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June 16, 2006


Electronic stability control (ESC) helps drivers retain control of their vehicles during high-speed maneuvers or on slippery roads. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety researchers have announced findings that ESC reduces the risk of fatal multiple-vehicle crashes by 32 percent, and all single-vehicle crashes by more than 40 percent fatal ones by 56 percent. The researchers estimate that if all vehicles were equipped with ESC, as many as 10,000 fatal crashes could be avoided each year.

ESC is standard on 40 percent of 2006 passenger vehicle models and optional on another 15 percent, IIHS said. The percentage of SUV models with standard ESC has been growing faster than for cars. As a stand-alone option, ESC costs from about $300 to $800, but it can cost more than $2,000 on some models when packaged with other equipment, the research group said. It warned consumers of a confusing hodgepodge of terms used by various companies to describe the system.

Meanwhile, a study submitted to NHTSA by University of Michigan Transportation Research investigators has further corroborated the benefits of Electronic Stability Control systems in reducing rollovers. The study used data from the Fatal Analysis Reporting System and the General Estimates System.

The FARS data indicated that a 30.5% reduction in the odds of a single-vehicle crash was estimated for passenger cars equipped with ESC, and a 49.5% reduction was estimated for sport utility vehicles (SUVs). The estimated percentage reductions in the odds of rollover for passenger cars and SUVs equipped with ESC were 39.7% and 72.9%, respectively. However, it found no significant effects were found on roads that were not dry.

Based on the GES data, no significant differences due to ESC were found between males and females, but middle-aged drivers of passenger cars and older drivers of SUVs tended to benefit most from the presence of ESC. Unlike the FARS data analysis, percentage reductions in the odds of loss of control were significantly greater on roads that were not dry for both passenger cars and SUVs equipped with ESC. In an analysis using GES data of vehicles with different makes and models, but similar model years, estimated percentage reductions in the odds of loss of control crashes were 40.3% for passenger cars and 71.5% for SUVs.

A list of all vehicles with ESC in the 2006 and 2005 model year is available at http://www.safercar.gov/pages/ESC-EquippedVehicles-2006.html.

Posted by MVHAP at 12:33 PM


Rollover ratings for 2006 model sport utility vehicles (SUVs) show a marked improvement over 2005, NHTSA reports. The rating results also point to an unprecedented number of SUVs with electronic stability control (ESC) in 2006, it said in a press release. For the 2006 model year, 39 SUVs (42 percent of those rated) earned four stars in NHTSAs rollover rating program. In 2005, 34 percent received four stars. For the 2006 model year, 57 SUVs (69 percent of all SUV models) offer ESC as standard equipment, up from 43 percent in 2005.

Posted by MVHAP at 12:32 PM


In the May 31 issue of the Detroit Free Press (www.freepress.com ) reporter Justin Hyde reports the following:

Critics say the agency should use more than just math to predict the probability of a rollover. In the wake of the Firestone tire debacle, Congress forced NHTSA to add a driving test to its rollover measurements. That test puts vehicles through a sharp fishhook turn at between 33 and 50 m.p.h. to see if they tip up on two wheels.

For 2006 SUVs, NHTSA lists 13 as having tipped up in its driving tests, including the Ford Escape, the Chevrolet Equinox and the Hyundai Santa Fe.

But under NHTSA's system, those tests have little weight in a vehicle's final score -- no more than a half-star difference -- as the agency cites research that few vehicles get into rollover accidents without striking an object. The Equinox and its twin, the Pontiac Torrent, receive four stars despite tipping their wheels in tests last year.

Consumer Reports, which has long called for NHTSA to use driving tests to measure rollover propensity, will not recommend any vehicle that tips its wheels in NHTSA's tests.

Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, notes that under NHTSA's rules vehicles get extra points for passing the handling test, but aren't penalized for failing it.

"It's very misleading to the public, Claybrook said. Tip-up has always been considered a precursor to rollover.... If you have several models with four stars and a tip-up, there's something wrong with the test."

