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May 05, 2006


In yet another entry into the auto-safety rating world, Forbes Magazine has published its “top safety ratings” list for 2006 models, complete with slide show. The list has only four car models: the Acura RL, Honda Civic, Saab 9-3 and Volvo S80. (The four models also appear on this website’s list of vehicles with lowest predicted death rates, found in the Consumer Info section.) “The first thing that jumps out at me, though it doesn't surprise me at all, is the obvious lack of North American models,” Forbes’s auto correspondent writes. Forbes based its ratings on a composite of IIHS, NHTSA and Consumer Reports results.

Posted by MVHAP at 07:15 PM


The Kia Sedona and Subaru Impreza are the best performers in a group of minivans and small cars recently evaluated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The Sedona is the first minivan to earn the Institute's Top Safety Pick award, and the Impreza is only the second small car design to earn this award. Both vehicles earned gold awards for good crashworthiness ratings.

The Institute also evaluated the Toyota Prius hybrid's front, side, and rear crashworthiness plus the side crashworthiness of three other vehicle designs — the Mini Cooper (small car) and Dodge Grand Caravan and Chevrolet Uplander (minivans). Results for these vehicles update the results for minivan and small car models that were released last year. Side tests of the Grand Caravan, Uplander, Mini Cooper, and Impreza were delayed at the request of the vehicle manufacturers, who were making changes to improve crashworthiness.

Posted by MVHAP at 07:13 PM


Responding to a petition filed in October, 2004 by safety groups, NHTSA has decided to ban dangerous power window rocker or toggle switches from U.S. manufactured passenger vehicles. At least 50 children reportedly have been killed and thousands of children and adults have been injured by power windows. Rocker and toggle switches allow young children to inadvertently activate power windows that can trap children by the head or arm, resulting in death and serious injury. In a new rule issued April 12, 2006, the agency will instead require safer pull-up or pull-out switch designs that have been standard on European and Japanese vehicles for years.

“While this rule change will improve safety by reducing some of the accidental power window injuries that take place each year, unfortunately, occupants will still be able to activate power windows using the pull-up or pull-out switches without knowing that another occupant has their fingers, hand or arm in the window path,” a statement by the petitioners said. To eliminate child deaths and injuries caused by power windows, they had also asked NHTSA to consider requiring “auto reverse” technology. This technology causes power windows to stop and then reverse direction automatically when an object, such as the hand or head of a child, is in the path of the window. “The same type of technology is already in widespread use to prevent deaths and injuries resulting from accidental closure of garage and elevator doors. It is also standard equipment on many vehicles sold in Europe, including makes and models sold by U.S. automakers,” the petitioners pointed out. The agency denied that part of the petition.

Posted by MVHAP at 07:10 PM


Driver inattention is the leading factor in most crashes and near-crashes, according to a research report by NHTSA and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).. “Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event. Primary causes of driver inattention are distracting activities, such as cell phone use, and drowsiness,” according to the report.

The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study tracked the behavior of the drivers of 100 vehicles equipped with video and sensor devices for more than one year. During that time, the vehicles were driven nearly 2,000,000 miles, yielding 42,300 hours of data. The 241 drivers of the vehicles were involved in 82 crashes, 761 near crashes, and 8,295 critical incidents.

In a follow-on analysis, the researchers concluded that drowsiness is “a significant problem that increases a driver’s risk of a crash or near-crash by at least a factor of four” and “ay be significantly under-reported in police crash investigations. They also concluded that the “most common distraction for drivers is the use of cell phones.”
The background and results of both studies are available on NHTSA’s website under Research and Development.

Posted by MVHAP at 07:09 PM


After GM published a study claiming that it could find only two accidents involving cellphone use after surveying millions of miles of records from its OnStar system, Tom Magliozzi of PBS’s “Car Talk” wrote the company a letter begging to differ. He got flak from GM and a raft of responses from listeners, some agreeing, some not. His basic premise: GM had not reported its results accurately. He said:

“So, if you're like us, you're left wondering, ‘Why would GM publish the results of this study?’ Well, funny you should ask. It just so happens that GM is at the forefront of ‘telematics,’ the technology that will bring yet more distracting features to your car. They stand to make hundreds of millions of dollars with email, Web access, and cell-phone technology in new cars. In other words, don't mistake this study as being from an independent, disinterested source, because GM clearly isn't. In my humble opinion, GM's trying to lull us into a false sense of security.” The argument over the distracting influence on drivers of cellphones and other “telematics” devices in cars is sure to get hotter as more and more of them are introduced.

