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car-ignition0switch-faulty-300x200We have posted several times over the past few years about the major recall and consequences of faulty ignition switches in General Motors’ vehicles. One case garnered a great deal of attention when the parents of a young Georgia woman who died due to a faulty ignition switch, sued GM. About 125 deaths were originally considered to be due to the faulty switches. Now there are more. The defective devices resulted in the recall of 2.6 million vehicles. Since the early stages of this recall, there are now hundreds of personal injury and wrongful death cases.

According to Reuters, attorneys for vehicle owners with defective switches who have suffered various damages, including fatal injury, are on the verge of losing a deal they were about to enter into with a trust holding GM assets. The plaintiffs lawyers are calling foul on GM, arguing that the company interfered with resolving the case through settlement using unsavory tactics, including threats. The “deal” would have resolved millions of claims, although about 2.5 million would have remained in another court. It took nearly half a year to come up with the settlement which now is at risk of unwinding. The trust, which maintains pre-bankruptcy assets of the company, was integral to this deal.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys are claiming that General Motors met with trust representatives and put undue pressure on the trust to pull away from the resolution of this huge case. Immediately after this meeting, the trust reneged on the deal they had reached (although had not yet signed) with the plaintiffs. Although no agreements had been signed, the negotiations were months and months of work for both the plaintiffs’ attorneys and the trust representatives.

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airbag-300x199A Georgia woman who, as a passenger in the front seat would commonly place her feet on the dashboard of the family car would say to everyone listening: “just don’t do it.” How often have you or an adult friend or family member done this very thing without a second thought? According to several interviews, including one reported in USA Today, the Georgia mom was severely injured two years ago after her family’s car struck a vehicle that shot out in front of theirs. She was the only one hurt in the crash and was not wearing a seat belt. Her husband and children were fine, but her injuries from the auto crash were severe. Her airbag deployed and because her legs were on the dash at the time of impact, she sustained serious injuries to her ankle, femur and arm. The way she put it, her “whole right side was broken.” The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that airbags deploy at about 200 mph, which emits energy to save a life, but can hurt a misplaced limb as happened here.

One of the ironies about this car crash and her serious injuries is that the injured victim’s husband repeatedly warned her not to put her feet on the dash. He told her over and over again that one day she would regret this habit. He cautioned that if they were in an accident, she could be hurt having her legs up on the dash. When you stop and think about this, it makes perfect sense. As a former EMS (she cannot work in her field any longer) one would think she would have known or considered this … and apparently she did at times. But it was not enough to stop her from continuing to put herself in harm’s way because in her words, “it was comfortable.”

But on the day of the accident, her injuries were so severe that it has taken years to recover and she is still in pain. She is now trying to put her tragedy behind her by doing good and informing others of the dangers in this practice. The airbag that deployed on impact is credited with making her injuries less severe. But with legs in this position on the dashboard, and with airbags deploying, her leg was pushed back towards her body and her comfort became a life long regret. Having one’s limbs in the wrong location in a motor vehicle is extremely dangerous. Experts say the blast can be so powerful, it can cause serious damage to life and limb as it did for this mom. When you see a teen or older child putting their feet up in the car or on the dash, stop them. This is a simple way to keep your body in the position that is intended for your greatest safety in a motor vehicle.

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car-harmed-300x199We recently posted a series about several motor vehicle technologies that are now, and will be in the future, helping to avoid accidents. These technologies provide information to drivers about potential dangers and can even control the vehicle to avoid a crash and injury. Some technologies are being developed based on the data that has been collected over the past decade about why car and truck crashes happen in the first place. There are varied circumstances that can be involved in a vehicle crash, and particularly a multiple vehicle crash. While we wait for these technologies to become more standard in our vehicles, we hope readers will be mindful of the things they can do to help avoid accidents.

The federal government has engaged in several studies to determine what happens just before a collision and to identify the critical reasons for motor vehicle collisions. In a large National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS) which took place over a two-year period, data was collected about factors leading up to collisions. The study looked at what the experts called the “critical reason” or the last link in the chain that results in a crash. The study was not assigning fault, but rather looking at the final snapshot before an accident. Many factors can lead to an accident and the “critical reason” is not the same as who is at fault for the event. Literally millions of incidents were studied and experts found that the critical reason or the final piece of the “crash causal chain” turned out to be what the driver did or did not do in response to the situation.

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In our last post, we shared innovations involving braking systems and how those systems can help avoid crashes. In this post we continue with tech innovations for motor vehicles with support systems that can help avoid rear-end and side-collisions. In most of these systems, the driver must still maintain control of the vehicle, but can get some assistance when a crash is imminent.

Our federal agencies, including the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) and vehicle manufacturers continue to be at the forefront of promoting technologies that will work to protect us while driving. From vehicle to vehicle communications to advance braking systems, these vehicle crash technologies are, and will continue to be, a part of our driving experience as technology integrates into our vehicles. This could not only lower the number of accidents we see every day, but help to save lives and avoid injuries. A few technologies are being tested now that are of great interest and provide promise for the future of motoring safety. From braking systems to video systems, we share some of the technologies that will be integrated into our cars and trucks now and in the future.

Forward Collision Systems, Lane Departure and Blind Spot Guides

Most drivers have experienced cars and trucks that follow too closely behind them. But what if drivers can be warned they are tailgating, a reminder that they are too close to the vehicle in front of them. This is how forward collision systems can help. Although the driver must maintain control of the vehicle, these systems can let the driver know that their speed is too high, they are too close to another car or truck in front or that a crash is about to happen. The driver still must do something to avoid the accident from happening. But both audible and video warnings could help.

