Improving Vehicle Safety – What Can Be Done By Drivers, Manufacturers, and the Government.

Are you wondering what steps can be taken by drivers, automobile manufacturers, and the Federal government to improve driving safety? Barbara S. Williams P.C., an experienced personal injury attorney for Loudoun, Fairfax, and Northern Virginia, provides a summary of some recent recommendations for automotive safety. Please contact Barbara S. Williams today if you or someone you love has been injured in a serious automobile accident.

Improving Vehicle Safety – What Can Be Done?

Most of us have been in or know somebody who has been in a car accident. Sadly, some of us even know somebody who has lost their life in an accident. The statistics are staggering. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over 43,000 people are killed each year and over 2.6 million people are injured in car accidents. There are a variety of reasons for these accidents – distraction, driver error, driver intoxication, manufacturing defects, carelessness, road hazards, and more. So in our modern society, with so much technology at our disposal, what is being done to reduce these numbers?

Barbara S. Williams has dedicated her career to defending the victims of automobile accidents and their families. She has seen a wide variety of accidents, and knows first hand that more should be done to make our roads safer. Below is a summary of a few of the current safety initiatives that can taken by drivers, manufacturers, and the government to keep you and your family safe.

What Drivers Can Do

A survey by the National Safety Council (NSC) found that only 7% of drivers follow generally recommended steps for ensuring an automobile is travel ready before they get behind the wheel. Shocked by these statistics, the NSC has published a list of pre-start safety guidelines and a Start Up for Safety Checklist that every driver should review before starting their car in order to ensure a safe trip:

  • Ensure seatbelts and child restraints are buckled and properly fastened for all occupants
  • Properly adjust side and rearview mirrors
  • Correctly position seat and head restraints for all occupants
  • Turn off cell phones
  • Secure loose objects
  • Look for engine warning lights
  • Check fuel and fluid levels
  • Check tire pressure
  • Allow enough time to avoid speeding and aggressive driving

One of the most recent improvements in automobile safety is the introduction of Electronic Stability Control (ESC). ESC evolved from antilock braking technology and works by controlling the automatic braking in each wheel to prevent the vehicle’s heading from changing too quickly or not quickly enough. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that giving drivers this additional control reduces the single-vehicle crash risk in cars by 35% and by 67% in SUVs. As single-vehicle crashes are responsible for more than half the annual automobile fatalities, these statistics are significant. ESC was highlighted recently by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a non-profit organization funded by auto insurers about 30 years ago that focuses on determining what works and what does not work to reduce automobile accidents and injuries resulting from collisions. The latest tests conducted at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center to determine the 2009 Top Safety Picks required that winning vehicles offer ESC. A list of all vehicles offering ESC can be obtained by clicking here.

Additional improvements to vehicle safety that can be made by manufacturers have been researched by the NHTSA’s New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) and are included below.

What the Federal Government Can Do

The first mandatory federal safety standards for motor vehicles were signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 9, 1966 and were known as the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. This act was a response to the notion that faulty vehicles – not just unsafe drivers – cause automobile accidents. The idea that vehicle design could be blamed for the increase in motor vehicle accidents and fatalities was popularized by the 1965 publication of Ralph Nader’s book “Unsafe at Any Speed”. Nader’s book was seen as a triumph for consumer advocates, as it exposed automobile manufacturer’s seemingly intentional disregard for the safety flaws in the vehicles they sold to the American public. Since 1966, many changes have occurred in the regulatory landscape, including formation of the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the many Bureaus within this agency. Vehicle manufacturers have also stepped up to the plate, and improved automobile safety features have reduced crashes, injuries, and fatalities over the years.

The federal government is very involved in efforts to improve vehicle safety. To encourage manufacturers to voluntarily improve the safety of their vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) created the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) in 1979. Improvements to the NCAP program included creation of the website, which includes easily accessible resources for consumers – and further pressures manufacturers to improve their vehicle safety. NCAP has proposed requiring ESC on all light-duty vehicles by 2009. Additional suggestions by the NCAP to improve safety include:

  • Traffic lane tracking with warning when a vehicle leaves their lane of travel
  • Lane tracking combined with steering assist, to keep vehicles in their lane of travel
  • Curve speed warning to reduce running off the road
  • Forward vehicle sensing with warning and / or braking, to reduce rear-end crashes
  • Side object detection with warning and / or steering assistance, to reduce lane change accidents
  • Driver warning and braking control coupled with vehicle to vehicle and / or vehicle to infrastructure communication to reduce intersection crashes

The NCAP is also reviewing improvements to child safety restraints, the implementation of a pedestrian safety rating program in addition to vehicle safety ratings, and implementing vehicle headlamp performance ratings.

Other Recommendations for Improving Road Safety

Additional recommendations have been made by various federal and non-profit agencies in the interest of improving road and vehicle safety:

  • Inclusion of a primary enforcement seatbelt law by all State legislatures to increase national seatbelt use
  • Implementation of all-rider motorcycle helmet laws in every state
  • Improve impaired driving laws in all states
  • Reduce rear blind zones in larger vehicles
  • Add safety features to power windows to prevent injury to small children
  • Require brake transmission shift interlock to prevent accidentally putting a vehicle in gear


What You Can Do

Clearly there is much that can still to be done to improve the safety of the motor vehicles on our roads today. While you are waiting for automobile manufacturers and the Federal government to improve automobile safety, you can practice the checklist steps listed above in “What Drivers Can Do”. In the unfortunate event that you or someone you love is the victim of a serious automobile accident, please contact the law office of Barbara S. Williams, P.C. as soon as possible. Barbara Williams has the experience needed to properly research and manage your case, and has a proven track record in securing fair compensation for her clients.

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