Hyde notes NHTSAs findings that best SUVs are Chrysler Pacifica, 13%; Ford Freestyle, 13%; Chevrolet HHR, 14%: worst are Nissan Xterra, 25%; Chevrolet Avalanche, 25%; several vehicles tied at 24%: best pickups are Honda Ridgeline, 14%; Toyota Tacoma, 14%; Chevrolet Silverado, 15%: worst pickups are Ford Ranger, 30%; Mazda B-Series, 30%; several tied at 21%.

Posted by MVHAP at 12:30 PM


A consumer advocate who has criticized NHTSAs current proposal to amend its FMVSS 214 roof crush standard as being far too weak, has provided the agency with a volume of Volvo materials produced in product liability court cases. In the materials, Volvo engineers describe in detail the feasibility of roof strength considerably higher than what NHTSA is proposing to require. But NHTSA seems unwilling to make the documents public in the docket of its FMVSS 214 rulemaking. The issue is critical to the injury-prevention performance of SUVs and other light-truck vehicles in rollovers. (See earlier Current Development archived items for background on the rulemaking controversy.)

In a letter to the agency, Paula Lawlor has described in detail the agencys actions to redact or otherwise censor material she has submitted to the roof crush rulemaking docket, and has attached a letter from attorneys for Ford Motor Company, which now owns Volvo, alleging that she has used the Volvo documents in a manner not authorized be existing court protective orders and threatening legal action if you continue to do so. Ford has separately told the agency that it believes the proposed roof crush standard is unreasonably strong.

Lawlor has made a number of submissions to NHTSA in the docket. These can be viewed by using the DOT docket form at http://dms.dot.gov/search/searchFormAdvanced.cfm. In the drop-down box for agency click on NHTSA. For calendar year choose 2005. For docket subject enter roof crush. Leave all other entries blank and click on Search. When the document list appears click on reverse order at the top. On the list of submissions that then appears, scroll down to find and open documents submitted in recent months by Paula Lawlor.

Posted by MVHAP at 12:26 PM


IIHS has warned against use by researchers and others of what it calls unreliable driver licensure data published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The warning came in the current issue of its Status Report. Even the federal agency acknowledges that its own data arent reliable, the research group said.

Whats wrong, it said, is that FHWA collects and publishes vehicle registration and driver licensure data provided by state officials but big year-to-year fluctuations appear in the date which aren't explained by population changes, law changes, or any other logical factor. The fluctuations are worst for the youngest drivers. We need the federal database, but we urge other researchers to beware until FHWA's reporting problems are fixed, an IIHS researcher said.

Posted by MVHAP at 12:23 PM


State bans on motorcycle riding without a helmet continue to be under attack. Noting a trend over the last several years toward repeal of helmet laws, a NHTSA spokeman said, "The truth is that those who are (proponents) of repeal are far more organized than proponents of mandatory helmet laws." In Michigan the legislature voted earlier this month to repeal the states helmet law, although Gov. Jennifer Granholm supports the law and is expected to veto the repeal bill.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that helmets saved 1,326 lives in 2004 and that another 671 people still might be alive had they worn helmets. Additionally, according to NHTSA, motorcycles make up less than two percent (2%) of all registered vehicles and only 0.4 percent of all vehicle miles traveled, but motorcyclists account for over nine percent (9%) of total traffic fatalities. Fatalities among motorcycle riders have increased by more than 89 percent since 1997.

Posted by MVHAP at 12:20 PM


Two groups dedicated to increasing child safety, Kids and Cars and Safe Moves, are sponsoring a June event in Los Angeles to demonstrate the dangers of leaving children unattended in or around cars, especially during the hot summer months. They are also seeking signature for a petition directed at winning remedial legislation aimed at making vehicles safer for children, who in past have been severely injured by electronically-controlled windows and other child-hostile features. More information is available at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/982684985.