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Tech Aids in Crash Avoidance 

Georgia drivers, get ready for big innovations in cars and trucks. Highway accidents are an everyday occurrence. We know that the vast majority of accidents, and the injuries that can result, are caused by driver choices or driver mistakes. In fact, statistics show that almost 95 percent of all accidents are caused by these human factors. So one of the big ways to avoid accidents is taking the human error out of the equation and letting technology help. Some of these technologies are a by-product of the driverless car research and others have been around for some time. In this two-part series, we will bring our readers some of the latest innovations that are available now and in the future.

New Braking Systems Anticipate Collisions

First up are braking systems that anticipate what is in front of the driver. These systems provide warnings to the driver that an accident is imminent. If the driver doesn’t brake sufficiently, the braking system will apply the brakes to avoid the accident. Some cars already having city braking systems that will stop a car before it hits another in front of it. This system warns the driver and then takes evasive action if there is no response or an inadequate response. The experts say these systems are still being made smarter and the technology will continue to develop. But one thing is fairly certain, eventually all vehicles will have some sort of warning braking system that is intended to avoid collision.

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AAA Helps Georgians Avoid Drunk Driving 

The American Automobile Association safety arm is very busy this time of year. The Fourth of July weekend is an important one for road travel and many happy celebrations of our nation’s freedoms. One of the more significant things about this holiday is the concern about drunk driving and highway safety. So much so, the AAA wants Georgia residents to know that they should not drink and drive … and to avoid that they will provide a ride, for free through July 5, 2017. Yes, for free.

The AAA calls this program Tow to Go and it is available on other holidays and in a few other states as well. It is completely confidential so that those using it do not have to be concerned about their privacy and a need for a ride. If folks have had more to drink than would enable them to drive safely, all that is needed is a phone to call for a FREE ride. You don’t have to be a AAA member to use this service. The telephone number for the free ride is 855-286-9246 — a tow truck will provide a ride as long as it is within 10 miles of the location pick up and is a home or other safe location. The program is co-sponsored by Budweiser and the Safety Foundation arm of the AAA.

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iStock_000001983354XSmall-300x199The Georgia Supreme Court recently issued an opinion that has clarified the liability of property owners for serious injuries sustained by invitees to their property. About ten years ago, a man was departing Cobb County Six Flags Over Georgia when he was severely beaten. His injuries resulted in permanent brain damage. A jury awarded the victim $35 million in damages, but the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that the damage award was not apportioned properly between the defendants and sent it back to the trial court for a new trial. This ruling was appealed and the case went to the Georgia Supreme Court. The high court’s decision held that Six Flags could be held liable for the injuries and that the apportionment of damages various defendants will pay did not require a full retrial of the case.

The case clarifies certain aspects of Georgia law with regard to property owner liability. The victim in this case was an invitee under Georgia law. Official Code of Georgia section 53-3-1 states that when an owner or occupier of land, effectively invites others on the premises for a lawful purpose, the property owner is liable for damages to those harmed by the owner’s “failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” In this case, the plaintiff was brutally beaten by some seasonal employees and others who planned an attack on him as he left the park and waited for a bus.

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1175023_magnoliaA recent bus accident has brought mourning to a community and reminds us of the fragility of life. We are deeply saddened to learn of a devastating crash that has left an Alabama community in shock, many injured and a young life taken. A teen church group awas on its way from Huntsville, Alabama to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for a mission trip to Botswana when the bus overturned onto another vehicle. There is currently no information about what caused this accident and no information about those in the other vehicle.

The church bus had about 38 people on board, mostly teens and young adults. One report noted that 33 out of 38 passengers on the bus may have been injured and one teen lost her life. The reports are not clear on the precise numbers. We do know that many injured passengers were taken to various hospitals around Atlanta. Some were released after treatment. One report indicated that two victims sustained traumatic injuries and were still in the hospital. The young woman who lost her life in this bus crash was a recent high school graduate. Her family has shared some of her journal entries that reveal the fine person that she was. Apparently, she had only recently received a scholarship to Auburn University.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be taking on the investigation of this crash. The bus is not registered as a commercial vehicle with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Rather it is registered as a private passenger-non-business vehicle which carries different requirements than those associated with commercial vehicles. . The church has provided information to authorities saying that there were ten drivers for the three buses they own which are registered for interstate travel. The church apparently has no record of prior accidents or issues concerning their transportation history.

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iStock_000017099921XSmall-300x199Here in Atlanta we have had our share of big traffic news. The I-85 overpass bridge collapse this past March brought our city into the national headlines, but also brought it to a slower pace. Drivers maneuvered around the collapse using detours. The cooperation of drivers and efforts by the Georgia Department of Transportation led to the recent reopening of this part of I-85 in time for the Memorial Day holiday. At the recent ribbon cutting ceremony, Governor Deal and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and others celebrated the opening of the 700-foot section of our highway that caused so much disruption in Atlanta. The rebuild included the removal of millions of pounds of debris, The rebuild took an impressive 54,000 hours of human construction time.

Amidst “I survived” parties, we are all grateful to have this portion of Interstate 85 open to traffic. Weather cooperated as the rebuilding process went forward. Patience has its virtues and Atlantans pulled together to get through this big inconvenience. Safety in the rebuilding process was top of mind for the contractor in charge of the project. Many safety inspections later, we are all relieved that the collapse is now part of Atlanta history.

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Florida Diving Tragedy Takes Lawrenceville Man

In our last post, we shared important information about water safety and small children. The fun and excitement of water play can last a lifetime. But the safety concerns associated with water don’t end with little ones. Older kids, teens and adults must also be mindful of the safety measures needed around water. Only last week, we learned that a Gwinnett County man apparently drowned in Florida while on a diving trip there. The Florida authorities are performing an autopsy to determine what caused his passing. He found with his regulator out of his mouth. This event reminds us that water can be dangerous for people of all ages, not just little ones.

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