Family matters: Age and driving ability

Getting older does not make you a bad driver, but changes in the ability to drive safely can. Pennsylvania drivers want to hang onto their driving privileges as long as…

Getting older does not make you a bad driver, but changes in the ability to drive safely can. Pennsylvania drivers want to hang onto their driving privileges as long as possible to retain the independence that a vehicle provides.

Family members frequently hesitate to broach the subject of driving with an older relative, knowing that it could cause the person to become defensive. The conversation often fizzles and only comes up again when the relative’s driving behavior becomes risky or there is a car accident.

Age is no defense in a personal injury or wrongful death case, when an older driver is responsible for harming others in a motor vehicle accident. Any driver who acts carelessly or recklessly may be considered negligent and liable for injuries and deaths.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends finding out more about an older driver’s activities before making any judgments or taking any actions. Your own observations can be combined with information provided by others who interact with the older person regularly. You can record what you see while riding with or following the relative as he or she drives.

Be careful not to make assumptions about the person’s abilities due to age. Be certain that your assessment is based on driving fitness. Running stop signs or red lights, speeding or slow driving and aggressive driving can pose an immediate danger to your family member and other drivers. Red flags accompany off-road behaviors like coordination loss and dizziness.

Consult with your relative’s medical professionals — doctors, pharmacist or ophthalmologist — while being mindful that you may need the older person’s permission to do so. You may also speak with a police officer about possible license restrictions and an attorney about the legal responsibilities of drivers with physical or mental limitations.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “How to Understand & Influence Older Drivers,” accessed May 29, 2015

Truck drivers’ hours of service are limited for good reason

Multiple studies in recent years have shown that drowsy driving is a major cause of auto accidents. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that at least…

Multiple studies in recent years have shown that drowsy driving is a major cause of auto accidents. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that at least 100,000 crashes each year result directly from driver fatigue.

While all drivers should avoid drowsy driving, the risk of a serious accident may be significantly higher when a truck or bus driver is sleepy while behind the wheel. That is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, regulates truck and bus drivers’ hours of service and requires those drivers to log their hours.

There are some slight differences in the hours-of-service limits for truck drivers and bus drivers. The FMCSA categorizes truck drivers as property-carrying drivers and bus drivers as passenger-carrying drivers.

Property-carrying drivers are allowed to operate their vehicles for no more than 11 hours after an off-duty period of 10 consecutive hours. The driving limit for passenger-carrying vehicles is 10 hours after eight consecutive hours off duty.

Truck and bus drivers’ jobs also require them to be on duty when they aren’t behind the wheel, whether for vehicle maintenance or some other reason. FMCSA regulations take this into account.

Truck drivers are not allowed to drive once they reach the 14th consecutive hour on the job after 10 consecutive hours off duty, and bus drivers are not allowed to drive once they reach the 15th consecutive hour on the job after eight consecutive hours off duty.

Unfortunately, these rules are often broken, and there have been many cases of truck and bus drivers falsifying their hours-of-service logs.

To learn more about these matters and what to do after a collision with a large commercial vehicle, please see MHK Attorneys’ “Five Things You Need To Know About Truck Accidents.”

Americans are tired of auto recalls — and we’re ignoring them

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, people only get their cars fixed after a safety recall about two-thirds of the time. Can you believe that? You’ve been notified…

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, people only get their cars fixed after a safety recall about two-thirds of the time. Can you believe that? You’ve been notified of a potential safety issue with your car, and you’re told there will be no charge for fixing it. All you have to do is bring it to a dealership. Easy, right?

Apparently, it’s not that easy. In fact, it’s a huge problem. Recalls aren’t issued for every little thing; a recall is only issued for defects that pose a serious threat to health or safety. In other words, if your vehicle is on the recall list, it’s over something pretty big.

How big? Well, you may recall last year’s recall of around 27 million cars and trucks in the U.S. alone. It was among the largest recalls in history, and it involved ignition switches that could suddenly shut the vehicle off without any warning — even at highway speeds. GM acknowledges at least 90 people have died and 163 others have been injured.

Or, consider Takata Corp., which supplies air bag assemblies to many major automakers. The problem appears to be that the airbag’s inflator can cause the airbags to explode out at such tremendous force that they break the inflator itself, which is then hurled like shrapnel into the occupants of the car. There have been at least 5 deaths and over 100 injuries from these defective airbags.

2014 was an historic year for recalled vehicles. The number of cars and trucks in the U.S. that were recalled for major safety issues exceeded 60 million for the first time in history. Is it recall fatigue that’s keeping owners of these vehicles from taking action?

We may never know the answer. What GM has found out was that owners often only had their recall fixes done if they received multiple mailings, phone calls, and the promise of a free loaner vehicle while the repairs were being performed.

If you’re not certain whether your own vehicle is subject to an important safety recall, you can find out using the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s VIN search. If you’ve been injured in a car accident and wonder whether an auto defect may have been at play, you should discuss the situation with an attorney right away.