Posted by MVHAP at 12:19 PM


The newest models of child safety seats are easier to use than their predecessors, according to an annual NHTSA survey. The agency rated 99 child safety seats for ease of use from 14 different manufacturers for 2006. Of the 99 seats rated, 85 received an overall score of A. In 2005, 74 percent of rated seats received an overall score of A. Clearer labels and instructions accounted for most of the improvements in 2006. Knowing what rating a child safety or booster seat has is the best way for parents to buy one that is safe, effective and easy to use, said NHTSA Administrator Nicole Nason. The ratings are listed at http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/CPS/CSSRating/Index.cfm

Posted by MVHAP at 12:16 PM


A new study has found that children who were using child restraints were 28 percent less likely to be killed in a crash than children who were wearing seat belts alone. Published in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, the research from the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia studied results for nearly 9,000 children aged two through six involved in serious motor vehicle crashes. When cases of gross misuse of a child restraint were included in the crash analysis -- for example, if the restraint was not attached to the vehicle seat or the child was not wearing the harness, the overall reduction of risk declined to 21 percent.

"For every 100 children who were killed in a crash wearing only a seat belt, 28 of them would have survived if they'd been in a car seat or booster seat," explained study author Dennis Durbin, M.D., M.S.C.E., a pediatric emergency medicine physician and co-scientific director at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention. "These findings build on many years of real-world and laboratory research which has consistently found child restraints to be very effective at preventing injuries."

Posted by MVHAP at 12:13 PM


Despite highest safety belt-use rates in the U.S. , 48 million Americans still fail to buckle up, according to a recently released report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), titled Research Note: Restraint Use Patterns Among Fatally Injured Passenger Vehicle Occupants. The report found the last of the unbuckled to be largely young and male, likely to live in rural areas and/or drive pickup trucks. The release of the report coincided with the national Click It or Ticket crackdown on belt law violators, which ran from May 22nd through June 4th. The law enforcement effort was supported by more than $31 million in national and state ads. The efforts effectiveness has not yet been reported.

Posted by MVHAP at 12:11 PM


Results from the second annual GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test suggest that licensed Americans lack basic driving knowledge and exhibit alarming behaviors on the road, the GM-owned insurer reports.

The study revealed that one in eleven drivers - nearly 18 million people - would fail a state drivers test. Furthermore, the study shows drivers deliberately disregard pedestrians and treat driving as the new down time, where they catch up on the day's activities, diverting their attention from the road, GMAC said, adding that many Americans exhibit shocking driving behaviors that not only endanger themselves, but jeopardize others both on and off the road. Roughly one in three drivers usually do not stop for pedestrians - even if they're in a crosswalk or at a yellow light. The drivers test administered in the study is available at www.gmacinsurance.com.

Posted by MVHAP at 12:09 PM


The The American Beverage Institute (ABI) has encouraged law enforcement officials to target negligent drivers. Negligent driving -- which consists of speeding, distracted driving, and drunk driving -- is the primary reason that the number of highway fatalities per miles traveled went up in 2005 for the first time in 20 years, it said in a press release reacting to a preliminary NHTSA data showing recent crash death increases. Noting that 12,677 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2004 the organization said:

"Even if you set aside the 8,256 drunk drivers who killed themselves, you are left with 4,421 innocent victims of drunk driving, which is unacceptable. Add to that the thousands more who are killed by speeding and distracted drivers, and you have compelling evidence that we need a new approach to traffic safety. The time has come for the nation to come to grips with the negligent driving problem by funding roving patrol units, which hunt down negligent drivers of all kinds.

Posted by MVHAP at 12:04 PM


In a submission to NHTSA, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers has told the agency that until it modifies its planned specifications for required rear-seat head restraints, the companies cannot meet the present effective date of the plan. The Alliance supports the GTR [global technical regulation] process but the technical requirements have not been finalized in time to support the current FMVSS 202a 9/1/08 effective date. GTR process must be empowered to resolve [the Alliance's] petition for reconsideration issues. The Alliance urgently needs NHTSA to execute our Call for Action to finalize the GTR and resolve the remaining items under petition. The issues involve disagreements by the industry with NHTSAs head restraint performance requirements and their resulting impact on design and alleged generation of customer comfort dissatisfaction.

