GM Recalls Vehicles that Pose Fire Danger

General Motors is in the middle of the largest safety crisis in automobile history. Over the past year, GM has issued 62 recalls, affecting 29 million vehicles. The most serious safety defect, caused by faulty ignition switches that spontaneously disengage while the car is in motion, have resulted in at least 23 deaths.

In the latest recall issued last month, GM targets over 221,000 Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impalas for brake pads that stayed engaged after the driver’s foot was off the pedal. GM said the problem was caused by the “electronic parking brake arm that applies pressure to the back of the brake pads not fully retracting after use.” This malfunction could lead to increased friction between the brake pads and the rotor, and could cause a fire.

Models years affected by the recall include 2013-2015 Cadillac’s XTS’ and 2014-2015 Impalas.

Another GM recall that involves vehicles with defects that pose a fire danger was announced last June. 189,000 SUVs are included in the recall that targets window switches that can catch on fire. GM admitted that the problem is caused when water leaks into the door panels where the switches are located, resulting in rust that can cause short circuits and overheating, and possibly fires. At least 28 vehicles have been reported to have caught on fire.

Recalled models include 2006 and 2007 Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy, Buick Rainer, Isuzu Ascender, and Saab 97-X.

GM anticipated the parts for the repairs to be available in October. Until their SUVs are repaired, GM is advising owners they should park their SUVs in open areas and not in garages or carports. GM has also advised dealers not to sell affected used SUVs until the part is replaced.

Before placing yourself and your family at risk of being in a car accident or other danger, find out about GM recalls at the GM Recall Center or the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration recall website at Safercar.gov .

Nursing Home Negligence

Advances in medicine are steadily improving the quality of life of people, enabling them to live longer and healthier than ever. Unless there is a traumatic event or until a loved one’s health declines to the point they lose their independence, placing someone in the care of others is not something frequently contemplated.

But when family members cannot adequately care for a loved one because of advanced age or infirmity, they must often reach out and find professional caregivers.

Choosing a nursing home or assisted living facility for a loved one is one of the most difficult decisions a family can face. Knowing that loved ones are properly cared for and that their medical needs are met is of paramount importance. But if a facility search is not carefully conducted, the patient’s life could be at risk. Sadly, nursing home negligence is not easy to identify until it’s too late.

An investigation conducted last January by the Arizona Department of Health Services charged the nursing home Emeritus at Catalina Foothills and its executive director with numerous counts of neglect. The investigation found that on 19 separate occasions the facility and its caregivers failed to give a patient his prescribed medication. One of the excuses the executive director gave for the medication error was that she was on vacation. The executive director was placed on six months probation and the facility was assessed fines for each of the 19 violations.

When trying to find a facility for a loved one, conducting a web search is simple and can raise red flags about facilities that have failed inspections. Visiting http://www.azcarecheck.com/ provides immediate access to ADHS’ inspection information page to research the nursing home or assisted living facility you are evaluating. The website will confirm if any enforcement actions have been taken against a facility.

Carefully researching a healthcare facility for a vulnerable family member can provide peace of mind that your loved one will receive the care and attention you expect.

Distracted Driving

As drivers, our ability to recognize danger and appropriately react to hazardous situations depends heavily on our sense of sight. When we drive, our eyes are constantly transmitting messages to our brain to help keep us safe.  But if you are distracted, even for just a couple of seconds, you increase the probability of putting yourself and others in danger.

We’ve all been behind or next someone guilty of distracted driving–who drifts into our lane or brakes suddenly because they aren’t paying attention to the road, or who is bobbing his head with the self deception that he is able to drive safely while texting.

According to Donald Fisher, a mechanical and industrial engineering professor at the University of Massachusetts and director of the Human Performance Laboratory, which studies driver behavior and safety, it takes two seconds for a driver to notice and react to a change in the road. Dr. Fisher says that a driver who texts is taking his or her eyes off the road for intervals of more than two seconds. He says finding the right key on a cell phone keypad can take longer than two seconds. Dr. Fisher also found that young, inexperienced drivers tended to have more frequent and longer periods of looking down, away from the road.

Many individuals have great confidence in their reaction time, but they don’t realize that texting involves visual, manual and cognitive attention, making texting the most consuming and fatal distraction they can do while driving.potentially

When driving, there are three different components involved in reacting to a hazardous road situation. The first is the mental processing time–the time it takes the brain to process that a hazardous condition exists and that it must respond accordingly. The second is movement time, which involves the action the driver has to take to avoid an accident by braking, speeding up, swerving, etc. The last is the device response time, which is the time it takes the vehicle to respond to the action taken by the driver to the situation. For example, a car will not stop immediately when a driver steps on the brakes. The amount of time it will take a car to stop depends on how fast the car is moving plus the condition of the road.

