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Rollaway: The Safety Problem that Doesn’t Go Away

Rollaway: The Safety Problem that Doesn’t Go Away

On August 1, 2013, Jose Banderas pulled into his driveway after church, placed his 2009 Dodge Caravan in Park, and exited with the engine running, so his wife could listen to the radio. He walked to the rear of the van, opened the lift gate to remove his walker and other items. But the Caravan suffered from a mechanical defect that allowed the parking pawl to be placed between Park and Reverse, and it slipped into gear. As Banderas stood at the rear, the van moved backwards, knocking him down and trapping him under the rear wheels. He died of his injuries. By the time the first responders arrived, the vehicle was in Reverse and officers on the scene were able to replicate the condition.

Rollaway is a perpetual safety hazard. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates: during a three-year period of 2012-2014, unattended rollaway vehicles killed a total of 360 non-occupants, accounting for about a fifth of those killed in non-traffic crashes each year.

Over the last 45 years, recalls and investigations show that its causes are many. But, the majority of vehicle rollaways are caused by a wide range of mechanical, software and electronic failures. Many vehicle components, such as brake-to-shift-interlock failures, rods, parking pawls, drive shaft breakages lead to rollaways. Software and electrical circuits can also introduce problems that lead to rollaways.

But new technologies, such as electronic gear shifter designs and keyless ignitions are starting to show up in the NHTSA’s investigative portfolio. Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA)’s Monostable and dash-mounted rotary dial shifters are good examples of poor shifter designs that mislead the driver about the state of the transmission. The Monostable transmission required the driver to depress a button on the shift lever to move it to the gear position, then the lever springs back to the neutral position. In an investigation, NHTSA found that the Monostable shifter was “not intuitive and provides poor tactile and visual feedback to the driver.” FCA’s rotary dial design was poorly placed, leading some drivers to confuse it for the radio volume knob. Drivers also complained that they couldn’t always tell if the transmission was in Park. 

Keyless ignition vehicles also initiate human errors that can lead to a rollaway. In a keyless ignition system, the “key” is the invisible electronic code which the driver delivers to the vehicle using the plastic fob. Once the code enters the ignition, the engine can be activated, but the fob does nothing to shut it down. A driver can depress the Start/Stop button to turn off the vehicle, forget to put the transmission in Park, and walk away with fob. The vehicle stays in Accessory mode, with the electronic key still in the ignition, free to roll.

Regardless of the cause, automakers have two alternative designs to prevent it. Electronic transmissions can be equipped to include automatic parking features that shift the transmission into park when the exiting driver fails to do so. Electric Parking Brakes (EPBs), available for a decade, can prevent rollaways by automatically setting the parking brake. 

EPBs replace manual parking brakes and have been promoted as more economical in price and interior space. According to supplier TRW, numerous automakers have implemented this feature, including Audi, Volkswagen, Renault, Nissan, Ford and Honda. EPBs can be used in auto-park features that specifically apply the parking brake in scenarios in which the vehicle transmission is in a gear other than Park and the driver opens the door to exit. For example, the Hyundai Genesis features Auto Hold, which keeps the “vehicle stopped after the driver brings the vehicle to a complete stop with the foot brake and releases the brake pedal.”  In the 2014 model year, FCA added a similar feature to the Jeep Cherokee called Safehold.

Fiat Chrysler has also implemented an AutoPark feature, which, instead of applying a parking brake, actually moves the transmission into the Park position. Auto-park type features can be implemented in any vehicle with an E-shift control and minimal software. 

Despite the persistence of rollaway, and its many root causes, automakers can reduce it using these alternative designs – yet they are not widely implemented fleetwide.

If you have questions about injuries from a malfunction or safety flaw in a product or vehicle in Florida, call Newsome Melton at 888-808-5977 for free information.

