Saturday, January 19, 2008

Backover Children Injury Prevention

Vehicle backover injuries and deaths occur when someone, usually a child, is positioned behind a vehicle as the driver is backing out of a driveway or any other parking spot. Combine this situation with a lack of awareness from the driver as to that person's presence, maybe because of a blindspot or simple recklessness, and you have a recipe for disaster. Sadly, more often than not, the driver is often a neighbor or relative of the victim. However, since these accidents are not classified as traffic accidents, it is difficult to get the experts to agree on the statistics. This is of course the first step, to study in depth these occurrences.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report released on November 13, 2006 confirms that there are thousands of injuries and at least 183 deaths each year due to backovers. Since 1994, at least 500 children have died from being backed over, and the safety group Kids and Cars estimates that 50 children are backed over every week and at least two are killed as a result. According to Janette Fennell, founder and president of Kids and Cars, in about 70% of cases, the child is backed over by a parent, grandparent or neighbor.

Like others, I believe the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration needs to set a standard for rear visibility that all passenger vehicles must meet, since the the lack of rearward visibility obviously plays an important part in these tragedies. Larger rear-view mirrors, rear sensors or cameras are some of the options that vehicle manufacturers may study in meeting new, stricter standards regarding rearward visibility.

Safety Tips for Parents

Keeping your children out of harm's way requires ongoing education, supervision, and vigilance: there simply is no single fail-safe solution. However, safety experts advise employing the following strategies to help reduce the risk of a backover tragedy occurring:

• Ensure your children are properly supervised at all times, especially wherever motor vehicles might be present.

• Teach children not to play in, under, or around vehicles -- ever.

• Always assume children could be present and carefully check the street, driveway, and area around your vehicle before backing out.

• Avoid making your driveway a "playground." If you do allow children in this area, make sure that it's only when there are no vehicles present. To further protect children who may be outside playing, separate the driveway from the roadway with a physical barrier to prevent any cars from entering.

• To prevent curious children from ever putting a vehicle in gear, never leave vehicles running, and keep all vehicles, even those in driveways and garages, locked up tight.

• When backing up, always know where all children are and have them stay in your full view and well away from your vehicle.
• Look behind you as you back out S-L-O-W-L-Y with your windows rolled down to listen for children who may have dashed behind your vehicle suddenly -- and be prepared to stop!

• If you're driving an SUV or truck, remember that the blind spot behind your vehicle can be especially large: use extreme care whenever you back up.

Finally, talk with neighborhood parents about backover incidents and ask them to teach their children not to play in or around any vehicle or driveway. By working together to promote awareness and protective home and neighborhood environments, we can help to keep all our children safe.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cell Phone Distraction

These days you cannot imagine life without your cell phone by your side. The benefits they provide are many. Although they play an integral role in our society, they can also pose a serious hazard if used while driving.

A survey released in January 2007 by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. showed that 73 percent of drivers operate their vehicles while talking on their cell phones. It has been proven time and again that cell phone use greatly distracts drivers whether it is a hands-free or hand-held cell phone. Engaging in conversation with a passenger is just as distracting, but less dangerous since at least your passenger adds another set of eyes and ears to the road. The person at the other end of the line has no idea whether you are in slow or fast traffic, what maneuvers you are undertaking nor how much of your attention they require.

Researchers at the University of Utah found that drivers using cell phones experience a decrease in the ability to process peripheral vision which slows reaction time by 20%. The study concludes that driving talking on your cell phone (wether hands-free or hand-held) is just as dangerous as driving drunk. Likewise, a study released in April 2006 and conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found that nearly 80 percent of car accidents involved some form of driver inattention (the most common of which is the use of cell phones) within three seconds of the event.

Driving is an activity into itself that requires your full attention. Moreover, driving is the most
dangerous activity you will undertake in your day and is one of the leading causes of death in the world. If the time of day you are most likely to die is while driving your vehicle, shouldn't you be paying attention?

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Good, the Bad...and the Highest Selling

So what was the safest and highest rated vehicle in the year 2007? Well that honor is shared by the Audi A4, the Acura RL and the SAAB 9-3, according to Forbes. These three vehicles got the highest-possible safety ratings, including by the Department of Transportation. You can view the 2007-2008 Acura RL NHTSA test results here.

For its' frontal crash test (no offset crash tests are performed by this entity), NHTSA crashes vehicles into a fixed barrier at 35 miles per hour. The number of stars awarded corresponds to the probability of serious injuries to the driver and passenger (represented by highly sophisticated crash test dummies), 1 being the poorest and five the most successful. The Acura RL was awarded 5 stars, which means a probability of 10% or less of serious injury occurring under those circumstances.

Watch the Acura RL's frontal crash test;

Now, compare it to the lowest scoring, and hence the most dangerous, 2007 Buick
Rendezvous. It was awarded three out of five stars in its' front crash test, equivalent to 21% to 35% chance of serious injury.

Check out the Buick Rendezvous' frontal crash test;

Of course, frontal crash test scores are not everything. Look at the 2007 Buick Rendezvous complete NHTSA test results here. Ford has stated that the Buick Rendezvous will not be coming back for 2008.

Another noteworthy vehicle has to be the highest selling not only for 2007, but for over two decades, the Ford F-150. Watch the Ford F-150's frontal crash test against a fixed barrier at 35 mph;

You can also view the 2007 Ford F-150 NHTSA crash test results here.

Windshield Safety

While you may think of your vehicle's windshield simply as the front window, it is also as much a vital part of your car's overall restraint system as are the seat belts and air bags. It is intended to keep you and your passengers inside the vehicle in the event of an accident. The glass the windshield is made of sandwiches a layer of "PVB" (polyvinyl butyrate), which among other things prevents the shattering of the glass layers, thus helping avoid intrusion of outside objects, as well as ejection through it by any occupant. This "PVB" layers also helps absorb some of the energy of an occupant colliding against it, helping decrease severity of injury.

The windshield is also an integral part of your vehicle's structure, as it helps supports the roof, adding to the structural integrity of the passenger compartment and against roof crush. Roof crush is when the roof collapses under the weight of the vehicle and crushes the occupants, such as would occur during a rollover. Imagine what would happen to a cardbox cube if you remove one of its' sides, and you get the idea.

In addition to the above, the windshield helps supports the passenger side airbag during deployment in many new models. In these models, the deploying passenger side air bag will contact the windshield fist, before being properly positioned.

These are all important considerations when judging the condition of your vehicle's windshield. Therefore, do not put off replacing it just because that crack is not obstructing your vision.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

10 Basic Resources to Search

I have compiled a list of what I consider basic automotive safety related resources. Hopefully you will find it useful to make reference to and compare safety features and performance of motor vehicles, components and equipment by manufacturer and model. I have also included a Quick Reference Guide to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and Regulations to which we have made so much reference to in this blog. I will update and add to this list periodically.

1. Search available safety features by manufacturer and model;

2. Search Warranty and Roadside Assistance Coverage by manufacturer;

3. Search vehicle recalls by manufacturer and model;

4. Search recalls by vehicle equipment manufacturers;

5. Search child safety seat recalls;

6. Search tire recalls by manufacturer and model;

7. NHTSA Crash Test results by manufacturer;

8. Search the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests videos by manufacturer and model;

9. Search the vehicles that have fared best and worst in protecting the driver in real world accidents by manufacturer and model;

10. Search a Quick Reference Guide to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and