Ignoring Auto Recalls May Put You at Risk for Car Accidents

When a class of vehicles presents a safety hazard that increases the risk for car accidents and serious injury, the manufacturer may recall the vehicles to correct the unsafe issues. Automakers are required to fix defects by repairing or replacing the defective part, offering a refund, or very rarely by repurchasing the vehicle.

Since the beginning of the year, several automakers have issued recalls to fix or replace defects that could have serious safety risks for drivers and their passengers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides monthly reports of vehicles that have been recalled, along with the safety issues that need to be addressed. It’s important to know if your vehicle has been recalled—doing so can help you avoid an accident or serious injury.

How to Check if Your Car is Part of an Active Safety Recall

If you registered your vehicle when you bought it, the manufacturer will mail a notice to alert you it has been recalled. It’s important to keep your vehicle registration updated so you can receive these notifications.

You can sign up with NHTSA to receive e-mail notifications for a vehicle’s specific make and model. You can also check a car’s recall record by entering its VIN number at safercar.gov.

Follow the safety guidance and instructions from the manufacturer if you find that your vehicle has been recalled. In some cases, the defect may pose such a serious safety risk that you will be advised not to drive the vehicle. Do not drive warnings were issued earlier this year when Ford recalled certain 2006 Ford Ranger trucks and Mazda recalled 2006 B-series trucks due to the danger presented by Takata airbags. Although other automakers have also recalled vehicles to fix this airbag issue, Ford and Mazda requested that owners not drive these vehicles until they are repaired, fearing catastrophic injuries.

In another case, Fiat Chrysler recalled more than 4.8 million vehicles in the U.S. to fix an issue that could leave drivers unable to turn off cruise control. Affected vehicles were from the 2014 to 2019 model years and included Jeep (Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, Wrangler), Dodge (Charger, Challenger, Journey, Durango), Chrysler (Chrysler 200, Chrysler 300, Chrysler Pacifica), and Ram (Ram pickups—1500, 2500 and 3500; Ram cab chassis trucks—500/4500/5500). Fiat Chrysler strongly advised drivers to avoid using cruise control until the repairs are made.

In addition to these recalls, this year Hyundai, Honda, Toyota, Kia, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Volkswagen, and General Motors (among others), have also issued recalls to fix a variety of safety issues that could increase the risk of crash or injury. Examples of these recalls include a possible electrical short in the anti-lock brake module due to entry of water, which could lead to an engine fire with risk of injury (Hyundai); possible crack in the drive belt automatic tensioner flange, which could lead to engine stall and crash (Mitsubishi); inaccurate tire information label that could result in overloading and increasing crash risk (Toyota); improper tempering of window glass, which, if broken, could cause the glass to break into large pieces and cause injury (General Motors).

It will cost you nothing to get the work done on your vehicle if it has been recalled. You should call your local dealership as soon as possible if you find that your vehicle has been recalled. Neglecting to do so may put you, your passengers, or other drivers at risk of serious, catastrophic personal injury in the event of a car accident.

Do Self-driving Cars Really Mean Fewer Auto Accidents?

Self-driving cars have been making their way onto streets and highways for a few years now, and the technology continues to improve. While they may hold the promise of fewer auto accidents due to human error, they aren’t yet error-free.

Several cases of injuries or deaths involving self-driving vehicles have been in the news, including the incident of a pedestrian killed in Tempe, Arizona in March 2018 by a self-driving Uber. This was the first known traffic fatality involving a pedestrian and a self-driving car. The car was in self-driving mode and had a human safety driver in place. A preliminary report on the accident showed that the car recognized the need to brake when the victim was spotted on the roadway. However, the emergency braking system had been disabled to allow the human safety operator in the vehicle to brake when necessary. Unfortunately, the human operator had been distracted watching a show on her mobile electronic device and did not see the pedestrian. According to the report, the system did not alert the human operator to the need to brake.

Following this fatal accident, Uber suspended testing of its self-driving vehicles in several states. Arizona governor Doug Ducey then suspended Uber from continuing to test its vehicles in Arizona. By the end of May, Uber announced that it would no longer test its self-driving vehicles in Arizona at all.

