Tag Archives: second collision

Exposing the Truth about the Truck Underride Conspiracy of Silence

You cannot begin to imagine the riotous cacophony of emotions ricocheting about within this mother’s heart right now. Pain. Grief. Anger. Frustration. Outrage. Heartache.

These last few days, Lois and I have been on a journey together which has taken unexpected turns. After driving cross-country with my son to help him get settled in his new home in Santa Cruz, l took a red-eye flight to Chicago where Lois picked me up from the O’Hare airport.

Our original plan was to get on the highway and head for a cottage in Michigan. But it seemed good to us both to take this opportunity for Lois to give me a glimpse of her daughter Roya — the house where she grew up, a favorite restaurant, a school and church, her grandpa and the home he built, and finally her final resting place here on this earth.

It was a very good and a very hard thing for the two of us to do. And then we headed for my old stomping grounds.

We had made plans to spend a few days at a cottage on Lake Michigan where Jerry and I have created many memories. He and I discovered it one year on a getaway and thereafter brought our kids for many fun family times. It was also where we stayed with our nine children and their families when we returned North for my 90 year-old dad’s funeral in 2011. Twelve year-old Mary took over 600 photos on her hand-me-down camera that trip.

Perhaps you can imagine what it was like to arrive at a place so full of wonderful memories of AnnaLeah and Mary. Bittersweet. Heart-wrenching.

We enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the Lake that evening and contemplated our next steps in getting the Roya, AnnaLeah and Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017 introduced and passed as we tended a marvelous beach campfire.

The next morning, after sighting a rainbow on the Lake’s horizon, we set out for a local bagel shop to take advantage of their Wi-Fi. It was time to get down to business and compile a list of underride research which has been done over the years.

We had previously put together a list of underride recommendations and reports for the senator who intends to introduce the bill. Now we were responding to a request from her staff to add any additional underride research which we could find so that they could share it with Republican Offices in hopes of persuading them to jump on board with her in leading the way with this life-preserving legislation.

History of Underride Research & Reports: 1896 to 2017

In summary, this legislation is so vitally important because — all too often — it is not the collision of a car with a truck which is responsible for an ensuing tragedy but the lack of adequate underride protection. This results in a second collision where the truck collides with the passengers in the car and what is known as Passenger Compartment Intrusion (PCI) which occurs with truck underride.

The day before, we had updated Jerry and asked him to look for underride patents online. I knew of a couple in particular which we had already discovered in our unwelcome truck safety advocacy journey. What he then uncovered was beyond belief.

Jerry sent us a link to a U.S. patent for a side underride device invented in 1913. What?! That was before my 90 year-old father, who has been gone for six years, was born. Over a century ago!

But that’s not all! That patent from 1913 has been cited by 26 more recent patents — ones filed by engineers working on their own ideas for solving the problem of defective truck design which allows pedestrians, cyclists, motorcycles, and passenger vehicles to ride under the side of commercial motor vehicles. Unbelievable!

As if that were not enough to cause outrage to well up, we made another discovery as we began work on updating the research list. Jerry had also sent a link to an 1896 patent for a side underride device for streetcars. Again, this patent has been cited by numerous other patents for underride protection.

In the end, we were able to compile an extensive list of underride research, reports, and recommendations on front, side, and rear underride which provides incriminating evidence of an apparent conspiracy of silence. The negligence on the part of the trucking industry and the federal government to take the initiative to do whatever is necessary in order to protect the citizens of this country from a known deadly defect is appalling.

They can no longer cling to an excuse of ignorance. They have had more than enough time to put their heads together and come up with viable solutions.

The blood of countless underride victims has been unnecessarily shed. Our precious daughters have paid the price.

Whereas it is clear that there have been many individuals who have put forth effort to solve the underride problem, the overall inaction, on the part of the industry and government, and their refusal to take responsibility for effective collaboration to find a solution has taken its toll on American families. When will this behind-closed-doors conspiracy of silence end? Very soon, I hope! In fact, we have seen significant progress in recent years — although too little and too late to save our daughters.

I know that tomorrow, as Lois and I visit the cemetery where AnnaLeah and Mary saw their grandpa buried less than two years before we buried them close by, l will weep bitter tears. I only hope that our combined efforts will be fruitful and turn the tide.

