The House Energy and Commerce Committee released a report concerning the ignition switch defects plaguing General Motors, as well as the response of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to the faulty vehicles. The report leveled criticism as GM for failing to take action to protect consumers. It further criticized the NHTSA, claiming that the administration should have known of the danger posed by the defective ignition switches as early as 2007. The report suggested that the lack of a timely response was due to the NHTSA overlooking evidence or not having the expertise to understand it.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is tasked with reducing motor vehicle accidents and losses that result. Among the responsibilities taken on by the NHTSA is the duty to investigate motor vehicle defects and determine whether a recall should be ordered for a vehicle with a safety concern. The actions surrounding the ignition switch defects in a number of General Motors vehicles have drawn attention to just how effective the NHTSA has been in that role.
When car makers discover a defect that impacts the safety of a vehicle, they are required to notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as well as vehicle owners, dealers and distributors. What those groups do with that information varies. Accidents continue to cause injuries and deaths even after safety problems are identified and these parties are informed.
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.
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.
Properly installing and using child car seats is an important safety step. The national Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that car accident fatalities can be reduced by 71 percent among infants and 54 percent among toddlers when child seats are used properly. Despite the safety gains made possible by car seats and other safety technology, car wrecks are still the top cause of death among children in the United States.
The National Transportation Safety Board has released its list of the 10 areas in which it will be focusing its advocacy in 2014. The list includes the areas the NTSB most wants to address to reduce transportation accidents. Three of the areas of focus which are likely to involve changes by the general public are: eliminating distraction in transportation, eliminating substance-impaired driving, and strengthening occupant protection in transportation. Each of these areas has the potential to save thousands of lives by preventing car accidents or improving a person's chances of escaping an accident without serious injury.
The winter driving season contains many hazards for drivers. Driving too fast and tailgating are behaviors that frequently lead to car accidents when bad weather strikes. Another concerning behavior is on display many mornings during colder months: drivers who do not fully clear their windshields of ice before getting out on the roads. The failure to properly clear ice and snow can contribute to deadly car accidents.
The new ban on the use of hand-held cell phones by Illinois drivers has raised several interesting questions about the dangers of distracted driving. A new study has confirmed many of the dangers of distracted driving while producing a single surprising result: Talking on a cell phone while driving may not greatly affect the risk of crashing. The study did not address the issue that many critics use to attack the new ban - that of hands-free versus hand held devices. It simply demonstrated that the activities take your eyes off the road are dangerous, particularly for younger drivers.
January 1, 2014 marked the first day of the Illinois ban on hand-held cell phone use by drivers. The ban is intended to combat car accidents caused by distracted driving. The law has been criticized by some for arbitrarily separating hand-held cell phone use from the use of hands-free devices. Some studies have indicated that there is little difference in terms of the level of distraction between hands-free technology and hand-held technology. State police plan on issuing fines, starting at $75, to drivers who are caught using hand-held devices behind the wheel.