Arizona had been particularly keen to attract self-driving car companies to the state. Governor Ducey issued an executive order in 2015 promising little in the way of regulations for companies wanting to test their self-driving vehicles in the state. Dozens of companies flocked to Arizona to take advantage of the permissive and regulation-free atmosphere.

Several companies, including Uber, GM, Ford, Waymo, Tesla, and others are developing and testing self-driving cars. These companies vary widely in the level of development, including the number of miles they are able to drive without requiring human drivers to take control.

Some states, such as California, require manufacturers of self-driving cars to report incidents in which human drivers have to take control (also called an “intervention”). One site reported that in California, Waymo cars traveled approximately 5600 miles without human drivers taking control or intervening. General Motors reported one intervention approximately every 1250 miles. Unlike California, Arizona does not require manufacturers who are testing self-driving cars to report incidents in which human drivers take control. The New York Times, however, was able to determine that Uber was barely meeting its target in Arizona of just 13 miles per intervention as of March 2018.

As of March 2018, there were an estimated 600 driverless cars on the road in Arizona. Waymo was testing cars with an operator in the vehicle, but not behind the wheel, as of November 2017. Arizona still doesn’t require companies to report accidents involving self-driving vehicles, so it’s difficult to determine a total number for how many injury and non-fatal accidents have involved a self-driving vehicle in the state.

Are we allowing these vehicles on public roads before all the issues that could affect public safety have been worked out? As the recent unfortunate accident involving the pedestrian in Tempe shows, even cars with a human safety driver aren’t yet infallible. In addition, there are numerous other factors to consider, including insurance, reporting requirements, and liability issues. As the LA Times pointed out, self-driving cars are here, but are we, and our social and legal structures, ready for them?

Pet Distractions While Driving

When we think about distracted driving, we most often think about talking or texting on a cell phone. Those aren’t the only distractions drivers face, however. Many people don’t think about pet distractions while driving. However, driving with a pet unrestrained in a car can lead to driver distraction.

A 2011 survey of dog owners found that over 50% of people reported that their attention was taken away from the road in the previous year while petting their dog, and nearly 20% admitted to having taken their hands off the wheel to keep a dog from getting in the front seat. In addition, 17% reported that they had held or allowed a dog to sit in their lap, and 3% even admitted to taking a photo of their dog while they were driving.

Considering that there are nearly 90 million dogs in the U.S. (not to mention cats), those numbers show there are potentially a lot of distracted drivers on the roads.

An animal in a car (dog, cat, or other) could also affect a driver’s ability to control the car by interfering with steering or changing gears, getting under the gas or brake pedals, or blocking the driver’s view. Any of these could cause an accident by themselves, but the driver may also be distracted by trying to control the animal.

Besides being a distraction that could lead to a crash, having an unrestrained animal in the car is dangerous, both for the animal and the occupants of the car. In the event of a crash, an animal can be thrown with great force and can be injured or killed, or can injure or kill a driver or passenger. Think about an unrestrained 10-pound animal in a 30 mph crash—the pet becomes a projectile that can be flung about the car with 300 pounds of force. Even if you avoid a crash, sudden braking at high speed can cause an unrestrained animal to be hurled with deadly force.

Despite the dangers of driving with unrestrained animals, only eight states currently have laws regarding restraining an animal in a vehicle. So far only Hawaii specifically bans holding an animal in your lap while driving. Only a handful of states prohibit actions that could be considered distractions while driving, and this could include interacting with an animal. Arizona currently doesn’t have a statewide law on distracted driving.

Several accidents have been reported to have been caused by distractions from animals in a car. These include an accident in North Dakota caused by a dog that leaped into a woman’s lap, causing her to crash into a pond, and an accident caused by distraction from a cat that caused the driver to swerve into a school bus.

To avoid injury (or even death) to you or your pet, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that you use a harness or carrier to restrain your pet in a vehicle. The Center for Pet Safety has carried out studies of harnesses, crates, and carriers and has made recommendations about restraining animals in cars.

By restraining your pet in your vehicle you are less likely to become distracted by your pet while driving, which can help keep you, your passengers, and pets safer in the event of an accident.