Multistate Reaches Settlement with Takata Over Defective Airbags

Multistate Reaches Settlement with Takata Over Defective Airbags

Hawaii, Mexico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands announced in May 2018 that they have settled claims against Takata Corp. for $7 million for endangering their citizens with airbags Takata knew were unsafe. They join 44 other states and the District of Columbia, which settled with Takata in February 2018 for $650 million. Together with the […]

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GM Files 3rd Request to Avoid Takata Airbag Recalls

GM Files 3rd Request to Avoid Takata Airbag Recalls

General Motors (GM) has now filed three petitions to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requesting a recall exemption for nearly two million of its 2007 to 2013 model vehicles with Takata airbags, which have been linked to at least 23 deaths worldwide, including 15 in the U.S. Takata, NHTSA, and other automakers have […]

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7th Person Dies from Takata Airbag in Malaysia

7th Person Dies from Takata Airbag in Malaysia

Takata airbags, which carry a risk of overpressurizing and exploding if the volatile ammonium nitrate inside is exposed to moisture and heat cycles over time, have so far been responsible for 23 driver deaths worldwide, with more expected. Seven of the fatalities occurred in Malaysia and all involved Honda’s 2003 to 2009 City model – […]

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VW Recalls 576,921 Audi Vehicles; Potentially Faulty Inflators & Coolant-Pumps Pose Fire Risk

VW Recalls 576,921 Audi Vehicles; Potentially Faulty Inflators & Coolant-Pumps Pose Fire Risk

VW Recalls 576,921 Audi Vehicles Due to Potential Fire Risk As Volkswagen works to resolve their massive 2016 diesel emissions cheating scandal, recalls continue to plague the company’s reputation.  At the end of January, Volkswagen announced 342,867 potentially faulty coolant-pumps may go up in flames and 234,054 airbag inflators can rupture, posing a fatality hazard. […]

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URGENT: Takata Recall Update

URGENT: Takata Recall Update

Federal safety regulators announced more than 300,000 Hondas and Acuras should not be driven until their Takata airbags are replaced.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said new tests show these airbags have a much higher risk of exploding and killing a driver or passenger. These airbags have a 50% chance of exploding when they are deployed in an accident, according to the agency. Other Takata airbags have less than a 1% chance of exploding.

Cars located in humid regions of the country such as Texas, Florida and the Gulf Coast are at particular risk.

The models identified by NHTSA include: 2001-2002 Honda Civic, 2001-2002 Honda Accord, 2002-2003 Acura TL, 2002 Honda CR-V, 2002 Honda Odyssey, 2003 Acura CL, 2003 Honda Pilot.

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WJLA speaks to Rich Newsome and Corey Burdick

WJLA speaks to Rich Newsome and Corey Burdick

Recently, Rich Newsome along with his client Corey Burdick, spent the day with Lisa Fletcher from WJLA. They told Corey’s story and shared the frightening details surrounding the Takata airbag recall. The very same company that designed the faulty airbag system – Takata – is designing and manufacturing its replacement…using the same, key ingredient that […]

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2001-2003 Honda/Acura Takata Airbag PSA

2001-2003 Honda/Acura Takata Airbag PSA

A new public service announcement (PSA) featuring Corey Burdick, one of many victims of defective Takata airbags that have been recalled.

“The federal government just issued an urgent warning to consumers about certain 2001/2002 Honda vehicles with defective airbags,” Newsome can be seen saying in the PSA. “The warning told consumers not even to drive their vehicles until they have taken it into a dealership to make sure that if they have a defective airbag, it has been replaced.”

Takata, whose airbags can be found in one in every five cars on the road in the United States, has come under Congressional scrutiny for intentionally putting forward a product which executives knew was defective. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has stated that the current Takata airbag recall may reach upwards to 250 million vehicles worldwide.

In the educational PSA, a disfigured Burdick speaks into the camera stating, “I lost my eye because of a defective airbag…take your car in today so that this doesn’t happen to you.”

Corey Burdick’s life was forever changed on May 29, 2014 when he was involved in a minor traffic incident while driving to work in Lake County, Florida. During the minor incident, the Takata airbag in his 2001 Honda Civic ejected sharp metal shrapnel into his right eye, leaving him disfigured and permanently blind in that eye.

Burdick later found out that his Civic had been previously recalled multiple times for the dangerous airbag defect. Unfortunately, Burdick never received notice of the recall. As a result, Burdick, his wife, and their two young children are now forced to live with permanent and needless injuries he suffered as a result of the shrapnel defect.

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Takata Recall: Breaking News

Takata Recall: Breaking News

On Wednesday, June 1st, during a news conference with Sen. Bill Nelson, our client Tiffany Vu spoke with the media about a fender-bender she was in that ended with doctors removing shards of metal from her body at a hospital due to a faulty Takata airbag. On or about April 14, 2016, Tiffany Vu, 27 […]

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