With the seemingly never-ending flow of motor vehicle accidents in the United States, including many that lead to fatalities or permanent, severe disability, the Chicago car accident attorneys of Passen & Powell are encouraged by recent reports in the area of traffic safety.
This month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report analyzing data from 1949 through 2010. The report revealed that American traffic deaths are now at the lowest level since that date.
This decline in fatalities is particularly impressive because Americans are now driving far more than in the past. In 2010, for example, Americans drove an astounding 21 billion miles more than they did in 2009.
So why the decline? The NHTSA attributes the decline to the fact that cars have become progressively safer. Take, for example, the Ford Pinto, put on the market almost forty years ago. The Pinto was a safety disaster. Since that time, much has been done to improve the safety of the cars placed on American roads, from better technology and safety features to more aggressive regulations. That begs the question: why have cars become safer?
Our car accident lawyers know one answer: civil litigation. Holding corporate manufacturers and distributors accountable through the civil justice system for unnecessarily placing the public at risk with unsafe vehicles serves as a huge deterrent. The threat of litigation has forced manufacturers to place consumer safety ahead of profit.
Litigation moves automotive safety forward: revealing safety defect and forcing manufacturers to correct them. Over the years, litigation has uncovered and corrected a number of the biggest safety issues in automobiles, including the Pinto defects, acceleration issues, “rolling” parked cars, and the dangers of strangulation and amputation to children from rocker-style power windows.
In the case of power window problems, the technology was available – cars marketed in Europe and Asia already used safer alternatives – and regulation had utterly failed. European and Asian regulators already required the safer options, but the NHTSA did not. It was not until after costly litigation on the issue that American cars were forced to adopt safer power windows and save the lives of countless children.
Yet the automotive industry continues to maintain that suits should be prohibited if the vehicles in question comply with federal standards. Our car injury attorneys recognize the appeal of such a proposal to these manufacturers, and also recognize that such a proposal would lead to disaster. The Pinto, the power windows that strangled hundreds of children – all these vehicles complied with the federal regulations of their day.
If it were not for the courage of victims, and the efforts of the attorneys who represent them, automotive safety would never have come this far. We also know that these numbers are deceiving — take, for instance, the sudden acceleration recall involving Toyota vehicles that have been linked to dozens of deaths — every day hundreds of people are seriously injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago car accident lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.