I have often shared a photo of AnnaLeah and Mary with their arms raised in joyous victory. Yesterday, l was able, for the first time, to visit the luge victors’ stand in Muskegon State Park’s winter sports complex where that photo was taken. It broke my heart to see it empty and know that they will never be able to stand there again.

I look forward to the day when I can share their victory photo once more with the world because a step will have been taken to end this travesty once and for all. Mary will get her wish to be famous somehow.

May it be so. To God be the glory for orchestrating this difficult and long-time-in-coming strategy to end preventable underride tragedies.

How you can help:

http://annaleahmary.com/how-you-can-help/

WUSA9 Truck Underride Series, Part 1: 3 young girls lives cut short in truck underride crashes

Last night, Eric Flack, investigative reporter with WUSA9 in Washington, D.C., began the first part of a series of broadcasts on truck underride. Part 2 will air Friday night, July 14, at 11 p.m.

See last night’s broadcast here: 3 Young girls lives cut short in truck underride crashes

Facebook Livestream Introduction last night:  https://www.facebook.com/WUSA9/videos/10156426907094778/

After looking at some of the comments on the WUSA9 Facebook page, I realized that there were many truck drivers who were complaining about the fact that many car drivers aren’t paying attention or driving safely around trucks. While that may be true, it bothered me that they don’t seem to get that we are not talking about who caused the crash. We are talking about preventing a collision from turning into an underride tragedy.

The problem is that, possibly due to their perception of the issue, the truck drivers get upset because they fear the loss of their livelihood as a result of the cost of installing safety devices. Then they lobby Congress who worries about their campaign contributions and re-election. On top of that, the cost/benefit analysis is skewed and the protection does not get put on decade after decade.

There seems to be an inadequate grasp of the concept that we are not talking here about blame for the collision itself. We are talking about what Dr. Haddon called the “Second Collision”  — what the body collides with after the initial collision — in this case because the underride causes the truck to enter the passenger occupant space (known as Passenger Compartment Intrusion or PCI), leading to catastrophic injuries.

 Underride protective devices can be compared to airbags and seat belts — all of them being passive restraint devices/systems. Should we make the decision to not use airbags and seat belts because, really, people just need to pay more attention and drive better?

A Passive Restraint System is defined in one of the following ways:

  • A system that is constantly operating while a driver sits inside the automobile and the vehicle is in motion
  • A system that restrains the individuals within from moving if a collision occurs
  • A system which deploys automatically without any intentional action having to be undertaken by any of the individual(s) inside of the vehicle

Comprehensive Underride Protection is designed to prevent the Second Collision of the body with the truck. Without the CUP, the crush zone of the car and the other passive restraint devices (airbags and seat belts) don’t have a chance to go to work for us.

Yesterday, I posted these thoughts in response to industry concerns (costs) about underride legislation: Should the trucking industry be concerned about underride legislation?

Recent article in support of adding side guards: Underride crashes aren’t new. Hollywood starlet Jayne Mansfield famously died in such a crash a half-century ago (June 28, 1967 to be exact). And the technology to prevent them, including side underrides, is now well proven. The only real obstacle is whether the nation’s elected leaders in Washington are willing to require the safety upgrade despite trucking industry opposition. Truck trailers can (easily) be made safer, Baltimore Sun, July 14, 2017

The truth of the matter is that the trucking industry and the government have been well aware of these problems for decades and yet have not relentlessly pursued an effective solution. Can we hope that this will change? If not, shame on them.

How many people have to die before they do something?

The Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017:  RAMCUP Draft 15 with Cover

Truck Underride 101: Part IV Win/Win

Becoming educated about underride was not a direction I had planned on going with my life and time. But I have gained a great deal of knowledge related to the fact that AnnaLeah’s and Mary’s deaths (and Roya’s, too, along with countless other individual loved ones) might have been prevented had adequate underride protection been on the truck, into which our sturdy Crown Vic crashed — along with the fact that many more countless, unknown individuals will die unless this country takes decisive action.

This information, along with my unresolved grief due to the frustration of knowing that years have gone by without effective protection, fuels my efforts to work collaboratively to bring about widespread and significant change. It is now my aim to equip everyone with the same information — without the accompanying unwanted grief.

