Survey: Auto deaths drop in 40 states in 2008


Posted on 5th February 2009 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 2/4/2009

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — Automobile fatalities declined in 40 states in 2008, according to a survey of state highway safety agencies, an early sign that traffic deaths could dip to their lowest levels in four decades.

The Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety departments, said Wednesday that vehicle deaths dropped in 40 states and the District of Columbia out of 44 states they surveyed. The average decline was 10.7 percent, the safety group said.

“Clearly, the high gas prices in the first part of the year and the difficult economy in the second half caused people to drive less, thus reducing fatalities. However, there’s more occurring here than just economic factors,” said Barbara Harsha, the organization’s executive director.

Harsha said the declines could also be attributed to seat belt use reaching a record high of 83 percent in 2008 and an increased enforcement of traffic laws. Many states also reported drivers reducing their speed to boost their fuel efficiency, she said.

Among large states, Florida’s highway fatalities dropped 6.8 percent, Illinois’ fell by 16 percent, Ohio’s declined by 4 percent and Michigan’s were down by 7.7 percent. Georgia saw decreases of 12 percent and New Jersey’s fatalities dropped 18 percent, according to the survey.

Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia all saw declines of 20 percent or more.

Fatalities increased in Vermont, Wyoming, Delaware and New Hampshire. Several large states, including California, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania, did not participate in the survey.

The safety association cautioned that the surveys, which were conducted during the week of January 26, were estimates and the final figures could vary.

But the results were consistent with a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in December that found auto fatalities dropped 10 percent in 2008 from the months of January though October.

The government said in December there were 31,110 auto fatalities during the first 10 months of 2008, a 9.8 percent decline over the same period in 2007, when there were 34,502 fatalities.

If the trend held up during the year’s last two months, highway deaths could reach their lowest level in the 42 years since NHTSA began keeping record. Final numbers for 2008 are expected later this year.

The Federal Highway Administration, which counts the numbers of cars on the road, has reported steep declines in the number of miles Americans are driving each month beginning in late 2007 and continuing through the first three quarters of 2008.


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Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

Government investigating Ford tire valves


Posted on 22nd October 2008 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 10/21/2008 4:41 PM

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government is investigating more than 1 million Ford Motor Co. vehicles after receiving reports of tires leaking from faulty valve stems made by a Chinese company.

Ford spokesman Wes Sherwood said Tuesday the investigation involves vehicles with the tire valves, including 12 vehicles from the 2007 model year cited by the government. Ford has received some complaints but no reports of crashes or injuries.

The valves are used on most new Ford vehicles except for certain types of F-Series Super Duty Trucks and Econoline vans, Sherwood said.

“We’ve seen reports of cracking and leaking. We have not identified a risk to motor vehicle safety,” Sherwood said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it has received 37 complaints of faulty valve stems but no crashes or injuries have been reported. In 23 of the complaints, the vehicle had more than one valve that was “severely cracked or cracked and leaking” and needed replacement.

Eleven complaints said the valves led to lost tire inflation and required the tire to be replaced.

The vehicles with the valve stems include the Ford F-150, Mustang, Edge, Fusion, Expedition, Explorer, Focus and Escape, and the Mercury Grand Marquis, MKX, MKZ, and Milan. The valves are made by Topseal Automotive, a subsidiary of Shanghai Baolong Automotive Corp.

NHTSA said it has opened a preliminary evaluation to “assess the scope, frequency and safety consequences” of the alleged defect in the Ford tires. Defect investigations can lead to vehicle recalls.

The highway safety agency opened a separate investigation in May into 23 million valve stems manufactured by Shanghai Baolong in 2006. NHTSA said more than 4,700 complaints have been filed because of the valve stems, including allegations of a fatal rollover crash involving a 1998 Ford Explorer in November 2007.


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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

New database has info on auto deaths, injuries


Posted on 23rd September 2008 by gjohnson in Uncategorized

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Date: 9/10/2008 6:59 PM

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government unveiled a new public database Wednesday that will enable consumers to look up the number of alleged deaths, injuries and cases of property damage involving passenger vehicles.

Consumer groups have sought the information, which was part of legislation passed by Congress after the massive recall of Firestone tires in 2000. The law required manufacturers to provide data on numerous safety complaints and was devised to help the government quickly detect potential problems.

The so-called “early warning” data was released because of a ruling by a federal appeals court in July that barred the government from withholding key data reported by manufacturers. Some data was allowed to remain confidential, including warranty claims and field reports submitted by the manufacturer.

The data, which goes back to 2003, is reported to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by automakers, tire makers, motorcycle companies and child seat manufacturers on a quarterly basis. The public database now provides information from 21 automakers.

During the first three months of 2008, the most recent data available, General Motors Corp. reported receiving complaints of 52 deaths and 610 injuries, according to an analysis by The Associated Press. Ford Motor Co. said it had received reports of 40 deaths and 340 injuries and Chrysler LLC reported receiving complaints of 23 deaths and 149 injuries during the span.

In the same period, Toyota Motor Corp. advised NHTSA of 8 deaths and 106 injuries, Nissan Motor Corp. said it had allegations of 7 deaths and 34 injuries and Honda Motor Co. reported 3 deaths and 22 injuries.

Wade Newton, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, cautioned that the data often includes unsubstantiated claims and could not be used to confirm a safety problem.

He said a company with a large global presence reports data from foreign countries in addition to the United States and a manufacturer’s size and vehicle sales would play a large role in the data set.

Consumer groups said it would be useful information to car buyers. Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group that sued to have the data made available, called it a “smashing success for consumers.”

She recommended that owners and car shoppers use the database to learn more about specific vehicles.

NHTSA said they had been using the data since December 2003 as a supplement to the estimated 40,000 consumer complaints they receive each year. Through the end of August, NHTSA said it had used the early warning data in 84 defect investigations, which can sometimes lead to vehicle recalls.

About 100 manufacturers, mostly tire companies, have asked NHTSA to keep their data private because they contend it includes confidential business information.

Dan Zielinski, a spokesman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, which represents tire makers, said the data included “accusations and people who review this database should keep that in mind.”


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The early warning reports can be found at:

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.