back collapse are far greater than what the agency recognizes because seat back collapse is not captured by the FARS database on which the agency has relied for all too long to deny there is a seatback collapse danger.  FARS does not provide any information on seat back collapse.  Out of 64 seat back collapse death and injury crashes, the Center only found 2 where the police report referenced seat back collapse.

For many years NHTSA has urged parents to place children in the rear seats of cars because of the risk that in the front seat, they might be injured by inflating airbags in frontal crashes. But the “unintended consequences” of this policy, the petition notes, has been to “expose them to another kind of hazard – that of being struck or crushed when the back of a front seat occupied by an adult collapses rearward… Until cars on the American highway are equipped with adequately strong front seats and seatbacks, children in rear seats behind occupied front seats will continue to be in danger of death or severe injury from front seatback failures in rear-end impacts.”

The petition reports on the results of an analysis of NHTSA data by Friedman Research Corp. Done at the Center’s request, the analysis shows that over the twenty-four year period 1990-2014, nearly 900 children seated behind a front-seat occupant or in a center rear seat died in rear impacts of 1990 and later model-year cars.

As the Timeline shows, NHTSA has frequently been alerted to the hazards of weak designs and inadequate federal performance standards for seats and seatbacks. “Papers published by the Society of Automotive Engineers as early as 1967 described the need for adequate of front-seat crashworthiness in graphic and alarming terms. A poorly designed car seat ‘becomes an injury-producing agency during collision,’ said one. Another stated, ‘…a weak seatback is not recognized as an acceptable solution for motorist protection from rear end collisions.’” 

In 1974, the petition notes, NHTSA announced its intention to develop a new standard “covering the total seating system” and requiring dynamic rear-impact crash testing. But thirty years later, in 2004, it abandoned the plan, saying it needed “additional research and data analysis” and leaving in place the woefully weak requirements of FMVSS 207, a standard which has not been upgraded since its adoption in 1967. In a research study of 30-mph rear crashes done one year earlier which is not cited in the rulemaking termination, NHTSA researchers warned of the danger to children placed in rear seats at NHTSA’s recommendation. “Further, fatalities and injuries to rear child occupants due to seat back collapse of the front seat in rear impacts have also been reported. This is especially of concern since NHTSA recommends to the public that children of age 12 and under should be placed in the rear seat.”

In its conclusion, the petition states that warning parents of the hazards of front seatback collapse to children in rear seat is an essential measure “made necessary by the continued absence of a federal motor vehicle safety standard requiring that cars be equipped with adequately protective front seats.”  The agency “can take most of the requested steps on its own, without time-consuming rulemaking, and should do so promptly,” the petition notes. 

#     #     #

CAS Petitions NHTSA to Warn Parents of Seat Back Failure Dangers to Children in Rear Seats

CAS Letter to NHTSA Administrator Rosekind

Collapsing Seat Backs and Injury Causation: A Timeline of Knowledge

Friedman Study: Child Fatalities in Rear Impacts

NHTSA Seat Back Rulemaking History

Clarence Ditlow, Executive Director, Center for Auto Safety, 1825 Connecticut Ave NW #330, Washington DC 20009

For information on Who was responsible, see http://www.careforcrashvictims.com/assets/CFCV-MonthlyReport-March2014.pdf

and http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/opinion/weak-oversight-deadly-cars.html

We need all engineers and federal officials concerned with public health to take the professional Hippocratic Oath “Do No Harm”.


Safety is not a priority 002

Safety: I do not think that word means what you think it means.

“The nondisclosure of safety defects by a car company”

Louis Lombardo does important work by watching out for timely news in the realm of traffic safety and sends out regular emails to keep others informed. If you would like to get his regular updates, you can sign up here: “Care for Crash Victims”

Here is information from the Home Page to let you know what it is about:

This web site named “Care for Crash Victims” is a project of a small business public benefit enterprise, Louis V. Lombardo, LLC.  The mission is to improve care for crash victims before, during, and after a crash.  We are all crash victims — past, present, and future — as individuals, families, friends and society.  All of us are impacted by crashes as consumers, insurance premium payers, and tax payers. 

The vision is to advance the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of serious crash injuries.  Currently in the U.S. each day nearly 100 people die of crash injuries — more than half die without transport to a medical treatment facility — and another estimated 400 people suffer serious injuries.  U.S. DOT dollar values for preventing such losses currently amount to about $2 Billion each day.

Since 1978 in the U.S., more people have died and suffered serious crash injuries than died or were wounded in all wars since 1776. 

This work continues 45 years of research, writing, and public interest advocacy described and documented to some extent on this web site — along with some key historic publications.

And here is a sample of Lou’s informative emails–from this morning . . . it touches, among other things, on the issue of “the nondisclosure of safety defects by a car company,”

See more at: http://www.atlantamagazine.com/great-reads/no-accident-inside-gms-deadly-ignition-switch-scandal/#sthash.lTahNcLx.dpuf

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

The shocking history of discovery of countless tragedies – so far – is well described at  http://www.atlantamagazine.com/great-reads/no-accident-inside-gms-deadly-ignition-switch-scandal/

The latest legal maneuvers and the wrangling over money are reported by Automotive News.  GM quote suggests the fix continues:

“In a statement, GM spokesman Jim Cain said the company believed the current plan “remains the best process to inform settlement value for the remaining cases.””
See  http://www.autonews.com/article/20160219/OEM11/160219839/gm-ignition-switch-plaintiffs-ask-to-revise-early-trial
Imagine an image of a blindfolded Justice holding scales with lives on the lighter side and money on the heavier side with a tear coming out from under the blindfold.

What can bring us to a point where we can pro-actively prevent such deadly situations? Stand with us for a National Vision Zero Goal:  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/417/742/234/save-lives-not-dollars-urge-dot-to-adopt-vision-zero-policy/
Car Safety Wars book cover
Michael Lemov sheds light on this distressing issue: http://www.amazon.com/Car-Safety-Wars-Technology-Politics/dp/161147745X

Hard to Watch: Crash Death Clock

These U.S.A. Crash Death & Injuries Clocks are hard to watch:  http://www.careforcrashvictims.com/clock.php

The loved ones already numbered there can never be brought back, but if only we could slow down the pace of those clocks!

Minolta DSC
Minolta DSC


“We can and must do better than this at protecting people before profits.” Louis V. Lombardo, Care for Crash Victims


“As for the root cause of failures to protect the public in corporations and government regulatory agencies, consider money.

“For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”  1 Timothy 6:10

Whether it be relentless cost cutting demands by OEMs or the corruption of government regulatory policy the root cause is money.

Whether it be airbags exploding dangerously, or airbags not deploying when needed examination will find money at the root of corporate and governmental failures to protect.  See report of June 2014 at


We can and must do better than this at protecting people before profits.”

Louis V. Lombardo, Care for Crash Victims

Rebekah photo of crash