When a driver’s ability to make quick decisions is slowed or restricted by inattentiveness they place themselves in a much higher statistical risk of being in a motor vehicle accident. Making sure you’re using all your perceptive skills and senses while driving could make the difference between life and death. Next time you get behind the wheel of a car, take a couple of seconds to put your cell phone away before you hit the road. Those two seconds could just save your life.

Does Your Car Have a Black Box?

For over a century the development of the automobile has been a symbol of freedom and independence. A new government rule that takes effect this fall may change Americans’ perceptions of their carefree mode of transportation.

Beginning September 1, 2014, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration will require that all new vehicles have an Event Data Recorder, or a Black Box, as some may refer to it.

Some automakers, like GM, began putting EDRs in cars as early as 1996. Learning that the car you drive has been recording your movements might be a bit disconcerting.  Some may even feel their privacy is somehow being invaded.

EDRs measure and record events up to five seconds before a collision, including force of impact, engine speed, vehicle speed, direction, steering input, airbag deployment, safety belt usage, acceleration position and braking status.

The data collected by EDRs is increasingly being used in lawsuits and in high profile motor vehicle accidents. However, obtaining the data may be a tricky endeavor. Law enforcement agencies may have to obtain a search warrant and insurance companies may need a court order, unless the owner consents to the retrieval of the data.

In the near future, the black box data from accident vehicles may allow insurance companies to potentially change drivers’ rates and perhaps the liability the insurance company claims when you are involved in an accident.

The newly mandated rule by NHTSA should be a greater incentive for consumers to practice better and safer driving, making any data collected by a black box to work in their favor in the event of an accident.

Is Your Child’s Car Seat a Death Trap?

Picking a car seat can be one of the most important decisions parents can make for their children. This is a matter not to be taken lightly, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that car accidents are the number one cause of death for children under the age of 12.

The trust a parent places in the car seat they select comes from the expectation that it is going protect their child if they’re in a car accident. Unfortunately, car seats are not always failproof.

Last February, car seat manufacturer Graco was forced by NHTSA to recall 4.9 million toddler seats because the harness buckles became easily jammed if food or drinks were spilled on them, making it difficult to remove the child from the seat. In some cases, parents had to cut the straps to remove their children from the defective seats.

Last month, Graco ended a five-month battle with NHTSA, agreeing to recall an additional 1.9 million infant car seats for the same issue. When combined with the earlier toddler car seat recall, the total Graco recall makes it the largest recall of car seats in American history.

What can parents do to make sure their children are safe in their car seats? They can start by registering their child’s car seat to ensure they receive email updates and recall notifications about their child’s car seat. This is especially important because manufacturers are required by law to inform consumers of any potential safety issues with their products.

Parents should also become familiar with the many resources available to them about car seat safety. NHTSA has set up a website at Safercar.gov to teach parents how to buy the right car seat for their child depending on their age and size; how to install a car seat; car seat ratings; and car seat registration and recalls.

Locally, Safe Kids Pima County and participating fire stations will help parents properly install their child’s car seat. Call 520-324-2783 for locations and to make an appointment.

Spending a few minutes learning about the products that you trust to protect your loved ones can make the difference between life and death if you find yourself involved in a car accident.

Do the Elderly Need to be Protected From Their Doctors?

Patients often make the mistake of believing they can place their full confidence and trust in the skill and knowledge of their medical providers, many times not realizing that neglect or medical malpractice can be fairly common, especially among the elderly.

A study published online last May in the medical journal Injury Prevention found that one in five Medicare patients suffered an injury from medical treatment not related to their underlying condition. The study drew attention to outpatient care, citing that most of the malpractice happened in doctors’ offices, clinics, surgery centers and nursing homes, with one-third occurring in hospitals.

Researchers noted that the more delicate the health of the patient, the more likely it was that he or she would experience a medical injury during treatment. They found that elderly patients were often more vulnerable to being given the wrong medications or receiving treatments that could induce allergic reactions or additional complications, adding to their previously existing underlying illnesses or problems.

The study also drew attention to complications that go hand-in-hand with medical malpractice–death rates are estimated to double when additional injuries occur with the elderly, along with increased health care costs due to extended and comprehensive follow-up treatment.

The focus of this study is to recognize the cause of unnecessary medical injuries that elderly patients are experiencing. It is also a wake-up call for members of the health care profession on the need to be educated in geriatric medicine, and understand that the elderly, because they are more vulnerable than healthy young adults, need a greater degree of care and protection when receiving medical treatment.