Alternative Vehicles Gain Popularity, But Skirt Regulations

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V5, I4, July / August 2008

STUEBENVILLE, OHIO -Don't bother trying to buy a three-wheeled, two-passenger vehicle off the dealer's lot. Motorists who want to get their hands on Wildfire Motors' WF650-C will have to plunk down the full $7,064 purchase price in advance, and wait three months for delivery. As gas prices rise, consumers are turning to high-mileage alternative vehicles, such as three-wheeled motorcycles or mini trucks or small electric passenger vehicles in increasing numbers. They are marketed as "cars" or "trucks" with most of the capabilities of a passenger vehicle, but they are built to safety standards far below those required of traditional passenger cars and light trucks.

Senate Holds Hearing on Roof Strength; NHTSA Grilled on Pre-emption

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The chairman of the Senate Consumer Affairs, Insurance and Automotive sub-committee has urged the Secretary of Transportation to extend the July 1 deadline for a final roof crush rule and to drop the pre-emption clause from the regulation.

SRS Again Presses NHTSA for Consumer-Friendly Tire Date of Manufacture

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V3, Issue 3, Nov. / Dec. 2006

REHOBOTH, MA - Safety Research & Strategies has renewed its call for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require tire makers to mold an easy-to-read date of manufacture on a tire's sidewall.

SRS submitted comments on December 20 urging the agency to separate this proposal from the more complicated tire performance rulemaking. SRS President Sean Kane argued that now is the perfect time for NHTSA to consider implementing a new date of manufacture labeling regulation, while tire manufacturers gear up to meet their obligations in 2009 to mold the entire Tire Identification Number (TIN) on the intended outward sidewall of each tire. In November 2004, SRS petitioned the agency for a rulemaking to require that tire makers mold a non-coded date of manufacture on their products as a step toward reducing the number of aged tire failures. SRS argued that since the agency and the tire and vehicle manufacturers agree that tire age matters, consumers need an easy-to-read the date of manufacturer on the side of their tires. The agency denied the petition and instead chose to address the issue in its tire performance standards.

Tire Aging Tests, Data and Policies Continue to Emerge

Presentations on tire aging at recent industry conferences indicate that the industry is beginning to accept what only several years ago it claimed was not possible-a scientific basis for tire expiration dates. Foundational to this acceptance is agreement from the tire makers, NHTSA, and Ford Motor Company that static oven aging in a lab can mimic thermo-oxidative aging found in tires removed from the field-an important step toward a regulatory performance standard. Other presentations have addressed specific tire components and properties that affect tire aging degradation. The unspoken message has been loud and clear: tire age matters and regulation appears inevitable.

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Automakers Agree to Add Brake to Shift Interlocks

Washington, D.C. - In an effort to fend off legislation, 19 of the largest automakers have voluntarily entered into an agreement with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to install brake-to-shift interlock (BTSI) systems. BTSI's require drivers to depress the brake pedal before shifting an automatic transmission out of Park. The feature gained many adherents in the late 1980s following a rise in sudden unintended acceleration events in late 1980s as a way to reduce driver error. The feature also helps to reduce incidents of inadvertent activation of the shift lever by children-a long-standing problem that can result in vehicle roll-away incidents and crashes.

Firestone and NHTSA Launch Consumer Alert for Recalled Wilderness Tires; SRS Had Urged NHTSA to Investigate

Nashville, Tenn. - Bridgestone-Firestone has announced that it will be notifying SUV owners, Firestone company stores and authorized dealers to look for and replace any Radial ATX and Wilderness ATs that were captured in the 2000 and 2001 recalls. The tire maker gave no reason for the consumer notification program, launched on July 21. But, it comes one month after Safety Research & Strategies publicly requested that NHTSA investigate why many recalled spares were left behind during the recalls. SRS pointed the agency to a spate of catastrophic rollover crashes attributed to tread separations in recalled spare tires and evidence that potentially hundreds of thousands of these tires were missed or overlooked during the recalls. NHTSA also issued a "Consumer Advisory" on the notification program that urged consumers to have their tires checked, particularly spares.

Persistent RV Tire Problems Prompt Fifth Recall; NHTSA Investigation Focuses New Attention on RV Safety

Washington, D.C. - Country Coach, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of Class A motor homes, has launched its fifth recall in seven years to replace the tires on some of its motor homes, blaming the Toyo tire company for outfitting its recreational vehicles with tires unable to carry their weight.

Country Coach, a Junction City, Oregon-based subsidiary of RV Holdings Inc. told NHTSA that Toyo's M102z models were responsible for more than 50 tire failures since 2003 - a charge that Toyo has strenuously denied. This most recent safety campaign underscores what appears to be an industry-wide problem: RV manufacturers under-rating the axle weight of their vehicles and outfitting them with tires that cannot bear the load, particularly in the left front. In the last several years, at least five manufacturers, including Fleetwood, Newmar, Airstream, Four Winds and National RV Inc., have initiated recalls involving more than a dozen motor home models with incorrect weight or tire pressure ratings.

SRS Petitions NHTSA to Examine Firestone ATX and Wilderness Tire Recalls and Owner Notification

June 21, 2006
Nicole Nason
Administrator
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
400 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 20597

RE: Recalled Firestone ATX and Wilderness Tires

Dear Ms. Nason:

New Study Confirms Effectiveness of ESC

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V3, Issue 3, May / June 2006

Washington, D.C. - A new University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute study confirms the results of earlier studies worldwide: Electronic Stability Control is remarkably effective in preventing single vehicle crashes-especially SUV rollovers.

Paul E. Green and John Woodrooffe presented their findings at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's government-industry meeting last month. Like other researchers from Sweden to Japan, they found that ESC can significantly reduce the risk of a single vehicle crash. Using 1995-2003 data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the General Estimates System (GES), Green and Woodrooffe constructed a case-controlled study, comparing accidents of vehicles of similar makes and models, with and without ESC, in loss-of-control crashes-such as single-vehicle crashes, run-off-the-road crashes, rollovers, and crashes in which the roads were not dry.

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NHTSA Rejects Auto-Reverse Petition; New Rule Prohibits Rocker and Toggle Window Switches

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V3, Issue 3, May / June 2006

Washington, D.C. - The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has again denied a petition from safety advocates requesting that the agency require automakers to install an auto-reverse function in their power windows, but has implemented a provision in the latest highway safety bill requiring switches that raise a power window only when the switch is pulled up or out.

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