NHTSA Pronounces and Toyota Pounces: It’s the Floor Mats, Stupid

Showing admirable restraint, Toyota waited a whole five days before trumpeting the closing of Defect Petition 09-001 as proof positive “that no defect exists in vehicles in which the driver’s floor mat is compatible with the vehicle and properly secured.”

Sudden Unintended Acceleration

Sudden Unintended Acceleration can be rooted in a variety of vehicle defects including ergonomic design flaws, mechanical or electro-mechanical failures, or electronic failures.  The article below, republished from Safety Research & Strategies bi-monthly publication, The Safety Record, is an overview of SUA.

Surrender Dorothy!

The California Tire Age bill passed the state assembly yesterday 48-21 and that loud pop you may have heard was the sound of the Rubber Manufacturer's Association's head exploding.

While it wasn't as good as a rant as one from the Tire Industry Associations' Roy Littlefield, the immediate response from the tiremakers trade group wasn't far off (RMA Press Release). Dan Zielinski, RMA senior vice president of public affairs, panted about the bill's proponents using "fear-mongering to allege that tires reaching a certain chronological age are dangerous."

The New De Facto Roof Strength Standard? IIHS Raises the Bar

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V6, I1

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's effort to write a new roof strength standard drags into its fourth year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has gone ahead and created one that is far more stringent than anything the agency has proposed.

Beginning in 2010, automakers who want IIHS's coveted Top Safety Pick designation will have to build vehicle roofs with a 4.0 strength-to-weight ratio - far above the timid 2.5 ratio the government has been contemplating for its amended standard. The IIHS estimated that vehicles that could meet this new strength standard could reduce injury risk to occupants by 40-50 percent. In January, the insurance advocacy group informed manufacturers about its new requirement for vehicle roofs to win its highest honor. The industry greeted the news with the "can't-do" spirit that characterizes its reaction to nearly every safety improvement.

Midnight Regulation Provokes Controversy

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V5, I6; Nov/Dec. 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Designated Seating Position Final Rule has produced confusion around its measuring procedures and provoked controversy for its preemption clause and lack of statistical foundation as the Bush Administration tries to stampede another regulation to completion.

Seat Back Strength an Issue in Rear Seat Safety for Children

Researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Prevention at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia looked at the effect of reported deformation of the front seat back rearward on the injury risk to children seated in the rear in a rear-impact crash.

Dr. Kristy Arbogast, Associate Director of Engineering for The Center for Injury Research and Prevention at CHOP, said that the study evolved from crash investigations conducted by their research team as part of several research projects. Researchers took note of several crashes in which a child seated in the rear of the vehicle suffered facial injuries in a rear-impact crash.

Dill Finally Launches Tire Valve Stem Recall

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V5, I6; Nov/Dec. 2008

OXFORD, NC-One year after a fatal crash and seven months after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a defect investigation into 30 million Chinese-manufactured tire valve stems that could crack prematurely, Dill Air Control Products has finally announced a recall.

NHTSA Grants SRS Request: Opens Investigation into Ford OEM Valve Stems

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V5, I5

Washington, D.C. - Less than two weeks after Safety Research & Strategies requested the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to open a defect investigation into Chinese tire valve stems used as OEM equipment in some Ford vehicles, the Office of Defects Investigation has complied.

On September 25, SRS President Sean Kane sent a letter to Daniel Smith, NHTSA's Associate Administrator for Enforcement, asking him to widen the current probe on prematurely cracking rubber snap-in valve stems manufactured by Shanghai Baolong / Topseal Automotive to include Ford vehicles which also used the Topseal stems. On October 14, ODI opened a Preliminary Evaluation (PE08-060) into more than a million Topseal stems on Ford vehicles, citing the possibility that they may crack due to poor ozone resistance, leading to tire damage and a possible loss-of-control crash.

NHTSA Publishes Final DSP Rule; SRS Vows Challenge

Reprinted from The Safety Record, V5, I5

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Three years after proposing to close the flagrant loopholes in the Designated Seating Position rule, NHTSA has published a Final Rule that tweaks its initial proposal, but fails to address its core weakness - the lack of underlying data to support the change.

The Final Rule, published on October 8, attempts to prevent manufacturers from offering extra rear seating while skirting the requirement for a seat belt in each designated seating position. For years, manufacturers of vehicles with generous rear bench seats equipped with only two three-point belts hung their hats on four words in the current rule's definition of a designated seating position: "likely to be used." This allowed automakers to pretend that only two positions in the rear seat were likely to be used, even as consumers were clearly occupying three positions.

Complaints to NHTSA Matter

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

On August 12, 2006, Rafael B. Melo, Claudeir Jose Figueiredo and Carlos Souza were ejected from a 2000 Chevrolet Express 2500 Cargo Van, when its 2004 Compass Telluride steel belted radial tire failed, causing the van to rollover. Melo and Figueiredo died in the crash. Souza suffered a permanent brain injury. In May 2007, the families of the victims filed a civil lawsuit against the Chinese manufacturer, Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Company, and the American importer, Foreign Tire Sales of Union, New Jersey. A year would elapse between the crash and a recall of the defective tires. But it only took two months from the time that FTS -- spurred by litigation -- reported the deaths to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to the launch of a campaign to remove the defective tires from the road.

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