The full letter and Tom’s discussion of it are posted at CarTalk.com, along with a link to the GM study.

Posted by MVHAP at 07:05 PM


According to an Autoblog summary of NHTSA data, traffic fatalities reached a 15-year high in 2005 at 43,200 fatalities. This represented an increase of 1.2 percent over 2004, while miles traveled only increased by 0.03% to 2.964 trillion. The projected death rate was 1.46 per 100 million miles traveled, a slight increase from the record low of 1.44 in 2004. Deaths in passenger cars fell by approximately 2 percent, while SUVs and light trucks saw a 4 percent increase. The motorcycle death toll jumped by 7.7 percent last year and has now doubled in less than a decade. Two-wheelers now account for nearly 10 percent of all traffic deaths. Seatbelts are now used by over 80 percent of drivers, but fully 55 percent of those who died in a car crash were not using one.

Posted by MVHAP at 07:02 PM


Ralph Nader has recently spoken out on a number of auto safety issues, according to reports. In a letter to the Society of Automotive Engineers, Nader and a colleague, Rob Cirincione, demanded that the industry organization adopt a code of ethics for its members. The code would be "an expressed duty to safeguard the public welfare," according to a report by the two men. (See Current Development Archive, April 2006.)

Nader also wrote to NHTSA complaining of weakenesses in its proposed roof-crush standard. That standard has been widely criticized by independent engineers and consumer groups for failing to provide adequate roof-strength criteria and testing procedures that would leading to meaningful reductions in injuries due to roofs crushing in rollovers of SUVs and other vehicles. (See earlier reports in Current Development Archive.) Nader’s letter demanded that the agency’s acting administrator “explain her position on NHTSA s lack of technology-forcing rules.” http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2005/nader_rollovers.html

Posted by MVHAP at 07:00 PM


USA TODAY reports that despite nearly a half-billion dollars in Federal funding incentives to promote tougher state belt-use laws, “only three states — Alaska, Mississippi and Kentucky — have passed so-called primary seat belt laws, which allow police to stop motorists solely for failing to wear safety belts.” It quotes a state legislative staffer as saying, “There's a backlash sometimes from legislators who feel like this is the federal government saying, 'Look, states, this is what you should be doing,' At this point, the federal incentive money hasn't had much impact."

Proposed laws have run into concerns about government intruding too much in the lives of motorists, as well as worries about racial profiling, the paper says, adding that some states are achieving high seat belt use without primary laws, government statistics show. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia now have such laws. Twenty-four states have secondary seat belt laws, which require police to spot another violation before ticketing drivers for seat belt infractions. New Hampshire has neither.

US A TODAY said study released last month by the National Safety Council found that crash victims in states with primary seat belt laws have a 17% greater chance of surviving than those in states with only secondary laws. NHTSA says seat belt use averages 11% higher in primary-law states.

Posted by MVHAP at 06:58 PM


A study of self-reported safety belt use by emergency room patients in Boston – a “potentially at-risk” group of motorists - has found that they have lower belt use rates than the population at large. The study, reported in BMC Public Health 2006 (6:111), noted that while safety belt use is 80% nationally, it is only 63% in Massachusetts. The authors called for an emergency room-based “intervention to increase safety belt use among this hard-to-reach population…”

Posted by MVHAP at 06:56 PM


The European Association for Accident Research and Analysis (EVU) has announced plans for its Annual Meeting in Dresden, October 5-7, 2006, and has issued an invitation to interested U.S. reconstruction experts and others to attend. In a letter to Dr. Steven Batzer of the Engineering Institute extending the invitation, an official of EVU said, “More than ever, this year`s EVU conference will focus on topics with practical relevance for the technical experts. The increasing part of electronic components in cars will force us to look how to draw accident relevant data from this components for accident reconstruction. Additionally, the supporting programme with the visit to Volkswagon`s Transparent Factory and the collision experiments with remote controlled vehicles, as well as the possibility to see an opera at the world famous Semper Opera House, will be an incentive to take part at the conference.” For more information go to www.evuonline.org, click on English, click on “events.”