Posted by MVHAP at 12:02 PM


With reports of engine fires in some of its sedans, Nissan North America has told dealers to stop selling four-cylinder Altimas and Sentra SE-Rs made between January and mid-May. The move affects about 100,000 cars, it was reported. Neither the company nor the government has issued a safety recall, but Nissan said owners should regularly check oil levels as the fires are linked to excessive oil consumption. The company has extended the engine warranty on affected vehicles to seven years or 100,000 miles.

Posted by MVHAP at 11:54 AM


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has notified General Motors that a preliminary investigation is underway of the Chevrolet Impala to determine if consumer complaints describing headlight failure with the Impala justify a recall of the vehicle, according to www.ConsumerAffairs.com. The Office of Defect Investigation at NHTSA has received 15 complaints claiming that the headlights on Impalas failed without warning while the cars were operating. Some consumers reported to NHTSA that they were able to restore the headlights by manipulating a malfunction switch on the Impala steering wheel, the website reported.

Posted by MVHAP at 11:53 AM


A Georgia television news team has reported on deaths and injuries related to an alleged defect in Dodge Caravans made prior to 2001. The incidents involve the ability of small children and others to inadvertently shift the vehicles transmission out of park, thus allowing it to roll and in some cases, roll over others in its path. An attorney interviewed by the station, Yehuda Smolar, he is aware of more than two dozen similar cases of death and injury nationwide, always in Chrysler-made vehicles made before 2001.

The problem, Smolar said, is that Chrysler waited until 2001 to do what other car makers had already done -- install a brake shift interlock in its vehicles that requires drivers to press the brake pedal down, after turning the key in the ignition, in order to shift out of park. Smolar reportedly has filed four separate lawsuits against Daimler-Chrysler in connection with the absence of a brake shift interlock. He said that parents should be alerted to the problem.

Posted by MVHAP at 11:49 AM


The Jeep Cherokee has been recent target of defect-related actions by a state and the federal government.

Connecticut has asked federal regulators to probe possible acceleration flaws in late-model Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokees after a 52-year-old man was run over and killed by one in a car wash. According to a Reuters report, Connecticut authorities said they had received several reports of Jeep Grand Cherokees suddenly accelerating out of car washes while changing gears to drive from neutral. Chrysler should release information on any history of Grand Cherokees suddenly or unexpectedly accelerating, said state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and state Democratic Rep. Patricia Widlitz.

"The rate and severity of these sudden acceleration incidents suggest a severe structural flaw -- certainly more than simple coincidence," Blumenthal said in a statement quoted by Reuters. In a separate report, a Chrysler spokesman was quoted as saying that such incidents are usually caused by driver error, specifically drivers who believe they are applying the brakes when they are actually pressing the accelerator. "Claims of sudden unintended acceleration have been made on every make of automobile and are not limited to Jeep Grand Cherokees," the automaker said in a statement.

Meanwhile, according to ConsumerAffairs.com, NHTSA reports that 131,441 of the SUVs from the 2000 to 2002 model years will be returned to dealers to repair the electric cooling fan because the plastic blades on the fan may separate and penetrate the fan shroud.

NHTSA warns that if the Grand Cherokee hood is open when the fan blades come apart, anyone standing near the engine compartment could be struck by a flying blade, possibly suffering serious injury.

Posted by MVHAP at 11:40 AM


The Auto Channel reports that according to the AP, DaimlerChrysler AG is recalling about 111,000 Jeep Grand Cherokees after receiving reports of injuries from fires caused by overheated front seat warmers. The automaker said it had received 32 complaints of the front seat electric heater element overheating or leading to a fire. Fifteen injuries, mostly from burns to the legs, were reported, said DaimlerChrysler spokesman Max Gates. DaimlerChrysler does not know of any crashes or deaths resulting from the defect, Gates said. The automaker has been sued by six individuals asserting reduced sensitivity in their lower extremities, he said.

