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July 13, 2006


A Washington Post writer, Al Kamen, reports that the Bush Administration shortly will announce that Susan Dudley, described by Clean Air Watch as a true anti-regulation zealot, is becoming the new director of OMB. Dudley currently directs regulatory studies at George Mason University s Mercatus Center , which has a record of opposing proposed federal rules to increase safety and health. For example, Mercatus opposed tougher limits for truck driver behind-the-wheel time. A staunchly anti-regulatory center, it is funded largely by Koch Industries, the huge oil and gas group that contributes heavily to the GOP.

Dudley would replace cost-benefit champion John Graham, whose appointment to the OMB directorship by Bush during his first term was opposed by groups working to improve health, safety and the environment. Now, the Washington Post said, the same groups are already pining for Graham.

Posted by MVHAP at 03:24 PM


In a paper published in the Journal of Public Health Policy, a leading motor vehicle injury epidemiologist, Leon Robertson, has found fundamental errors in data and historical assertions contained in a book by a former GM employee that disparages air bag and other vehicle safety standards. The paper, Motor Vehicle Deaths: Failed Policy Analysis and Neglected Policy, notes that in the book Traffic Safety, Leonard Evans inferred that the slowed decline in US vehicle fatality rates in the 1990 s relative to other industrialized countries resulted from too much emphasis on vehicle factors. He claimed that Canada had the same vehicle mix but a lower fatality rate.

Robertson wrote that, "Actually, US death rates by make and model applied to Canadian vehicle sales indicates that Canada's death rate would be the same as the US if Canada had the same vehicle mix and annual miles driven. The US had much greater growth in sales of large SUVs and pickup trucks that are heavier and stiffer than passenger cars, contributing to excess deaths of other road users in collisions. They are also more unstable, contributing to excess deaths of their occupants in rollovers. Lack of policy regarding these vehicle characteristics is the primary reason for the attenuated decline in vehicular fatality rates."

For Robertson's table of vehicle make-models with lowest crash death rates, click on the Consumer Information box on the home page of this site.

Posted by MVHAP at 03:22 PM


A University of Michigan law professor has charged, in a New York Times op-ed, that showing that since 2001 Congress has enacted 27 laws that pre-empt state authority in areas from air pollution to consumer protection.

“Federal environmental and health rules have historically provided a floor of minimum protection. States, for their part, have led the way on countless matters, from requiring health insurers to cover mammograms to stringently regulating mercury emissions from power plants, she noted. So why is the federal government suddenly trying to block state efforts to protect public health -- through bureaucratic actions largely outside the public view? The unfortunate result is that big businesses' revenues are being shielded, while protections for consumers and the environment are being stripped away,” she writes.

Safety advocates have charged that NHTSA’s current proposal to limit vehicle roof-crush injury lawsuits against manufacturers meeting the agency's proposed roof-crush regulation, FMVSS 216, is an example of the problem described by Prof. Mendelson. (Visit Current Development archives for stories related to the roof-crush proposal.)

Posted by MVHAP at 03:19 PM


Researcher members of the European Road Accident Working Group, a project of the EU and WHO, has published a paper defining and proposing a common set of indicators to monitor road accidents in the European Union. Currently, they state, road accidents are mostly monitored through mortality and injury rates. They identified fourteen indicators after a review of the information collected at the EU level, each of them representing a specific aspect of the DPSEEA (Driving, Pressure, State, Exposure, Effect, Action) model applied and adapted to the road accidents.

They found eleven of the indicators to be relevant and compatible with the criteria of selection, and proposed them for a feasibility study. "Mortality, injury, road accident rate, age of vehicle fleet, and distance traveled are the indicators recommended for immediate implementation. After overcoming the limitations that emerged (absence of a common definition of death by road accident and injury severity, underestimation of injuries, differences in information quality) this core set of indicators will allow Member States to carry out effective internal/external comparisons over time." The paper citation is BMC Public Health 2006, 6:183 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-183.

Posted by MVHAP at 03:17 PM


The Detroit News reports that Safety Research and Strategies Inc., a Massachusetts-based consulting group, has told NHTSA that at least five severe accidents have been caused by recalled Firestone tires that remained on Explorers, resulting in two fatalities. "Because of the millions of tires affected, even a small fraction of these uncaptured tires put into service poses an acute hazard and represents an enormous potential for human loss," Sean Kane, who heads to group, wrote.

Widely-publicized recalls of the tires in 2000 and 2001 were sparked by a spate of rollover accidents that killed an estimated 270 people. An initial request by Kane's group on June 21 prompted NHTSA to begin a high-level review of the issue to determine the extent to which the problem continues. The Detroit News article suggests that spare tires that were not turned in during the earlier recalls and have since been mounted on Explorers may be contributing to current crashes and injuries.