Posted by MVHAP at 06:55 PM


NHTSA has denied a petition by a former senior official of the agency requesting that it broaden its frontal crash test program to rate crash injury reduction performance of new cars for dummies representing three-year-old, six-year-old and ten-year-old children and 95th percentile adult males into the agency’s frontal crash test programs. James Hofferberth, former director of NHTSA’s Vehicle Research Test Center, sought the broadening on the basis that the likelihood and severity of injuries to vehicle occupants is strongly dependent on their size. He had noted that the agency’s frontal crash test standard specifies test requirements using only 50th percentile adult male dummies and 5th percentile adult female dummies. The agency denied the petition because of insufficient resources to undertake the research, development and implementation work it believed would be required.

Posted by MVHAP at 06:51 PM


Hundreds of thousands of obese U.S. children cannot fit into car seats, leaving them at risk in the event of a crash, a study has found. "As the number of obese children in the United States increases, it is essential to develop child safety seats that can protect children of all sizes and shapes," writes study author Lara Trifiletti of Ohio State University in Columbus. According to the study published in the journal "Pediatrics", more than 282,000 overweight children under the age of 7 do not fit into most child safety or booster seats available on the market and therefore are improperly restrained inside vehicles.

Posted by MVHAP at 06:49 PM


A Hawaii trial court has entered a $16.5 million judgment against Takata Corp. for allegedly manufacturing a seatbelt that resulted in paraplegia to a 26-year-old man when it failed to protect the occupant of a 1987 Nissan Pathfinder in an October 2000 crash, according to L.S. Sherman Consulting the suit alleged that the belt’s defect permitted the man to be thrown from the vehicle when it ran off the road, struck an embankment, and rolled over.

Posted by MVHAP at 06:47 PM


NHTSA reportedly has initiated an investigation of a suspected safety problem with a popular minivan -- the Toyota Sienna -- equipped with "run-flat tires." According to a news report, the agency has received “dozens of complaints that run-flat tires on the Sienna go flat much too easily.” Federal investigators are said to be focusing on the tire pressure warning system seen on the dashboard and the run-flat tires the system is supposed to be monitoring. According to the report, safety researcher Sean Kane, head of Safety Research & Strategies, said the warning system used on the Sienna "is not directly measuring tire pressure. It's indirectly doing so through other sensors. Those systems are really not that accurate generally speaking." Under federal regulations, car manufacturers began phasing in the systems in the 2006 model year.

Posted by MVHAP at 05:02 PM


Ford Motor Co. released an announcement that it would recall nearly 150,000 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner sport-utility vehicles after the government and the automaker reached different conclusions in safety tests measuring the driver's head protection in a crash. The recall affects some SUVs from the 2005 model year without side air curtains or moon roofs. Ford told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it did not know of any reported injuries linked to the recalled vehicles. NHTSA tests found that the SUVs had a head injury score along the driver's side roofline near the front pillar that was marginally above the maximum allowed under federal regulations. Ford said in a statement Thursday that the recall will make adjustments to reduce the stiffness of the energy-absorbing foam in the affected area.

Posted by MVHAP at 05:00 PM


A news report has disclosed that NHTSA looking into a possible problem with the front suspension ball joints in the 2002 to 2004 Toyota Tundra and Sequoia, and also is probing 2001-2004 models of the Tacoma, as well as the 2001-2002 Four Runners. Reportedly there have been four complaints alleging the ball joints broke apart, causing drivers to lose control of their vehicle.

Posted by MVHAP at 04:56 PM


Two recalls of Mercedes-Benz vehicles have been reportedly issued NHTSA. The first involves a nut on a seat belt buckle for the SUV's second row seating. The nut is missing some threads which could result in a weakened seat belt connection. 2,500 units are affected. The second recall involves the starter wiring harness. The crossover's electrical system could fail due to the problem.

Posted by MVHAP at 04:47 PM


Toyota Motor Corp. was reported to have recalled ">46,000 Lexus cars in the U.S. and other countries abroad, and 11,000 in Japan, in order to fix a faulty seat belt part. Toyota said it will replace seat belts in both front seats; the belts can become jammed inside the belt receptacles due to a faulty part, it said. The affected cars are Lexus GS and IS sedans. No accidents have been reported due to the defect, Toyota said.