When you think about it, this should really be a win/win situation. Here is Truck Underride 101: Part IV Win/Win.

IV. Win/Win

  1. Job Creation Quite simply put, a mandate for comprehensive underride protection (which some members of the manufacturing industry have said would take the burden off of them to persuade their customers to install these safety features) would lead to a demand for equipment which would, in effect, create new jobs.

  2. Fuel Savings/Super Truck Project: 

  3. Underride Protection: RETROFIT 

  4. Second Collision: Crash Avoidance/Underride Protection: What is a “Second Collision”? Read about it here: Second Collision and Underride Protection

  5. BOTH/AND and opposing arguments: This post contains numerous links dealing with the issue of crash avoidance vs underride protection: Preventing deadly crashes doesn’t require Either crash avoidance Or underride guards but Both/And.

Truck Underride 101: Discussion Topics

I. When Will We Tackle Truck Underride?

Truck Underride 101: I. When Will We Tackle Truck Underride?

II. Why Comprehensive Underride Protection? 

Truck Underride 101: II. Why Comprehensive Underride Protection?

III. Cost Benefit Analysis, Underride Rulemaking, and Vision Zero

 Truck Underride 101: Part III. Cost Benefit Analysis, Underride Rulemaking, and Vision Zero

IV. Win/Win

V. Bipartisan Discussion of Legislative Strategy

With amazing technology advances, why are we slow as a snail to solve traffic safety problems?

Could someone please explain to me why it is that we can invent amazing technology to allow “face time” — among countless other inventions which are unfolding at an unbelievable pace — but we are slow as a snail to solve safety problems.

Why are we not devoting top priority resources (time, money, and the creativity of the human mind — enhanced by the availability of information and technology) to reducing the 33,000 on average annual traffic crash fatalities in the U.S. and 1.24 million crash deaths on the world’s roads in 2010?  http://www.who.int/gho/road_safety/mortality/en/

And why is it that getting safety measures passed — whether it be at the legislative level (in getting laws passed) or the administrative level (in getting regulations issued) is a continual battle?

Let me tell you what I think might be some of the reasons:

  1. The prevailing attitude is that most crash fatalities are inevitable rather than preventable. Not true. In fact, there were many factors in our crash which could have turned out differently were more attention given to safety matters.  http://annaleahmary.com/2014/07/our-crash-was-not-an-accident/  & http://www.care2.com/causes/one-familys-quest-to-improve-truck-safety.html
  2. The concept of “second collision” is poorly understood. The fact is that the first collision (the actual crash) is not necessarily what causes death in every case. http://annaleahmary.com/2015/07/the-second-collision-does-not-have-to-be-so-prevalent-we-can-do-better-at-preventing-death-horrific-injuries/ &  http://annaleahmary.com/2015/09/vision-zero-avoiding-collisions-and-second-collisions/
  3. The industry lobby opposing safety measures has a deep pocket. Need I say more? Well, I will. In less than 3 years since our crash, I have spent countless hours as a volunteer safety advocate (motivated by my daughters’ needless deaths) sending emails and making phone calls and meeting in person with legislators to inform them and attempt to persuade them to support safety measures. All too often, I am back at it again in another six months or so to fight the same battle all over again. https://dawnkinster.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/reflections-on-truck-safety/ & https://dawnkinster.wordpress.com/2014/04/05/for-annaleah-and-mary/
  4. The rulemaking process is cumbersome (though I am all for making sure that safety measures are indeed safe) and unnecessarily weighed down by the constraints of the cost/benefit analysis restrictions which inevitably lead to watered-down rules which are weak and ineffective. And enforcement has too often been ineffective:  http://annaleahmary.com/2015/07/lets-move-from-a-failure-of-compassion-tactics-of-conceal-%c2%ad%e2%80%90delay-%c2%ad%e2%80%90deny-while-fiery-crashes-occur-to-a-vision-of-zero-fatalities/
  5. Industry is more often than not reluctant to move ahead with safety measures voluntarily — either because they don’t want to have to re-do it when government regulations finally come out or because cost is a factor (enough said). This, of course, does not mean that all companies do nothing on their own to improve safety.
  6. Usually, a fragmented approach to solving the problem is taken when we could get more done faster if we worked together. http://annaleahmary.com/2015/09/face-it-fragmented-approaches-to-transportation-safety-dont-work-public-health-needs-to-be-included/
  7. Accountability, responsibility, and liability are dirty words. Taboo.  http://annaleahmary.com/2015/09/opponents-of-white-collar-criminal-prosecutions-argue-that-corporate-managers-should-not-be-charged-criminally-for-regulatory-violations/ And human life is measured in terms of dollars and all-too-often not considered worth the cost necessary to protect.  http://annaleahmary.com/tag/value-of-life/
  8. There is not a long line of people eager to help pay for safety research and crash testinghttp://annaleahmary.com/2016/01/who-will-pay-for-research-crash-testing-of-underride-guards/

