Air Bag Explosions Are Powerful
Air bags are designed to literally explode. Although everyone knows this, it is commonly heard by me, from clients, that they had no idea the extraordinary power which would be unleashed upon them.
We humans learn best by direct experience. For those unfortunate enough to have an air bag impact their face and torso, the event never ever leaves their memory. Broken noses, damaged eyes, shattered eyeglasses, and fractured jaws can result to the face. Broken shoulders and arms, crushed ribs and chest wall contusions are frequent occurrences.
Air bag deployment has killed some children and many dogs. The safest place for them is the back seat. At the instant of the crash, the entire front seat becomes a warzone.
But for all the bodily injury inflicted by air bags, they have been remarkably effective at saving lives.
SUV Benefits Are Offset By Rollovers
Between 1995 and 2002, SUV registrations climbed by 250 percent in the United States. And the conventional wisdom persists that SUVs are safer because of the weight advantage. On average, SUVs weigh 1,300 pounds more than cars. And that extra weight does, in fact, help reduce the risk of injury by more than a third.
However, this large advantage is offset by findings that SUVs are more than twice as likely to roll over in crashes. Children in rollovers are 3 times more likely to be seriously injured. So the size and weight advantages are cancelled by the hazard of the vehicle flipping.
I have represented individuals, both killed and seriously injured, by rollover SUVs. It took Congress too long to require standards to prevent this common occurrence.
It was known for years that legislation was needed, but lobbyists for the manufacturers fought changes. Once the automakers were forced to change, their efforts to improve made a vast difference. The new technologies and engineering, especially electronic stability controls, turned the tide.
But it is shameful that so many people were crushed to death in Ford Explorers and others, before lives became more important than profits.
Protecting Dogs in Accidents
The American Pet Products Association reports that over one-third of the households in America have dogs. I believe the day is coming when pets will be required to be restrained in moving vehicles
Most social criticism, regarding pets-on-a-ride, has centered on the danger of distracted drivers. This is for good concern, since nearly 60% of dog owners have driven with their passenger pets, according to the Automobile Association of America. In some of the animal-related wrecks we have handled, dogs have leaped into the driver’s lap, interfered with steering wheel operation, and influenced wrongful braking.
But in our experience, the bigger danger of unrestrained dogs is that they become dangerous projectiles in a collision. In one traffic safety study, it was found that, in a crash, a 10-pound dog traveling 50 mph will exert 500 pounds of force against whatever object it strikes. And an 80-pound dog, in a 30 mph crash, will exert nearly 2,400 pounds. These extraordinary statistics underscore the danger of unrestrained dogs.
The Distractions Causing Deadly Crashes
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 25% of all police-reported car accidents involve some form of driver inattention. This is increasingly becoming a larger social issue because of the ever-evolving technological landscape. Today it takes effort not to be distracted while operating a car. Cell phones constantly beep and whirl with alerts for texts, emails and calls.
Despite this, the most common distractions existed long before everyone had their own cell phone. The many offending drivers we have brought claims against have been distracted for reasons not limited to cell phone use. These have included:
- Adjusting the interior temperature
- Adjusting the radio dial
- Eating and drinking
- Being interfered with by a dog
- Correcting misbehaving children
- Smoking and lighting up cigarettes
- Talking with someone inside the car
- Retrieving an object from the adjacent seat
- Gazing at something outside the car
- Reading a map or note
The Most Dangerous Motorists Are 16-Year-Olds
As to teenage drivers, Ohio is the 17th best state for safety. Ohio teens have an average of 56.2 crashes per 100,000 drivers. This betters the US average, which is 64.7.
Kentucky is at the other end, the bad end, of the continuum – with 91 fatal crashes involving teen drivers for every 100,000 citizens licensed. According to the federal numbers, this makes Kentucky the fifth worst state in the nation.
The most dangerous drivers are 16-year-olds. And the most deadly crashes are single-car events, connected with night driving or the presence of at least one teen passenger.
I’m 59-years-old, and I remember our 6th grade school debate centered on whether the driving age should be raised to 16 years. So this topic, which gains public momentum every so often, has been around a while.
In England, the minimum driving age is 17; in Germany, it’s 18. On a practical level, it would be difficult to now raise the age requirement. Many responsible 16-year-olds are involved in heavy extracurricular schedules, hold jobs, or take on important family duties.
For many states, the problem has been lessened by some form of graduated licensing. Under such a system, the teens receive driving privileges gradually.
One of the fundamental aspects of this social situation is grounded in human physiological and psychological makeup. According to the National Institutes of Health, the portion of the brain which weighs risk and controls impulses does not develop fully until around age 25.
Driving mistakes are behind 78% of the fatal crashes involving 16-year-olds. For drivers over 20, that figure drops below 60%. It is raw inexperience that makes teens underestimate speed, overcompensate with steering, swerve, and misjudge breaking distance.