Posted by MVHAP at 04:44 PM


NHTSAhas issued a recall notice for 19,140 of the 2003 and 2004 Ford Mustangs because the carpeting may cause the accelerator pedal to fail to return to the idle position, Consumer Affairs reports. The carpeting could interfere with the pedal's ability to return to the idle position, causing unexpected, continued throttle application and increased stopping distances that could result in a crash.

"On certain Mustang Cobra passenger vehicles," NHTSA warns, "the rear surface of the accelerator pedal may come into contact with the floor carpeting during heavy application. The unique surface profile of the accelerator pedal may catch the cutout on the floor carpeting behind the pedal." Ford dealers will install a shield over the cutout in the carpet behind the accelerator pedal. The recall will begin on April 26. Mustang Cobra owners may contact ford at 1-800-392-3673 or NHTSA at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153).

Posted by MVHAP at 04:41 PM


(Clicking on product name at start of item will connect to the NHTSA recall file.)

Dexter Axle D60, D70, D80 Trailer Axles Certain Dexter Axle trailer axles models D60, D70, and D80 equipped with disc brakes manufactured between February 1 and March 16, 2006, installed as original equipment on certain trailers and sold as replacement equipment. The caliper mounting nuts can strip. The stripped mounting caliper nut does not properly engage onto the bolt and allows the caliper to come apart creating a loss of braking ability, which could result in a vehicle crash.

Chevrolet 2004-2006 Colorado, GMC 2004-2006 Canyon, and Isuzu 2006 I-280 and I-350 Pickup Trucks (Wed, 26 Apr 2006) Certain pickup trucks may experience the permanent loss of brake lamp function or brake lamps that are illuminated at all times. The Cetner High-Mounted Stop Lamp (CHMSL) is affected in both instances. Also, if equipped, the cruise control will become inoperative. Any trailer brake lamps which are connected to the vehicle's brake lamp wiring will mimic the vehicle's brake lamps when either condition occurs. A following driver may not know when the brakes have been applied, and a rear-end crash could occur wihtout prior warning.

IC 2006-2007 CECB, CESB, FESB, ICSB and RESB Buses (Mon, 24 Apr 2006) Certain MY 2006 and 2007 IC Corporation FE, RE and IC School buses and CE school and commercial buses manufactured between June 12, 2005, and March 29, 2006, and equipped with Ricon 1200, 2000 and 5500 series wheelchair lifts. The platform lifts may have a defect in the weld which will allow a joint on the vertical lift to crack. In the event that this condition occurs during passenger operations it ma not be possible to close the lift door causing the vehicle interlocks to remain engaged preventing movement of th vehicle or the ability to load or unload passengers with disabilities from the vehicle. This may result in personal injury or death.

Volvo 2003-2006 XC90 Vehicles (Fri, 21 Apr 2006) On certain vehicles, if the wiper arm is activated in extreme winter weather conditions and wihtout lifting hte wiper arms and cleaning the windshield prior to moving, the wiper arm might slip on its driveshaft, resulting in an inability to move the wipers from the park position. Inoperative wipers under inclement weather conditions could cause a crash due to impaired visibility.

Tiffin 2003-2005 Allegro and Allegro Bay Motor Homes (Fri, 21 Apr 2006) Certain motor homes built on workhorse chassis and equipped with Actia corporate instrument clusters fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 101, controls and Displays, and No. 105, Hydraulic and Electric Brake Systems. If the brake fail input faills below a voltage of 1.5V, the brake failure lamp and alarm will be activated. Also activation of the ABS telltale whel the ABS is not properly functioning does not always occur. At night the instrument cluster lights may fail and the driver may not be able to see the instrument panel gauges and the brake warning light indicator which could increase the risk of a crash.

Volvo 2004-2006 S40 and V50 Passenger Vehicles (Fri, 21 Apr 2006) On certain passenger vehicles equipped with T5 Turbo engines, the polyamide tube in the fuel line is sensitive to the extreme temperatures that may occur in the area where the turbo/exhaust manifold is located. This may potentially result in fuel line leakage. Fuel leakage, in the presence of an ignition source, could result in a fire.

Saab 2001 9-3 Passenger Vehicles (Thu, 20 Apr 2006) On certain passenger vehicles, the fuel pump retaining tabs holding the fuel lines were damaged during production. Over time this could cause the fuel lines to loosen from the pump resulting in fuel leakage. If an ignition source were present, the fuel may ignite resulting in a vehicle fire.