The recall involves the 2003-2004 model years of the Grand Cherokee sport utility vehicle with heated seats. Owners are expected to receive letters about the recall in July.

In a separate action, Audi AG said it was recalling 54,000 A6 and S6 sedans from the 1998-2000 model years because of concerns about fires in the driver's side dashboard. No accidents or injuries have been reported, spokeswoman Jennifer Cortez said. She said Audi knew of some cases of reported fires but did not have a precise number.

Posted by MVHAP at 11:29 AM


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

Spartan 2007, K224360-025 Motor Homes (Thu, 08 Jun 2006) On certain motor homes equipped with TRW manual steering columns, the steering column has an incorrect bushing that does not properly limit the travel of the steering column. The reduced engagement of the column tubing may limit the driver's capability to control the steering increasing the risk of a crash.

Jeep 2000-2002 Grand Cherokee Sport Utility Vehicles (Tue, 06 Jun 2006) On certain sport utility vehicles, the plastic blades of the electric motor driven cooling fan may separate and penetrate the shroud. If this occurs while the hood is open, a person in the vicinity of the engine could be struck by the blade and injured.

Jeep 2003-2004 Grand Cherokee Sport Utility Vehicles (Tue, 06 Jun 2006) On certain sport utility vehicles equipped with heated seats, the front passenger seat electric heater element could overheat. Overheating could potentially cause a fire.

Harley Davidson Sportster 1200R, 883R 2004-2005 Motorcycles (Fri, 02 Jun 2006) On certain motorcycles, the front master brake cylinder assembly had been built with inadequate lubrication on the secondary cup. This could cause the sliding resistance of the piston to be excessive, which in turn could cause the return of the piston to be slow upon release of the brake. The piston may not return completely. If this happens, the rear brake light could remain illuminated which could cause a crash or injuries.

Audi 1998-2000 A6, A6 Avant, S6, and S6 Avant Passenger Vehicles (Fri, 02 Jun 2006) On certain passenger vehicles, while performing the remedial repair for recall 04V133000, if the plastic cover is not securely installed to the driver's side support crossmember, the headlight switch wiring harness could come into contact with the crossmember. This could lead to an electrical short in the harness, which could lead to a fire in the driver's side dashboard area.

Carquest, National 515058 Hub Assemblies for 2001-2006 GMC 1500, 2500 Trucks (Thu, 01 Jun 2006) Certain Federal-Mogul National and Carquest aftermarket hub assemblies, P/N 515058, sold for use on 2001-2006 General Motors 1500 and 2500 4WD trucks. On the subject hub assemblies, the ABS sensor cord departs from the hub assembly at a 90 degree angle. As a result, there is a fit issue with the brake rotor dust shield interfering with the ABS sensor cord. If the hub assembly is installed despite this interference, the gap between the ABS sensor and the tone wheel may be altered. This may weaken the output of the ABS sensor. Diminished output could result in an unwanted ABS activation at low speeds and stopping distance could be affected. If stopping distance is limited, a vehicle crash could occur.

Firestone Destination Passenger Tires (Wed, 31 May 2006) Certain Firestone Destination A/T P265/75R16 passenger tires manufactured between January 29 and February 4, 2006 . Due to an improper machine setup, the tires may have been produced with a damaged innerliner which could result in a small area on the inside of the tire to have no innerliner coverage. Tires built under such conditions may experience air permeation into the body of the tire. Over time, this may lead to tread separation and air loss, possibly resulting in a vehicle crash.

Toyota 2004-2006 Prius (Tue, 30 May 2006) The intermediate shaft and sliding yoke in the electric power steering system can crack when large forces are applied and the connection may separate or the sleeve may fracture. This could result in a loss of steering control of the vehicle.