Posted by MVHAP at 03:14 PM


According to a Detroit News article, Toyota Motor Corp. will spend millions to deactivate front-seat passenger air bag cut-off switches in nearly 160,000 Tundra pickups to avoid having to install a costlier child safety seat anchoring system.

The action, which CNN called "totally bizarre", is prompted by NHTSA's rejection of Toyota 's petition to waive a federal safety regulation that requires most vehicles built after September 2002 and equipped with the cut-off switch to also have a child seat anchor system known as LATCH for lower anchorages and tethers for children. The regulation was meant to ensure that child seats stay in place in a crash, especially in vehicles with smaller rear-seating, such as pickups.

Child seats aren't allowed in front seats that don't have an airbag cut-off switch, which activates the airbag only if it senses an adult is in the passenger seat. Deactivating the switch means the air bag will always deploy, making it unsafe to ever put a child in the front seat. Toyota will voluntarily recall the pickups, beginning in mid-September, after completing engineering of the parts to deactivate the air bag cut-off switch, a Toyota spokesperson told the Detroit News.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety told the newspaper that Toyota shouldn't be allowed to simply deactivate the switches. Toyota 's failure to provide the latches "is not merely an incidental statistical artifact but a clear and present danger to the children who ride in child restraints in the front passenger seats of those vehicles," it said. Calling the recall "totally bizarre", CNN asked, "Why would Toyota issue a recall designed to make vehicles less safe?"

Posted by MVHAP at 03:11 PM


Two articles in the Los Angeles times, Ovens We Drive and Trying to Save Kids in Hot Cars, have documented the hazards of overheated auto interiors during warm-weather months, especially for children. Reporter Ralph Vartabedian found that child deaths from heat exposure in cars doubled from 20 annually in the mid-1990s to 40 in 2004. Last year, the number stood at 35.

The reason? "After small children were killed by powerful air bags in the early 1990s", Vertabedian writes, "the federal government issued a recommendation put all babies in rear-facing carriers in the rear seat and put young children in the rear seat, as well. Deaths dropped from a peak of 60 in 1995 to zero by 2002. The solution included a new generation of air bags. Mission accomplished. But there was an unintended consequence. Parents somehow began to forget they put their babies in those rear-facing seats. And when these kids were left trapped in cars parked in the sun, they were handed a death sentence… Even on a day with moderate temperatures, a car's indoor air can reach more than 160 degrees. A car can heat up to a fatal temperature within 10 to 15 minutes on a hot day. Children have died in cars even on days when the outdoor temperature was as low as 70 degrees."

The articles explore in detail some possible countermeasures, including a once-available solar-powered air circulation system that kicks in when parked cars become overheated. Also discussed is an alarm that is triggered when adults are exiting cars with children still in the rear seating area.

Posted by MVHAP at 03:01 PM


NHTSA says that current-model child seats are easier to use than previous-year models. In a press release and link to the ratings, NHTSA 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, the agency said.

Posted by MVHAP at 02:59 PM


Researchers at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health have found in a new study that while graduated driver licensing programs reduce the incidence of fatal crashes of 16-year-old drivers by an average of eleven percent, the most comprehensive programs are achieving about a 20 percent reduction based on crash injury data. Programs defined by the researchers as the most comprehensive programs include at least five of seven components:

- A minimum age of 15 1/2 for obtaining a learner permit
- A waiting period after obtaining a learner permit of at least 3 months before applying for an intermediate license
- A minimum of 30 hours of supervised driving
- Minimum age of at least 16 years for obtaining an intermediate state license
- Minimum age of at least 17 years for full licensing
- A nighttime driving restriction
- A restriction on carrying passengers

At present 36 states have graduated teen licensing programs, among which the requirements vary.

Posted by MVHAP at 02:53 PM


Forbes reports that a new study finds driving on cell phones worse than driving while drunk.

University of Utah researchers found that maneuvering through traffic while talking on the phone increases the likelihood of an accident five-fold and is actually more dangerous than driving drunk, whether the driver was holding a cell phone or using a hands-free device, Forbes.com said.

The research report, which appears in the summer issue of the journal Human Factors, found that under test driving conditions, drivers on cell phones were 5.36 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers. There were three accidents among those talking on cell phones -- all of them involving a rear-ending of the pace car. In contrast, there were no accidents recorded among participants who were drunk, or the sober, cell-phone-free group. In the test, 40 drivers followed a pace car. Some were drunk, some were sober and talking on cell phones, and some were sober and not on cell phones.