How UPS Drivers Avoid Crashes

UPS drivers who have not had an avoidable accident for at least 25 years are inducted annually into their elite “Circle of Honor.” So far, 10,504 drivers , including Robert Gomez, Jr. of Tucson, have received this distinction. Mr. Gomez puts in over 100 miles daily (meaning he has logged at least 670,000 miles for UPS) and has delivered more than a million packages. How do he and other UPS drivers manage to avoid crashes and travel so many accident-free miles? The answer lies in the training they receive.

Before a new UPS driver delivers a single package, they must pass a demanding training program. Integral to this program are five “seeing” habits that keep drivers safe:

1. Aim High in Steering. Look well ahead, not just at the vehicle in front of you.
2. Get the Big Picture. Look out for things going on around you.
3. Keep Your Eyes Moving. Don’t fix your gaze—look around; use your peripheral vision.
4. Leave Yourself an Out. Prepare; plan an escape route if something unexpected happens.
5. Make Sure They See You. Use signals, lights, horns; make eye contact.

Two things you may not have noticed about UPS drivers, but that are important to their safety record, is that they rarely turn left or back up.

UPS drivers are taught to favor right turns unless a left turn is absolutely necessary. Left turns cause a vehicle to go against the flow of traffic and are more likely to cause an accident. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) of crashes in intersections (“Crash Factors in Intersection-Related Crashes: An On-Scene Perspective”) showed that of “critical pre-crash events” (an event that made a crash inevitable), over 22% involved left turns. In contrast, right turns were reported as pre-crash events only 1.2% of the time.

A study in New York City showed that left turns were involved in more pedestrian crashes than right turns by a factor of 3 to 1. In addition to reducing the risk of collisions, UPS found that implementing minimal left turns has not only reduced accidents, but it also has saved millions of gallons of gas each year and reduced vehicle emissions (since vehicles don’t idle while waiting to turn left).

UPS drivers are also taught to avoid backing up because it increases the chances that the vehicle might collide with something or someone. In the NHTSA report “Fatalities and Injuries in Motor Vehicle Backing Crashes,” most fatalities and injuries were found to involve passenger vehicles. Children under 5 years of age and adults over 70 were at greater risk. Driveways were the scene of the greatest number of deaths from backover collisions.

Remember that if you cause an injury or an accident while backing up, you may be held responsible for those injuries. If you must back up, check your surroundings carefully and thoroughly before doing so. When you do back up, back as slowly as possible. Use your rearview mirror, side mirrors, and backup camera (if available). Avoid backing out of a driveway into traffic. Instead, back into the driveway so you can pull out into traffic when leaving. In addition, make sure your backup lights are working in case you have to back up at night.

UPS drivers who have the privilege of being a part of the “Circle of Honor” have shared their advice for staying accident-free. This advice includes watch your mirrors; don’t be in a hurry; focus all the time; get proper rest; when you’re driving, drive; and avoid distractions.

You may or may not put in as many miles as a typical UPS driver, but you can learn from their training to avoid crashes and protect yourself and others from accidents and injuries.

Collision Reporting Center Opens in Tucson

If you have been involved in a noninjury car accident in Tucson since 2011, the Tucson Police Department (TPD) likely did not send an officer to investigate or write a report of the accident. TPD stopped responding to noninjury crashes due to staffing concerns, which made it difficult to get a police report for an accident. Now TPD has opened the first Collision Reporting Center in Arizona as of May 30, 2018. The Collision Reporting Center provides a place for the public to report traffic accidents for the purpose of meeting legal and insurance requirements.
Drivers who are involved in vehicle accidents in which no one was seriously injured that occur within Tucson city limits can report damage to a vehicle, get a police report, and improve timeliness of insurance claims. Those who have been involved in collisions also will not have to wait for law enforcement at the scene, which can also reduce the potential for traffic delays or additional crashes.

It’s important to have a police report if you are involved in an accident. Injuries sometimes seem minor (or even nonexistent) at first, but once the shock wears off they may become apparent. The insurance company will want to see a police report of the accident. The Collision Reporting Center provides a good option for those who are involved in seemingly “minor” accidents to report the incident and get a police report.
There’s no charge for this service, which is a partnership with a Canadian company (Accident Support Services International), which has a total of 33 Collision Reporting Centers in North America. The Center in Tucson is the second in the United States. Funding for the company is provided by several insurance companies.