What is the result of all this? People are dying when they could be still living.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6LGcWc4m9VA

Too many lives are sacrificed. And for what? “So, what cost-benefit analyses really means, is that when no action is taken to improve the design of heavy vehicles, people’s lives are being traded for reduced transport costs.” George Rechnitzer,  http://annaleahmary.com/2015/06/crocodile-tears-costbenefit-analysis-vision-zero-goal-of-no-crash-fatalities/

Now, back to my original question, why is it that we can invent amazing technology to allow “face time” — among countless other inventions which are unfolding at an unbelievable pace — but we are slow as a snail to solve safety problems?

My grandpa was a rural mailman and used a sleigh and horses to deliver mail in the snow. My dad grew up with a wood-burning stove and an icebox for refrigeration. I grew up with the introduction of color television, seat belts, and not until I started raising children did I use things like VCRs or modem dial-up internet access. I went to Europe for a summer in college and had no cell phone to keep in contact with my parents back in the U.S.

Aren’t you glad that we have indoor plumbing? http://annaleahmary.com/2015/06/the-future-of-trucking-who-pays-for-the-costs-of-safer-roads/

How far we have come technologically and how rapidly advances occur. Yet, it takes a Jayne Mansfield (http://mentalfloss.com/article/28155/how-jayne-mansfield-changed-design-tractor-trailers & http://www.thecarconnection.com/news/1082934_iihs-todays-mansfield-bars-dont-work-so-well-video) or a Dale Earnhardt to die (http://espn.go.com/rpm/nascar/cup/columns/story?columnist=hinton_ed&id=6116145 & http://sports.usatoday.com/2015/04/30/dean-sicking-safer-barriers-nascar-indycar/) or a Tracy Morgan to get severely injured for us to wake up and decide to do something about safety.  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-08-11/ntsb-says-wal-mart-driver-awake-for-28-hours-before-morgan-crash

http://annaleahmary.com/2015/03/too-often-too-little-too-late-a-conspiracy-of-silence/

Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the safety advances made after those famous crashes. But I am appalled that we can’t seem to get it until such tragedies cause us to sit up and take notice. Meanwhile, countless unnoticed-by-the-public tragedies happen daily on roads across the globe. Year after year.

Good grief! Even my grandkids, who have not yet lived a decade, get that something could have been done to prevent their Aunt Mary (13) and Aunt AnnaLeah (17) from dying.  http://annaleahmary.com/2015/11/our-grandma-wants-to-make-the-roads-safer-remembering-2-girls-in-the-aftermath-of-a-truck-crash/

That is why I am devoting myself to raising awareness and calling for change. Come on people, let’s set a National Vision Zero Goal and use our vast resources and brilliant minds to slay this giant. Let’s not keep on putting our heads in the sand, putting bandaids on the problems, and losing these battles at the price of our loved ones. We can do it!

My family and I are making plans to head back to Washington, DC, very soon to take our Vision Zero petitions. We will be meeting with DOT officials to discuss these matters and hopefully lay the foundation for Obama to write a Vision Zero Executive Order.  http://annaleahmary.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Vision-Zero-Executive-Order-Petition-Letter-to-President-Obama1.pdf &  http://annaleahmary.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Executive-Order-Draft-Application-of-Vision-Zero-Principles-to-Highway-Safety-Regulatory-Review.pdf

Stand up with us and make this happen. Sign & share our 2 Vision Zero petitions:

  1. Petition on ThePetitionSite calling for Secretary Foxx to adopt a DOT Vision Zero rulemaking policy — http://www.thepetitionsite.com/417/742/234/save-lives-not-dollars-urge-dot-to-adopt-vision-zero-policy/
  2. Petition on Change.org calling for Obama to sign a Vision Zero Executive Order–  https://www.change.org/p/obama-adopt-a-vision-zero-goal-and-sign-an-executive-order-to-save-lives-not-dollars 

September 2013 069

Secretary Anthony Foxx & Marianne Karth discuss truck safety, September 12, 2013

p.s. By the way, the inventor of the NASCAR SAFER Barrier which is now saving lives, thinks that he can invent a much safer truck underride protection system. We just need the money to prove it: https://www.fortrucksafety.com/

Why use the term collision MITIGATION rather than AVOIDANCE?

The American Trucking Association says that they prefer that DOT would focus on collision avoidance technology rather than things like improved underride guards:  http://annaleahmary.com/2014/12/the-passion-of-this-safety-advocate/

I now have a new response to that tiresome attitude toward vital truck safety measures–thanks to this Truckinginfo.com article:  http://www.truckinginfo.com/article/story/2015/10/behind-ups-decision-to-make-collision-mitigation-standard.aspx

“The National Transportation Safety Board recently recommended that all passenger and commercial vehicles use collision avoidance technology. The suppliers of the technology prefer the term ‘collision mitigation,’ because it’s impossible to avoid all accidents, but it can lessen the severity.”

In other words, because we know that we cannot prevent all crashes, it is unimaginable to me that we would not do everything that we could to make those crashes survivable!  http://annaleahmary.com/2015/10/rear-ending-a-truck-should-be-a-survivable-crash-why-isnt-it/

PetitionHeader_option2

Examining Ways to Improve Vehicle and Roadway Safety

Examining Ways to Improve Vehicle and Roadway Safety – See more at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/examining-ways-improve-vehicle-and-roadway-safety#sthash.F4YzqjVb.dpuf

Joan Claybrook, Consumer Co-chair of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) and former Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), spoke today to the COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE, SUBCOMITTEE ON COMMERCE, MANUFACTURING AND TRADE:

“It is essential that NHTSA, the agency charged with ensuring the safety of our vehicles and our drivers, be equipped with both the appropriate resources and personnel to confront the myriad of emerging issues presented by new technologies. It is almost incomprehensible that the entire vehicle safety program for the U.S. has a miniscule budget of only $130 million, and it has barely increased over the last six years. It is both unfortunate and unnecessary that this agency is chronically underfunded by Congress even while its critical importance to public health and safety continues to expand. Congress has a moral obligation in the safety title of the six year reauthorization bill to give NHTSA the ability to do its job and to do it effectively. Our lives and those of our families as well as yours literally depend on it.”

 

Victims testify:

Car Safety Wars book cover

Vision Zero: Zero Crash Deaths & Zero Serious Injuries

Let’s work together to implement every possible safety measure to prevent collisions and “second collisions.”

http://annaleahmary.com/2015/07/the-second-collision-does-not-have-to-be-so-prevalent-we-can-do-better-at-preventing-death-horrific-injuries/

Vision Zero*: Aim high for Zero Crash Deaths & Zero Serious Injuries

* “Vision Zero is a multi-national road traffic safety project which aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic. It started in Sweden and was approved by their parliament in October 1997.[1] A core principle of the vision is that ‘Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society’ rather than the more conventional comparison between costs and benefits, where a monetary value is placed on life and health, and then that value is used to decide how much money to spend on a road network towards the benefit of decreasing how much risk.”

Sign our petition to promote a U.S. Transportation Vision Zero Policy:   http://www.thepetitionsite.com/417/742/234/save-lives-not-dollars-urge-dot-to-adopt-vision-zero-policy/

Then, help us apply Vision Zero principles to underride protection.

Donate now to support underride research:  https://www.fortrucksafety.com/

Underride Research Meme

HOW YOU CAN HELP: http://annaleahmary.com/how-you-can-help/

Vision Zero: Avoiding collisions and “second collisions”

Crash Avoidance is a broad topic and I am just beginning to write about it. The basic idea, of course, is to find a way to reduce the number of crashes that take place on our roads. The question is how to do that.