Posted by MVHAP at 02:51 PM


The National Transportation Safety Board, in a series of letters to state highway departments and other agencies, has strongly recommended adoption of procedures and practices to address the inconsistency in regulatory requirements and guidance concerning falsework, bracing, and related temporary construction affecting highway construction contractors, and State oversight of highway contractors and subcontractors. The detailed recommendations grew out of a May 2004 collision on I-70 in Golden, Colorado, when a girder collapsed, shearing an SUV in two and killing all three occupants, including a two-year-old child. NTSB said the collapse was due to preventable deficiencies in the girder and its bracing.

Posted by MVHAP at 02:49 PM


The U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. has rejected challenges by Public Citizen and Center for Auto Safety to NHTSA's regional recall policy. The two advocacy groups had challenged the policy as an attempt to change federal law without public notice or comment, ConsumerAffairs.com noted.

The practices allows auto companies to limit certain recalls by region, and some states have objected to the practice. In November 2005, Wisconsin Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager asked the Department of Transportation to make all recalls national. She cited a regional recall by General Motors Corp. in August 2005 that included bordering states Illinois and Michigan but excluded Wisconsin. "Many consumers find regional recalls confusing and infuriating. GM has recalled 1,357,000 pickups and SUVs because of a problem with the brakes but continues to insist that the problem with its anti-lock system is regionally based," ConsumerAffairs.com said. "The automaker claims the braking problems stem from road salt in cold-weather states. But truck and SUV owners in 30 states not covered by a GM regional recall continue to struggle with malfunctioning anti-lock brakes."

Posted by MVHAP at 02:47 PM


ConsumerAffairs.com reports that the Chrysler Pacifica is the focus of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation because the engines might stall in some models. The probe covers approximately 147,000 vehicles and began in February after federal regulators received 60 complaints. Both computer software and defective fuel pumps are thought to be the likely cause of the stalling.

Posted by MVHAP at 02:46 PM


According to a report on ConsumerAffairs.com, is investigating the 2005 and 2006 Toyota Scion tC following nine reports of shattered moonroofs. NHTSA told Consumer affairs that fragments of the shattered moonroofs fell into the passenger compartment. In seven incidents, the glass fell from retractable glass panel sections and in two incidents the glass in stationary panels shattered. Toyota recalled several models of the Scion tC last year because of consumer complaints that a glass wind deflector located near the moonroof might shatter when struck by road debris. That recall involved about 71,000 Scion tC coupes in the U.S. that were also from the 2005-06 model years.

Posted by MVHAP at 02:44 PM


Toyota quality-control managers are the focus of a criminal investigation in Japan into whether they downplayed reports of steering problems at the automaker in the mid-1990s, ConsumerAffairs.com reports. "The steering flaw was cited as the possible cause of a serious accident in Japan that eventually led to a recall by Toyota of more than 1 million vehicles last year. Five people were injured, one of them seriously, in Kumamoto in August 2004 when the steering of a Toyota Hilux Surf SUV failed and it hit another vehicle. The SUV was built in 1993."

Toyota earlier announced the recall of 1.2 million vehicles sold all over the world. The automaker said there were 18 reports of problems with the vehicles overseas but no injuries. Police investigators are looking into whether the quality control managers were negligent in dismissing early reports of steering problems with Toyota vehicles.

Posted by MVHAP at 02:37 PM


Edmonds.com and Automotive News report that Nissan North America could face a hefty price tag of at least $1600 per vehicle to remedy a defect in 96,800 Nissan Altimas and Sentras of the 2006 model year which may consume an inordinate amount of oil and cause engine fires. ``We have not made a blanket statement that we will replace all the engines, but we are saying we will make the customer satisfied - whatever it takes,'' a Nissan spokesman was quoted as saying ``Fix it, repair it, replace it - whatever is necessary.''

Nissan has not pinpointed the problem with the engines or determined how widespread it might be. At least 274 reports of excessive oil consumption and 24 engine fires have been reported to the company. Nissan ordered dealers to stop selling the vehicles on June 2. It issued the recall on June 13. Approximately 33,500 of the cars are in dealer inventory. But consumers have 57,700 of the cars. Those engines probably will be repaired at dealerships, requiring additional dealer labor charges to Nissan. Nissan has about 5,600 of the cars.

Posted by MVHAP at 02:35 PM


Dodge 2006 Durango Vehicles (Thu, 06 Jul 2006 ) On certain sport utility vehicles, the left rear suspension watts link may have been damaged during vehicle assembly and could fail. A failed watts link could adversely affect vehicle handling and cause a crash without warning.