Collins 2005 Bantam, Grand Bantam and Super Bantam School Buses (Fri, 26 May 2006) Certain 2005 Bantam, Super Bantam, and Grand Bantam school buses manufactured between June 10 and September 28, 2005, equipped with Ricon model S20005 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 this condition occurs during passenger operations it may not be possible to close the lift door causing hte vehicle interlocks to remain engaged preventing movement of the vehicle or the ability to load or unload passengers with disabilities from the vehicle. This may result in injury or death.

Kawasaki 2006 ZX1400A6F Motorcycles (Fri, 26 May 2006) On certain motorcycles, the bolts holding the vehicle down sensor may come loose and allow the sensor to fall out of its mounting bracket. If the bolts loosen and the vehicle down sensor comes out of its bracket, the engine may stop during the vehicle operation creating hte potential for a crash resulting in injury or death.

Volkswagen 1998-2002 Jetta and New Beetle Passenger Vehicles (Wed, 24 May 2006) On certain passenger vehicles, a brake light switch on these vehicles may malfunction if it was installed incorrectly during safety recalls 03V-265 or 04V-096. The brake lights could become inoperative, or remain on. Failure to provide the proper signal when braking could lead to a crash without warning.

Chevrolet 2005-2006 Corvettes (Wed, 24 May 2006) On certain 2005-2006 Chevrolet Corvettes equipped with painted roofs, the adhesive between the roof panel and the frame may separate. If there is a complete separation, the roof panel may detach from the vehicle and it could strike another vehicle and cause injury and property damage.

Terex HR37 and HR40 Aerial Devices (Tue, 23 May 2006) Certain Terex aerial devices P/Nos. HR37 and HR40 installed on trucks to transport the aerial device to the work site. These units have a pivot plate at turntable that may fail during use. Failure of this pivot plate may cause the platform to upset during use and cause the occupant to be ejected. This can cause death or serious injury.

CK Motorsport Bumper Light, Clear Corner, Combination Headlights (Mon, 22 May 2006) Certain CK Motorsports combination headlights, clear corner, bumper and side marker lights sold as replacement lamps for use on passenger vehicles. Some combination lamps that are not equipped with amber side reflectors fail to conform to Federal Motor vehicle Safety Standard No. 108, Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment. Without the amber reflectors, the vehicle will be poorly illuminated, possibly resulting in a vehicle crash without warning.

Reinke 2005-2006 Trailers (Mon, 22 May 2006) On certain combination steel/aluminum flatbed, dropdeck, and aluminum flatbed trailers equipped with mounted toolboxes, each toolbox is attached to the trailer with a mounting system that includes two aluminum brackets which may have developed fatigue cracks along the bend radius lines. Small cracks may further develop based on trailer usage. The bracket may break causing the toolbox to separate from the trailer. If the toolbox separates from the trailer while the trailer is in motion, vehicles on the road are at risk of collision with the toolbox and its contents.

Keystone 2000-2006 NRG, Raptor, Tail-Gator and Hideout Recreational Vehicles (Mon, 22 May 2006) On certain recreational vehicles equipped with a 9 Volt battery operated carbon monoxide (CO) detector, if the battery in the detector goes dead or is removed, the detector will not function and therefore can not warn the occupants if CO reaches a harmful level. If CO reaches a harmful level, serious illness or death could result to the occupants.

Reinke 223021 Aluminum Toolbox Brackets (Mon, 22 May 2006) Certain Reinke aluminum toolbox brackets, P/No. 223021, sold as aftermarket equipment for use on Reinke trailers. During manufacture, the bend radius of the brackets was too small resulting in brackets with greatly reduced fatigue life. Small cracks may develop along the bend radius lines of the brackets if installed as part of the toolbox mounting system. The cracks may further develop and the brackets may break causing the toolbox to separate from the trailer. If the toolbox separates from the trailer while the trailer is in motion, vehicles on the road are at risk of collision with the toolbox and its contents and a vehicle crash could occur without warning.

Posted by MVHAP at 11:12 AM