There are many devices and systems being produced and in the process of being developed which could, in fact, make a big difference in preventing collisions. I hope to find out more about them and to advocate for the implementation and regulation of appropriate crash avoidance technologies on large trucks, as well as cars.

Read this article from February 2015, when safety advocates were urging NHTSA to “initiate a rulemaking that would require forward collision avoidance and mitigation braking (F-CAM) systems on all new trucks and buses rated at 10,000 pounds or more GVW. The lobbies argue that specific technology exists that would markedly reduce truck-related crashes if it were mandated on commercial vehicles.”

http://www.automotive-fleet.com/news/story/2015/02/nhtsa-urged-to-mandate-truck-crash-avoidance-technology.aspx

In this same article, the ATA made a statement about the safety advocates’ petition:

“Sean McNally, Vice President of Public Affairs for the American Trucking Associations told HDT, that the trucking lobby ‘supports proven safety technologies that prevent crashes and, therefore, save lives. ATA plans to carefully review the data cited in this petition to make an informed decision on the efficacy of the recommended approach.

“’More importantly,’ he continued, ‘any organization truly interested in highway safety should be urging NHTSA to first take action on ATA’s 2006 petition -now almost nine years old – seeking a new rule requiring large trucks to be electronically speed-governed/limited at no more than 65 mph. [That’s] an approach ATA knows would reduce the frequency and severity of crashes.’”

Of course, there is no proof that the truck driver in our crash was going over 65–just going too fast for the traffic conditions.

IMG_4462

Our crash: We were driving in the right lane and had slowed down in response to stopped traffic ahead of us (due to another crash two miles ahead that happened two hours earlier). Suddenly, we were hit by a car carrier in the left lane, spun around, and hit again so that we were pushed backward into the rear of the truck ahead of us. A truck driver behind us had noted that the truck driver who hit us was going too fast for the conditions and didn’t look like he was going to be able to stop for the slowdown. And then he saw him hit us.

Charges: One count of failure to maintain lane & 2 counts of homicide by vehicle (2nd degree)

http://annaleahmary.com/2014/10/the-court-hearing-update-on-our-trip-to-georgia/

Result: Two lives abruptly ended

The other thing is that I want to emphasize that there are so many factors that lead to crashes and also to deaths and serious injuries that sometimes happen as a result of those collisions. So it is important to not focus on just one of these factors but to take a multi-pronged approach.

Take our crash for example:  http://annaleahmary.com/2014/07/our-crash-was-not-an-accident/ . Could crash avoidance technology, had it been installed on the truck that hit us, have prevented our crash? But the crash did happen and the other thing was that perhaps it would not have had the same outcome if the underride guard had withstood the crash and the back of the truck ahead of us had therefore not made contact with AnnaLeah and Mary who were sitting in the back seat.

Let’s work together to implement every possible safety measure to prevent collisions and“second collisions.”

http://annaleahmary.com/2015/07/the-second-collision-does-not-have-to-be-so-prevalent-we-can-do-better-at-preventing-death-horrific-injuries/

Vision Zero*: Aim high for Zero Crash Deaths & Zero Serious Injuries

* “Vision Zero is a multi-national road traffic safety project which aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic. It started in Sweden and was approved by their parliament in October 1997.[1] A core principle of the vision is that ‘Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society’ rather than the more conventional comparison between costs and benefits, where a monetary value is placed on life and health, and then that value is used to decide how much money to spend on a road network towards the benefit of decreasing how much risk.”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vision_Zero

Sign our Vision Zero Petition: http://tinyurl.com/nhb88cq

Underride Research Meme

Donate to Underride Research at AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety:  https://www.fortrucksafety.com/

Does a vehicle manufacturer bear responsibility for death and injury caused by a safety defect in their product?

After writing a post yesterday,  http://annaleahmary.com/2015/07/who-should-bear-the-responsibility-for-deaths-injuries-due-to-known-safety-defects/,  I have been wrestling with this question:

Does a vehicle manufacturer bear responsibility for death and injury caused by a safety defect in their product:

  • ever?
  • and, especially do they do so when it is publicly known (in the engineering realm) that there is a solution to the problem which could — if implemented — prevent death and horrific injury?

Or, are they protected by following the letter of the law — which likewise might have been negligent to require the best possible protection?