Nissan 2003 Altima, Sentra Vehicles (Wed, 28 Jun 2006) On certain passenger vehicles equipped with a 2.5l engine, a variation in temperature occurs due to the unique location of the sensor in the engine. Under certain driving conditions, these variations in temperature can be large enough to cause a brief interruption in the signal output from the sensor. If the interruption in the signal from the sensor is so brief that the electronic control module (ECM) logic does not have time to diagnose the condition, the engine may stop running without warning while the vehicle is driven at a low speed increasing the risk of a crash.

Truck Equipment 2006 Cornhusker 800 Vehicles (Wed, 28 Jun 2006) On certain trailers equipped with Holland suspensions, the suspension beam casting may have a crack at the inboard, upper flange near the shock mount. As the beam crack grows, the suspension may lose alignment. The driver will experience difficulties in driving increasing the risk of a crash.

Sprinter 2006 2500, 3500 Vehicles (Wed, 28 Jun 2006 ) On certain trucks built on dodge and freightliner chassis, the brake fluid used was contaminated with coolant. Due to the high water content the boiling point of the subject brake fluid is reduced. This may affect the proper function of the brake system during hard braking situations and may lead to an increasing brake distance which could result in a crash.

Nanjing Kumho Tire Co. Road Venture AT-KL78 and HT-824 Tires (Tue, 27 Jun 2006) Certain Nanjing Kumho Road Venture HT-824 and Road Venture AT-KL78 light truck tires manufactured between January 15 and December 24, 2005. these tires may develop a noticeable blister on the sidewall, which may eventually result in tire air pressure loss. Driving on an underinflated tire could result in a vehicle crash.

Toyota FJ Cruiser 2007 Passenger Vehicles (Mon, 26 Jun 2006) On certain passenger vehicles equipped with either Bridgestone Dueler or Dunlop Grandtrek tires, there is a possibility that the inner bead of the tire may have been damaged. If the bead is damaged, a bulge may develop on the sidewall of the tire and air may leak from the area of the damaged bead. If the tire loses air pressure it may lead to a loss of vehicle control and increase the possibility of a crash.

Damon Challenger, Intruder, Outlaw 2005-2007 Motor Homes (Mon, 26 Jun 2006) Certain motor homes built on Workhorse chassis may have been equipped with incorrect steering intermediate shafts. The spline can strip while the steering wheel is being turned. This steering condition could result in a loss of steering control, increasing the risk of a crash.

IC 2006-2007 RESB School Buses (Fri, 23 Jun 2006) Certain 2006 and 2007 IC RESB (PB305) school buses manufactured between July 1, 2005, and May 6, 2006. A joint at the rear of the bus where the Davenport is attached to the floor does not meet the joint strength requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 221, School Bus Body Joint Strength. In the event of a vehicle creash, the body structure of the bus could collapse, possibly resulting in serious injury to the bus occupants.

Hyundai Sonata 2006 Passenger Vehicles (Wed, 21 Jun 2006) On certain passenger vehicles, the air bag warning label installed on the sunvisors had lost adhesion to the sunvisors and had distorted or separated from the sun visors. If the labels are distorted or missing, the driver or front seat passenger will not have information available that may help protect them in the event of a crash.

Holiday Rambler 2006-2007 Admiral SE and Vacationer, Monaco Coach 2006-2007 Lapalma, Monarch, and Monarch SE, and Safari 2006-2007 Simba and Trek Motor Home Chassis (Wed, 21 Jun 2006) Certain motor home chassis built on workhorse chassis may have been equipped with incorrect steering intermediate shafts. The spline can strip while the steering wheel is being turned. This steering condition could result in a loss of steering control, increasing the risk of a crash.

Unimog 2003-2005 U500 (Tue, 20 Jun 2006) On certain trucks equipped with automatic shift, air may leak into the clutch hydraulic system at the central release bearing seal preventing the clutch from opening completely and potentially preventing the transmission from shifting into neutral. Failure of the clutch to open completely or the transmission to shift into neutral could make the vehicle difficulty to bring to a complete stop or cause the vehicle to roll forward while stopped increasing the risk of a crash.

