Don’t Forget the Little Things: Some Easily Overlooked Safety Tech

Henry Bliss Plaque

Take a walk down New York City’s Central Park West, and right at the intersection of West 74th Street, you’ll see an interesting little plaque. It’s as unassuming a corner on New York’s Upper West Side as can be, but the sign nevertheless marks the intersection as an historic site. On September 13, 1899—117 years ago today—while stepping off a street car across from Central Park, a real-estate dealer named Henry H. Bliss was struck by an electric taxicab. The car knocked Bliss down and crushed him. He was pronounced dead the following morning. Bliss’s death marked the first automotive fatality in the western hemisphere.
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Should Big Rigs Be Forced to Drive Slower?

semi_truck

Have you ever been driving at, or slightly above, the speed limit on a highway, only to be overtaken by a speeding big rig?

It’s scary to see a massive grille approaching in your rear-view before it changes lanes and passes. The whine of the diesel engine and whoosh of the long trailer makes for a few seconds of white-knuckle driving.

Trucks have a slower speed limit than the rest of traffic on most highways around the country, but drivers rarely adhere to that posted limit.

The U.S. government is considering new legislation that would electronically limit the top speed of all new semi trucks, making it impossible for truck drivers to exceed the speed of normal traffic.

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Should New GM Pay for Old GM’s Mistakes?

GM-ignition-recall

General Motors knew about a fault in some ignition switches as far back as 2001, but didn’t issue a recall until early 2014.

The fault, which can cause a vehicle to turn off while being driven, has been linked to at least 124 deaths and has already cost the company $2 billion in settlements.

That’s just the beginning, though, as another $10 billion in lawsuits looms on the horizon. GM doesn’t want to pay up and is using its 2009 bankruptcy as a shield against taking responsibility for the fatalities.

An appeals court ruling last month said the U.S. automaker can’t do that, but GM disagrees.

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New, More Aggressive Legislation Targets Distracted Driving

new-jersey-coffee-ban-driving

Drinking and driving has been rightly outlawed for decades. Not only is doing so a distraction, it severely alters a driver’s ability to see and respond to hazards in a timely manner.

Texting and driving is equally as dangerous. Writing a single text can take a driver’s eyes off the road for a minimum of five seconds and have deadly consequences.

Distracted driving is a huge problem in this country and costs people their lives every day. Of course, alcohol and texting aren’t the only causes of car crashes. Other crash-causing distractions include putting on makeup, eating burritos, and drinking coffee.

One state believes it can reduce car crashes by making it illegal to do any of those things behind the wheel.

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Tesla, Autopilot, and the Future of Self-Driving Cars

Tesla AutoPilot

From the first press release outlining Tesla’s Autopilot technology, potential customers have wondered how the system works, what its limitations are, and whether it will be welcomed or shunned. Since Joshua Brown’s fatal crash while using Autopilot in a Tesla Model S, these questions have grown larger and more pointed. Without a doubt, popular opinion has shifted toward negativity. But should it?

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Could Now Be a Good Time to Buy a Tesla?

2015 Tesla Model S

Tesla has seen a lot of time in the news during the past couple of weeks over crashes involving its Autopilot system. Low gas prices also might be hurting its business plan, and there are some growing questions about reliability. This all begs the question: is now the right time to think about buying a Tesla? The answer is a qualified “maybe,” because the decision essentially comes down to how much risk you’re willing to assume.

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Look Out for Flooded Cars on the Used-Car Market

Flooded cars

Spring rains in the United States have not been kind to cars.

The president has declared 11 counties in Texas disaster areas due to heavy rains and flooding. Similar flooding has spanned the country from Virginia to Washington. In Houston alone, about 40,000 vehicles were reported lost due to flood damage.

Typically the damaged cars are either scrapped, or repaired and then given salvage titles and resold. Sometimes, though, unscrupulous sellers take advantage of loopholes in the law and repair the vehicles, retitle them in a new state, and sell them as normal used cars.

The flood-damaged cars can either come as an opportunity for DIY folks who want a good deal, or as an unwelcome surprise for someone who purchases one unwittingly after failing to look for signs of water.

Even if a car looks good and seems to run fine, expensive problems can appear later as corrosion continues to creep inside critical components. Unfortunately, flood-damaged vehicles can be hard to spot, but looking for these signs can help.

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How Long Should Automakers Be on the Hook for Defective Parts?

Audi_Q7_leak

How long should an automaker remain responsible for poor workmanship?

Traditional car warranties range from about 36,000 to 100,000 miles, or between 3 and 10 years. Typically, if something major is going to go wrong with the vehicle, it’ll happen within the warranted time frame.

Sometimes, however, poor workmanship or defective materials surface after a warranty expires. Automakers can issue recalls to deal with these kinds of problems, and they sometimes do–but usually a car owner is left responsible for repairs.

In 2012, Volkswagen settled a $69 million class-action lawsuit to address the issue of leaking sunroofs in nearly 3 million cars between model years 1997 and 2009. The Audi A4, A6, and A8 were included in the settlement.

The 2007-2009 Audi Q7 was excluded, but owners across the country are now experiencing flooded interiors due to the same problem. Should Audi be on the hook?

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New Cars *Are* Getting Safer – Don’t Believe What You Read

Ford safety technology

The news is full of gloomy stories these days when it comes to automobiles. It might even be enough to make make you think driving an automobile is becoming more dangerous.

There is, for instance, the recent fatal collision between a Tesla Model S and a semi trailer. And the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said last year was the deadliest on the nation’s highways since 2008.

It’s enough to make you want to swathe yourself in plastic bubble wrap and never leave the house.

But new cars are getting safer, thanks to a host of new technologies. The best part is you’ll probably never have to consciously use most of them, but you’ll nevertheless be glad they’re there.

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