Distracted driving fatalities decreased slightly in 2012 according to the latest fatality analysis by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
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For the first time in seven years, the number of fatalities on U.S. roadways increased 5.3 percent last year to 34,080 deaths, according to preliminary data by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The family of a woman who was killed during a head on collision, while riding in a 1993 Mazda MPV, has been given a green light to file a suit against the vehicle manufacturer, blaming it as partly responsible for her death.
Thann Williamson, was riding in the back of the MPV in 2002 when it was struck by another vehicle. Ms Williamson, the only occupant in the vehicle wearing a lap belt, was killed as a result of the crash, the other passengers, wearing three-point shoulder belts, survived.
The Williamson family claims that if Thann had been wearing a shoulder belt like the rest of the occupants, she would be alive today and believes that Mazda put cost considerations before safety. At the time the MPV was built, shoulder belts for the center rear seat rider were not mandatory in the US and the Hiroshima based company maintains that it was perfectly within Federal safety requirements of the time.
California Courts dismissed the Williamson case, relying on evidence from a 2000 decision, where American Honda was the target in a case involving the option of installing airbags in relation to automobile injuries.
The ruling in that particular case said that injury suits brought under state law challenging the failure to install air bags stood as an obstacle to the objectives of federal safety regulations, which were said to be the maintenance of manufacturers’ choices.
Both cases were authored by Justice Stephen G. Breyer and although he argued both were similar in scope, airbag regulations enacted by the Feds foreclosed the filing of injury suits, whereas in the case of seat belts, regulators had a mandate to pursue a standard restraint system for all seats, convinced that shoulder belts would result in increased safety. As a result, the Government urged the Supreme Court to bar the 2000 hearing of Geiger versus Honda, but allowed the Williamson case to proceed.
It will be interesting to see if similar suits regarding injuries or fatalities result from accidents involving older vehicles will be brought to trial in the same fashion.
[Source: The New York Times]
In August 2009 veteran California Highway Patrol officer Mark Saylor and his family were traveling in a Lexus ES350 that crashed into a riverbed and burst into flames killing all on board. The crash was blamed on ‘unintended acceleration,’ causing the car to reach speeds of more than 120 mph, before it ran off the road.
When Toyota settled with Saylor’s relatives out of court, it began a chain reaction that resulted in one of the widest and most public vehicle recall programs by any automaker in history. At the time, the actual amount of the settlement was undisclosed, instead the parties involved agreeing that the details of the agreement remain ‘private and amicable’ between Toyota, the Saylor and Lastrella families.
Now Bob Baker, owner of the Lexus dealership which loaned that ES350 to the Saylor family they drove on that fateful trip, has gone public with the amount of the settlement - $10,000,000.
Baker, which saw sales across the 10 dealers he owns in the San Diego area drop some 20 percent during the recession, was hit hard by this settlement, which he says left his business isolated and has been fighting back ever since. He continues to litigate against the families in this case who cite that negligence on the part of the dealer was to blame for the accident. An investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department concluded that an ill-fitting floormat installed by Bob Baker Lexus was the cause of the crash.
Baker maintains the evidence from the accident investigation was flawed and that the real problem was caused by faulty electronics in the vehicle. He says that Toyota executives in Japan weren’t concerned about finding the true root cause of the problem, choosing to settle to avoid the real issue and instead look for a scapegoat – him.
But whether going public with the amount of this historic settlement, against the wishes of Toyota and Saylor’s relatives, will actually help Baker’s cause remains to be seen. According to a Toyota spokesman, ”Mr. Baker wants the spotlight to shift away from his dealership as he continues to litigate the case with the families.” The saga continues.
[Source: Inside Line]