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Proposed Bill Addresses Ride-Sharing Insurance in Illinois

Taxi drivers in Chicago are subject to specific requirements regarding background checks, drug testing, vehicle inspections and proper insurance. However, the same regulations, which are in place to minimize uncertainty and protect passengers and pedestrians from injury, don't apply to the emerging ride-sharing companies such as UberX and Lyft. These companies offer private cars for hire throughout the state.

The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance that provides some protections for people who hire ride-sharing drivers, but state lawmakers and the taxi industry agree that more needs to be done. In particular, State Senator Martin Sandoval has called on Governor Pat Quinn to sign a bill that would establish ride-sharing insurance and driver requirements not covered in the city ordinance.

Ignition Interlock Devices and Drunk Driving Deaths

Roughly one-third of all traffic fatalities are caused by drunk drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In an attempt to reduce these deadly incidents, new legislation has been proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives. If passed, the law would require all 50 states to order mandatory ignition interlock devices for people convicted of drinking and driving. Currently, states are allowed to set their own laws regarding criminal penalties for drunk driving. The proposed law would require the devices remain in place for at least six months following the conviction.

The federal government does not have the power to change state laws regarding drunk driving penalties, but it has encouraged uniform safety improvements in the past through funding measures. States that refused to require the interlock devices would see reduced federal transportation funding. Similar measures have been used over the years to move the drinking age to 21, to require seat belts and to set maximum speed limits.

New Legislation Proposed Following Ignition Switch Defect Recall

The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced his intention to propose new auto safety legislation later this year or early next year. The announcement joined several other proposals intended to combat the problems demonstrated by the General Motors ignition switch failures and subsequent recall. The proposal would overhaul the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act, passed in 2000. The TREAD act was originally passed as part of the response to nearly 300 fatalities linked to defective Firestone tires on Ford SUVs.

Many of the suggested proposals involve increasing the ability of safety regulators to punish automakers who are slow to recall vehicles with known defects. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently limited by a $35 million cap on fines for automakers who delay safety recalls. Members of both the House and Senate recently called for an increase of the maximum fine to $200 million.

Chicago Officials Working to Improve Pedestrian Safety

Chicago city officials have set a goal to reduce serious pedestrian injuries by 50 percent over the next five years. The goal is eliminate such accidents completely in the five years following that. According to the executive director of the Active Transportation Alliance, 7-8 pedestrian injuries occur each day in Chicago. Pedestrian-vehicle collisions cause more than 3,000 injuries and 30 deaths per year in the city. The problem is substantial.

To reach the safety goal, police set up a sting operation on the North Side to catch drivers who fail to come to a stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Police intend to complete a total of 60 sting operations this year. These will largely focus on intersections near senior housing facilities, high-traffic retail areas and schools. Police will be issuing citations to drivers who fail to obey the law.

Toyota Issues New Worldwide Recall over Airbag Defect

Toyota recently announced a second worldwide recall of vehicles with defective airbags. The problem is that the passenger-side airbag has a defective inflator that, if cracked, could allow metal fragments to get into the compartment, potentially causing injuries when the airbag inflates. The defect could also leave the instrument panel with "thermal damage." Toyota said that the company had not been notified of any injuries or deaths linked to the defective airbags.

Takata Corporation is the manufacturer of the faulty component, and because Takata contracts with multiple automakers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has begun investigating other companies that use Takata-made parts. Honda, Nissan and Mazda all contract with Takata.

Air Traffic Control Transitioning from Radar to Digital Guidance

Historically, radio transmissions have been the predominant means of communication between flight crews and air traffic controllers. Times are changing, however, as air traffic increases throughout the world and digital communication becomes the norm.

A single mistake in air traffic control can have catastrophic consequences, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently developing digital technology to reduce the risk of human error. Rather than radar, digital satellites will be used to direct planes with a higher degree of precision, and the job of air traffic controller is expected to change radically in terms of workload and how technology is used.

Ordinance Would Limit Segway Sidewalk Traffic in Chicago

As the weather warms each year in Chicago, the city draws tourists from all over the world. If you've lived in or visited Chicago in the last decade or so, then you may have strolled the sidewalks of downtown or the lakefront and seen tour groups riding Segways. The guided tours are one way for visitors to experience Michigan Ave., Navy Pier, the parks and other attractions, but there is concern that the increasing number of vehicles on the sidewalks threatens the safety of riders and pedestrians.

At a recent City Council meeting, an ordinance was approved that would limit the number of Segways in a single tour. As of now, Segway tours sometimes include as many as 30 vehicles, and Segway riders and pedestrians can be dangerously crowded on the sidewalk. To improve safety and prevent injuries, the new ordinance would limit each Segway tour to no more than eight vehicles.

FMCSA Plans to Raise Minimum Insurance for Trucking Industry

Commercial motor carriers in the United States are currently required to have a minimum of $750,000 in liability insurance. That minimum has not been raised in nearly 30 years. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), if insurance regulation in the trucking industry had been adjusted for inflation, then the minimum would now be $1.62 million. If the regulation had taken into account increased medical costs, then the minimum would be $3.18 million.

The FMCSA has prioritized raising the minimum liability insurance for carriers after finding the current minimum "inadequate." Now the agency has set a timeline for a rule change, though the exact target for a new minimum has yet to be decided. According to the Department of Transportation, the FMSCA plans to send a proposal to the White House and to the Office of the Secretary this summer. The new requirement could be published by mid-November.

Nearly 20 Percent of Elderly Patients Suffer Medical Injuries

At the very least, medical care is meant to protect patients from unnecessary injury or illness. We generally expect medical treatment to improve our health rather than harm it. However, in many cases, medical mistakes cause injuries and other medical problems that are not related to the patient's underlying condition.

A study recently published in the journal Injury Prevention analyzed data for about 12,500 Medicare patients whose average age was 76. These patients filed Medicare claims between 1998 and 2005. According to the research, nearly 20 percent of the patients suffered medical injuries not linked to the patients' underlying medical problems. The injuries resulted from issues such as allergic reaction to prescription drugs and administration of the wrong medication.

Small Portion of Product Recall to Be Funded by Buckyballs Founder

Much has been said in the last few years about the dangers posed by magnets in toys and other products available to children. As we discussed in a previous post, children have ingested these powerful magnets, which can become connected in the body and cause serious tissue damage. According to federal regulators, various kinds of small magnets have been swallowed by more than 1,000 children, many of whom required major surgery.

These types of toys have been the subject of numerous product recalls, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has had particular difficulty in removing Buckyballs from the market. The product, which contains high-powered magnets, was marketed as a desktop toy for adults. The CPSC found that the product poses a "substantial hazard," but recall efforts have been slowed since the founder and developer of Buckyballs dissolved the company.

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