AAI Motorsports Combination Lamps Sold for Acura 1990-2001 Integra,Audi 1995-2000 A4, BMW 1992-2003 E36, Chevrolet 1994-2006 C10, S10, and Silverado, Dodge 1994-2001 Neon and Ram, Ford 1994-2006 Expedition, F150, and Mustang, Honda 1988-2006 Accord, Civic, CRX, Del Sol, and Prelude, Infiniti 2003-2004 G35, Mitsubishi 1995-2003 Eclipse, Subaru 2002-2006 WRX, Toyota 1998-2006 Scion XB and Solara and Volkswagen 1998-2002 Beetle Passenger Vehicles. (Tue, 20 Jun 2006 ) Certain AAI Motorsports combination lamps sold as replacement lamps for use on the above list passenger vehicles. Combination lamps not equipped with amber side reflectors fail to conform wtih the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108, "Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment." Lack of amber side reflectors in the lamps will decrease lighting visibility to other drivers and may possibly result in a vehicle crash.

KAS 9006, 9007, H3, H4 HID Conversion Kits (Tue, 20 Jun 2006 ) Certain Autoxtyle HID conversion kits, model nos. KAS H4, 9007, 9006, and H3, sold as aftermarket for use on passenger vehicles. The bulbs in these conversion kits fail to conform to the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle safety Standard No. 108, Lamps, reflective devices, and associated equipment. Oncoming traffic may experience a higher than normal amount of glare which could affect driver's vision, possibly resulting in a vehicle crash without warning.

Holiday Rambler Admiral SE, Traveler, Vacationer; Monaco/Monaco Coach Lapalma, Monarch SE; Safari Simba and Trek Gas 2003=2005 Motor Homes (Mon, 19 Jun 2006) Certain motor homes built on Workhorse chassis and equipped with Actia corporate instrument cluster 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 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 increasing the risk of a crash.

Coachmen 2007 Epic and Georgie Boy 2006 Cruisemaster and Landau Motor Homes (Mon, 19 Jun 2006) Certain motor homes built on workhorse chassis may have been equipped with incorrect steering intermediate shafts. The spline can strip while the steering wheel is being turned. This steering condition could result in a loss of steering control, increasing the risk of a crash.

Mercedes SLR McLaren 2005-2006 Passenger Vehicles (Fri, 16 Jun 2006) On certain passenger vehicles, under hard operating conditions, the engine compartment temperature can increase to a level which exceeds the design parameters for the alternator to not function and it will become damaged. This will create the potential for an engine compartment fire.

Keystone Outback, Springdale 2007 Travel Trailers (Fri, 16 Jun 2006) On certain travel trailers equipped with Tekonsha emergency brake breakaway switches sold by Cequent, an electrical switching component may cause the breakaway device to fail or to operate improperly. In the case of a separation of the trailer from the towing vehicle, a failure of the breakaway switch may prevent the trailer brakes from activating possibly resulting in a vehicle crash.

Tekonsha 2010 Breakaway Switches (Fri, 16 Jun 2006) Certain Tekonsha brand breakaway switches, model 2010 (with various model number suffixes) 2010-23, 2010-ATK, 2010-B-Prime, 2010-B-125, 2010-B125-B, 2010-B125-BG, 2010-NAPA-S, 2010-P, AND 2010-S-BSI, manufactured in Taiwan and were sold both as individual units and as components in breakaway kits. These switches were sold by Cequent as original equipment and in the aftermarket for trailer applications. An electrical switching component may cause the breakaway device to fail or to operate improperly. In the case of a separation of the trailer from the towing vehicle, a failure of the breakaway switch may prevent the trailer brakes from activating possibly resulting in a vehicle crash.

Chevrolet Impala (GMX 211) 2006 Passenger Vehicles (Wed, 14 Jun 2006) Certain vehicles equipped with a manual passenger seat adjuster fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 210, Seat belt assembly anchorages. The left floor mounting bracket may be mislocated. In a severe vehicle crash, the seat adjuster may separate from the mounting bracket, increasing the risk of occupant injury.

Fleetwood Bounder, Flair, Pace Arrow, Southwind, Storm 2005-2006 Motor Homes (Wed, 14 Jun 2006) On certain class A motor homes built on Workhorse chassis may have been equipped with incorrect steering intermediate shafts. The spline can strip while the steering wheel is being turned. This steering condition could result in a loss of steering control, increasing the risk of a crash.

Chevrolet 1999-2002 Silverado, and Depo 332-1182L-AS and 332-1182R-AS Headlight Assemblies (Fri, 09 Jun 2006) Certain Maxzone headlight assemblies, Depo brand, P/NOS. 332-1182L-AS and 332-1182R-AS, sold for use as aftermarket equipment for 1999-2000 Chevrolet Silverados. These headlamps fail to conform to the photometric requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108, Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment. Decreased lighting visibility may result in a vehicle crash.

Posted by MVHAP at 02:14 PM