Kawasaki 2006 Motorcycles (Wed, 19 Apr 2006) On certain motorcycles, the bolt that attaches the steering damper body to the frame bracket may not have been tightened sufficiently during vehicle assembly. If the bolt loosens and backs out completely, the steering damper could inhibit gree movement of the steering assembly causing a loss of steering control. This could increase the risk of a crash.

Cadillac 2005 SRX and STS Vehicles (Wed, 19 Apr 2006) Certain vehicles have a left or right rear suspension toe link that could separate because of an incorrect weld. If this were to occur, the affected rear wheel would be able to turn in or out, affecting vehicle control, which could result in a crash.

Hidden Hitch 64-6003 Hitch Receivers (Wed, 19 Apr 2006) Certain Hidden Hitch brand hitch receivers, P/N 64-6003, manufactured by Cequent Towing Company and installed as original equipment in certain model year 2002-2003 Gulfstream Class A motor homes built on Freightliner XC chassis. The affected hitches can experience a failure of the frame bracket at the cross tube. This condition may lead to separation of the towed vehicle from the towing vehicle, which may result in a crash.

Land Rover 2006 Range Rover Sport Sport Utility Vehicles (Tue, 18 Apr 2006) On certain vehicles fitted with 9J-19 inch diameter wheels, during certain vehicle maneuvers when the steering system is on full left lock and the suspension is moving towards full compression, the left front brake hose and/or the ABS wheel speed sensor lead and/or the brake pad wear warning sensor lead can catch on the wheel balance weight as the wheel rotates. This may lead to warnings of premature brake pad wear, warnings of ABS failure, or extended brake pedal travel and loss of one of the hydraulic service braking system circuits, which could result in a crash.

Land Rover LR3, Range Rover Sport 2005-2006 Vehicles (Tue, 18 Apr 2006) Certain vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 114, 'Theft Protection.' When the ignition is switched off, after a period of time, it is possible to remove the ignition key when the transmission shift lever is not in park. This condition increases the risk of a crash resulting from the unintended movement of parked vehicles.

BMW 2004-2006 R1200 Motorcycles (Fri, 14 Apr 2006) On certain motorcycles, if certain procedures are performed that involves removal of the front left brake caliper, the ABS sensor cale can be routed incorrectly and when the caliper is reinstalled, the sensor cable can come into contact and rub against the front brake dic. Overtime, if the chafing becomes severe, it is possible to lose the ABS function. Loss of ABS function could increase the risk of a crash during certain riding conditions.

Damon 2003-2005 Challenger, Daybreak and Intruder Motor Homes (Thu, 13 Apr 2006) Certain motor homes built on workhorse chassis and equipped with Actia corporate instrument clusters fail to comply wtih the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 101, "Cotnrols and Displays" and No. 105, "Hydraulic nad Electric Brake Systems." If the brake fail input falls below a voltage of 1.5V, the brake failure lamp and alarm will be activated. Also activation of the ABS telltale when the ABS is not properly functioning does not always occur. At night the instrument cluster lights may fail and the driver may not be able to see the instrument panel gauges and the brake warning light indicator which could increase the risk of a crash.

Skyline 2005-2006 Stone Harbor Park Trailers (Thu, 13 Apr 2006) On certain park trailers, the incorrect bolts and locking nuts were installed on the spring hangers of the frame. The bolts can loosen and fall out of the spring hanger. A missing bolt could result in a loss of control of the trailer, increasing hte risk of a crash. This could occur without prior warning.

HJC Corp Z1R Metro Motorcycle Helmets (Thu, 13 Apr 2006) Certain medium size Z1R Metro motorcycle helmets manufactured January 15, 2004 through September 30, 2004. These helpmets fail to conform to the penetration requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218, Motorcycle Helmets. In the event of a crash, the wearer may not be adequately protected, possibly resulting in serious injury or death.

Posted by MVHAP at 11:20 AM

May 02, 2006


We welcome your comments and suggestions, and invite you to add yourself, friends and colleagues to our “alerts” list. Just email us at mvhap_phai@yahoo.com! Please visit the "Noteworthy Documents" section to see an important new posting - “Accident Research,” edited by William Haddon, Jr. and colleagues, a foundational set of articles and commentary published in 1963 that addressed then-emerging concepts and knowledge concerned with injury control. 1

Posted by author at 01:58 PM