Furthermore, if they do bear responsibility, then what price should they pay for negligence to act on that knowledge in a timely fashion?

I have been trying to look at it every which way and not merely as the mother of two daughters, AnnaLeah (forever 17) and Mary (forever 13), who happened to get killed by a truck underride crash in which the underride guard met current federal standards, and possibly even the Canadian standards, but did not make use of safer known technology and did not withstand the crash.

Before & After PhotosI am plagued by so many questions:

  • Did the manufacturer’s act of omission contribute to Mary’s and AnnaLeah’s deaths? (omission: http://tinyurl.com/o2z6meb )
  • If so, why are they not being held responsible for such a heinous action? (heinous: http://tinyurl.com/ncak6o2 )
  • What consequences should they pay for their negligence?
  • Can it be considered criminal negligence? (criminal: http://tinyurl.com/p5syqnl )
  • Can a charge of manslaughter be applied? (manslaughter: http://tinyurl.com/nl6ms8l )
  • Is the manufacturer excused from responsibility for their deaths because it was not technically illegal (they abided by the letter of the law)?
  • If current and future research shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that safer underride prevention systems can, in fact, be put in place on trucks, can truck manufacturers be freed from responsibility to implement such technology due to supposed “unreasonable” costs? (A frequent reason for less-than-adequate rules to be issued — if issued at all.)
  • Do informed regulators who do not write into law the safest possible technology bear any responsibility?
  • Do informed truck purchasers who do not buy trucks with the safest possible technology (even if not required by law) bear responsibility?
  • I even have to ask myself if I am taking the chance of sabotaging our goal of seeking stronger federal standards by raising these controversial, potentially-inflammatory questions.

So you see, I am not struggling with easy questions. But you have to admit, don’t you, that they are questions with life & death implications.

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This question of manufacturer criminal liability is addressed in a New York Times editorial today (July 21, 2015):

“The Senate bill also falls well short of addressing important issues raised by recent scandals involving defects in General Motors’ ignition switches and Takata airbags. While it would raise the maximum fine that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can levy against automakers that do not promptly disclose defects to $70 million from $35 million, that increase is a pittance for companies that make billions in profits. And by not proposing criminal liability for executives who knowingly hide the life-threatening dangers of their products, the bill simply sidesteps the issue of individual accountability.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/21/opinion/a-senate-bill-that-makes-roads-and-railroads-less-safe.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=1

From my morning reading: “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice. The Law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.” Psalm 37:30-31

Who should bear the responsibility for deaths & injuries due to known safety defects?

Should there be criminal penalties for cases in which persons are killed as a result of known safety defects in vehicles?

What is a “safety defect” anyway?

http://resources.lawinfo.com/personal-injury/products-liability/toyota-recall/what-is-a-safety-related-motor-vehicle-defect.html “The United States Code for Motor Vehicle Safety (Title 49, Chapter 301) defines motor vehicle safety as “the performance of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in a way that protects the public against unreasonable risk of accidents occurring because of the design, construction, or performance of a motor vehicle, and against unreasonable risk of death or injury in an accident, and includes nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.” A defect includes “any defect in performance, construction, a component, or material of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment.” As reported by the Office of Defects Investigation ( www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov) a “safety defect” is defined as a problem that exists in a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment that:

  • poses a risk to motor vehicle safety, and
  • may exist in a group of vehicles of the same design or manufacture, or items of equipment of the same type and manufacture.”

 

If there is a known safety defect and no attempt is made to correct the problem and someone dies or is seriously injured as a result, who should be held responsible for this and what price should they have to pay?

Some have written about this topic:

 

When I read the above article this morning, it reminded me of things said by Michael Lemov–in his book, Car Safety Wars; 100 Years of Technology, Politics, and Death, which chronicles interesting quotes and facts concerning the history of vehicle safety defects and their impact on matters of life and death:

