Archive for August, 2013

Florida Cities Not Tracking Accident Data at Intersections with Red Light Cameras

Red light cameras have sprung up throughout Florida and WPTV News Channel 5 reports that cities and towns in Palm Beach County have collected in excess of $12 million already from motorists who ran red lights. Of course, the reason these cameras were put up at intersections was not just to allow cities to raise money but instead to prevent serious accidents from occurring. 

Our West Palm Beach car accident lawyers know that crashes caused by motorists running red lights have killed almost 9,000 people over the past decade. The Federal Highway Administration has also reported that half of the people killed in these accidents were not the driver who ran the light but instead were innocent motorists who were hit.

Red light cameras can hopefully prevent these devastating accidents but their effectiveness is not yet clear. Unfortunately, some Florida cities are not properly tracking accident data that could provide better information on whether red light cameras are effective at anything other than generating revenue.

Effectiveness of Red Light Cameras Unclear Due to Data Collection Problems

According to News Channel 5, the city of West Palm Beach was one of the first to install cameras. West Palm Beach, as well as other jurisdictions throughout Florida, is required to report crash statistics to the state each year regarding accidents at intersections where cameras have been placed.

Unfortunately, more than a dozen cities, including West Palm Beach, have not reported the required numbers. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles says that there is nothing it can do about this oversight since the Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act does not impose consequences on cities who fail to live up to mandated reporting requirements.

When questioned about why the numbers were not being reported, police officers said they needed more time – at least another year or two – to find out whether the cameras were helping. The results thus far have been largely inconclusive, especially in Juno Beach where accidents decreased by 30 percent at one intersection but increased at three others.

The problem is that there have been only a few accidents- around six to 12 total- at locations where red light cameras have been located. This is statistically too small of a sample size to assess whether the cameras are working.

Without the data, however, residents may simply see fines and object to the cameras without realizing that they could save lives. Those who have lost loved ones to red light accidents, however, reportedly look upon the cameras differently because they understand just how serious the consequences of a red light accident can be. The wife of the man who the law was named after, for example, fought for the law because of her belief it would save lives. Her husband was killed in a red light crash and she helped to create the law that now carries her husband’s name.

She has expressed concern that the red light camera program won’t work unless cities report data so effectiveness can be judged and demonstrated. Yet she remains confident that her husband lost his life so others could be saved by the installations of the red light cameras. Hopefully, more Florida cities will begin to report data that proves her right.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., at (800) 608-2965 for a free case consultation.

Archive for August, 2013

Chrysler Finally Agrees to Recall Some, But Not All, Potentially Defective Vehicles

In June of this year, CNN reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had asked Chrysler to recall 2.7 million Jeep SUVs. Surprisingly, Chrysler declined to do so, generating a great deal of bad press. Our West Palm Beach defective products lawyers know that the automaker’s refusal to recall the vehicles was the first time that an automaker has challenged an NHTSA recall request since 1996, when the challenge had also come from Chrysler.

Ultimately, Chrysler and NHTSA worked out a compromise deal and some – but not all – of the SUVs were recalled. While it is good news that some potentially dangerous vehicles were taken off the roads, the fact that Chrysler was able to convince the NHTSA that some of the risky vehicles shouldn’t be recalled could potentially put motorists at risk.

Chrysler Protects Profits, But Are Consumers in Danger?

The 2.7 million vehicles that the NHTSA originally requested Chrysler recall included Jeep Grand Cherokees manufactured between 1993 and 2004, as well as Jeep Libertys manufactured between 2002 and 2007. The recall request was made following reports of fires and explosions due to the design and placement of the gas tank in these vehicles.

The gas tank in the Libertys and Cherokees during the years in question was located behind the rear axle. Unfortunately, the gas tank may not have been sufficiently protected and could be damaged or punctured in a rear end crash. When punctured or damaged, a potentially devastating explosion could occur.

Since rear-end wrecks are one of the most common types of motor vehicle collisions, if the location of the gas tank was indeed a design problem, this could mean every driver of  Chrysler SUVs was at serious risk of getting badly burned. To prevent this from happening, the NHTSA wanted the vehicles off the roads.

However, Chrysler disputed that gas tank design was risky, reporting that many other vehicles had a similar design. Chrysler also questioned the accuracy of accident statistics provided both by the NHTSA and by a consumer watchdog public interest group called the Center for Auto Safety, which had first prompted the NHTSA to launch its investigation into the Chrysler SUVs.

The Center for Auto Safety alleged that there had been 201 fire crashes in Grand Cherokees causing 285 deaths. The Center for Auto Safety also alleged that there had been another 36 wrecks involving 53 deaths in Jeep Libertys. The NHTSA data was much more conservative, citing only 37 accidents and 51 deaths. However, Chrysler asserted that even this was an overstatement. Chrysler argued that very few accidents had happened that led to fires or explosions and that those accidents that did lead to fires involved high-speed, high energy impact.

After refusing to recall the Jeeps, the Chrysler chief executive officer, Sergio Marchionne, contacted NHTSA administrator David Strickland to try to work out a deal. Business Week reports that the agreement ultimately involved the NHTSA reducing the number of vehicles they wanted recalled by 42 percent. Chrysler thus ended up recalling only 1.5 million Jeeps.

Business Week reports that the company’s negotiations ended up saving Chrysler $109 million. Hopefully, the decision not to recall all of the vehicles NHTSA initially feared were dangerous won’t end up costing anyone their lives.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, contact Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., at (800) 608-2965 for a free and confidential consultation.