Police will still need to respond and investigate collisions in the following cases:
• If a death occurs.
• If the collision involves injuries that require immediate treatment away from the scene.
• If the collision includes criminal activity (e.g., impaired driving, stolen vehicles, assault).
• If the collision involves a government vehicle (i.e., Sun Tran buses, school buses, City of Tucson vehicles).
• If the collision involves hazardous materials.
• If the collision is a hit and run.
• If the collision involves bicyclists or pedestrians.

What should you do if you are involved in an accident within Tucson city limits?
• Call 911 to report the accident. The 911 operator will determine if police need to respond to the accident.
• If police don’t need to respond, remove the vehicle from the roadway if it is safe to do so.
• Exchange information (name, address, phone number, insurance and vehicle information, license plate number) with other involved drivers/parties, as well as any witnesses.
• Take your vehicle as soon as possible to the Collision Reporting Center. If the vehicle is drivable, go there within 72 hours.
• If the vehicle needs to be towed, the tow truck driver will take you and the vehicle directly to the Center.
• Take your driver’s license, vehicle registration and insurance information with you to the Center.

Once you get to the Center, the personnel there will take statements, complete a police report, and even take photographs of the damage. The Center can forward the report and photographs directly to your insurance company.

The Collision Reporting Center is centrally located:

Midtown Multi-Service Center
1100 South Alvernon Way
Tucson, Arizona 85711
(520) 837–7474

Hours:
Monday – Friday: 9am – 7pm
Saturday: 10am – 4pm
Sundays & Holidays: Closed

The Center is open for a pilot program of six months in Tucson. If successful, the program may expand. Officials believe that the service will be a helpful change, and that the rest of the country will be looking at the Tucson program as an example. In addition, the service will also benefit TPD, as they will be able to track where crashes are occurring, as well as why they may be happening in certain locations.

Takata Airbags Cause Serious Injury

Nearly 40 million vehicles in the US have been or are expected to be recalled to replace defective driver and passenger front airbags made by Japanese manufacturer Takata. Under certain conditions, such as a car crash, these airbags can explode and spray metal fragments into the vehicle, which can result in serious injury or even death to its occupants. Fifteen deaths and over 100 injuries have been reported in the U.S. as a result of this problem.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) calls this recall “the largest safety recall in U.S. history.” So far, 19 different automakers have recalled cars made from 2002 to 2015 to replace these airbags. More recalls are expected by December 2019. Takata filed for bankruptcy last year and is expected to go out of business.

According to the Transportation Statistics Annual Report, 2017, front air bags are estimated to have saved nearly 9,000 lives since 2000. However, the risk of injury from the Takata defective airbags led NHTSA, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of vehicles in the U.S., to order the recalls. The age of the airbag, as well as regular exposure to high temperatures, temperature swings, or high humidity are linked to the risk of explosion. Even if your car isn’t currently exposed to these conditions, it may have been in the past if it was previously owned by someone in another part of the country. Reports estimate that only 43% of recalled vehicles have been repaired.

Is Your Car On The List?

NHTSA urgently advises owners of 2006 Ford Ranger pickup trucks and 2006 Mazda B-series pickup trucks not to drive these vehicles. If you own one of these, you should call a local dealer and get the free repairs done now. In addition, airbags in certain Honda and Acura vehicles from 2001-2003 pose a higher risk and should be repaired as soon as possible. See more about this “Do Not Drive Warning” at NHTSA.gov.

To check the recall status of your car, go to safercar.gov and enter your car’s VIN number. Some vehicles may be scheduled for recall in the near future and will not show up on this search. NHTSA advises car owners to check this site at least twice per year. You can also sign up at NHTSA.gov/Alerts for e-mail alerts of future recalls.

Air bag repairs have been put into priority groups based on age and other factors so that the vehicles with the greatest risk of serious personal injury to drivers and passengers get repaired quickly.

If your car is on the list, NHTSA recommends that you call a car dealership (not an independent mechanic) to get the free work done as soon as parts are available and work can be scheduled, especially if you drive an older model car. This can help you avoid a serious injury, or even wrongful death, in the event of a car accident.

For More Information

NHTSA reminds you that a recall is serious because it means your car has a safety issue. Visit NHTSA Takata Recall Spotlight for more information.