  • “Enforcement should be strengthened to include criminal penalties, because drivers, Nader said, already face criminal penalties for reckless driving and similar offenses.”
  • p. 92, “…the miniscule amount that senator Robert Kennedy (New York) established the industry spent for automotive safety, in comparison to its billions in annual profits (less than one percent it turned out). Or the large number of ‘dealer recalls’ for defects (478 in 1965), many of which the manufacturers had not told car owners anything about.”
  • p. 92, “…the Johnson administration’s ensuing decision to ask Congress for the passage of the first federal motor vehicle safety law in history.”
  • p. 92, “President Johnson had included a statement on the motor vehicle safety issue in his 1966 State of the Union message to Congress–and to the millions of Americans listening that January evening. Johnson spoke mostly about the two overriding issues of the day–the administration’s ‘War on Poverty’ and the quagmire of the bloody, seemingly endless Vietnam War. In his ten-page State of the Union address the President devoted just two sentences to highway safety. He called for the nation to ‘arrest the destruction of life and property on our highways.’ And he said he would propose a Highway Safety Act to ‘end this mounting tragedy.”
  • p. 92-93, “The President’s transportation message released in early March 1966 further spelled out the administration’s traffic-safety plan. It forcefully stated the need for legislation on vehicle design-safety, placing it squarely in the forefront of the public’s consciousness: Last year, the highway death toll set a new record. The prediction for this year is more than 50,000 persons will die on our streets and highways–more than 50,000 useful and promising lives will be lost, and as many families stung by grief. The toll of Americans killed in this way since the introduction of the automobile is truly unbelievable. It is 1.5 million–more than all the combat deaths suffered in all our wars. . . No other necessity of modern life has brought more convenience to the “American people–or more tragedy–than the automobile. . . the carnage on the highways must be arrested. . . we must replace suicide with sanity and anarchy with safety.
  • p. 95, “Despite all the rhetoric, the main issue was relatively simple. How extensive should the new federal authority be to set enforceable national motor vehicle safety standards? That power was central to the proposed law. It was delegated in the administration’s bill to the inexperienced, business-friendly Department of Commerce. Ultimately it was to be transferred to the as yet nonexistent Department of Transportation. . . In handing off the issue to his senior colleague Magnuson, Senator Ribicoff was specific in his recommendations. Ribicoff repeated the gruesome statistics of rising deaths and injuries. He asked: Could it be that we have reached the point where we simply accept the highway toll as an ordinary fact of life? Is this one of the prices we must pay for the privilege for living in a modern, technological society? I hope not. We must concern ourselves with more than the causes of accidents.
  • p. 95, “Ribicoff endorsed the decades-old position of doctors, accident investigators, and university researchers, which had long been ignored by the manufacturers and the safety establishment: ‘We must look beyond the accident to the cause of the injury that results. I am speaking, of course, about the so-called second collision, the often lethal battering which the occupants of a vehicle incur as the result of even a minor crash.’
  • p. 95, “And Ribicoff challenged one of the key arguments of the manufacturers: ‘The automobile industry seems inclined to believe that the American public will not buy a safe car. In fact, some spokesmen for the industry have stated that safety doesn’t sell, and that they have no choice if they want to stay in business but to give the public what the public wants.'”
  • p. 95, “But Ribicoff argued that the public and the press were now ‘aroused’ and had finally grasped the ‘significance of the second collision’–and presumably the need for federal vehicle standards as a means of preventing the deaths and injuries ‘that inevitably result from accidents.'”
  • p. 95, “. . .Ribicoff said: ‘We believe the president’s highway safety bill can be and should be strengthened and improved.'”
  • p. 97, “Nader followed with a laundry list of defects in the proposed administration bill:
  • “It should ensure that motor vehicle safety standards applied to pedestrian safety.
  • “The federal standards should include their technical or engineering basis, so they could be evaluated by independent experts and the public[these technical specifications might be deemed trade secrets by the carmakers].
  • “The bill should make government issuance of the standards within one year, mandatory [not discretionary as provided in the administration’s bill].
  • “Court review should be broadened to include a right to sue for ‘affected parties’ and a right of review by ‘consumers and insurers.’
  • “The production of prototype ‘safe cars’ should be mandated.
  • “Vehicle manufacturers should be required to submit annual performance [crash] data, showing how well their cars were performing in actual use.
  • “All car-maker communications with their dealers regarding safety should be submitted to the government and be made public.
  • “Enforcement should be strengthened to include criminal penalties, because drivers, Nader said, already face criminal penalties for reckless driving and similar offenses.”
  • Car Safety Wars book cover