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George Fusner
George Fusner
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New Safety Technologies Become Mainstream

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Only a few years ago Mercedes unveiled to the world “radar cruise control.” It allows driver to set a speed, much like normal cruise control found in nearly all vehicles today. However, if the vehicle ahead is traveling slower – the car will automatically slow down, or even brake to a stop. The technology improved further since – Lexus’ version now offers collision-prediction technology, where the seat belts tighten and brakes are applied when an unavoidable collision is imminent.

Other technologies over the last years seek to prevent accidents by alerting drivers of impending danger. Nearly all luxury manufacturers now offer safety alert systems, and most mainstream luxury vehicles now offer blind-spot alert systems.

These technologies appear to be working, too. According to ABC News and the Federal Highway Association, traffic fatalities in 2008 were the lowest in 48 years, and preliminary reports show further decline in 2009. Just as importantly, as these technologies age, they become less cost prohibitive to put into less expensive vehicles. The Ford Taurus now offers three different technologies similar to what I talked about earlier. As time goes on, more and more affordable vehicles will offer these new technologies which could help prevent accidents, or mitigate the damage.

What does this mean from an attorney’s perspective? This means that the argument that a safety feature was cost prohibitive to include in a vehicle is more difficult to make. It means auto manufacturers must take it upon themselves to adopt these technologies if they can prevent an auto accident. And finally, it means that as these effective tools become more affordable, auto manufacturers have no excuse not to protect their customers.

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    Often tghe only incentive an automaker has to improve safety is the threat of a lawsuit and the risk of a big verdict. It is a shame that they sometimes don’t do the right thing and design and build the vehicle safe in the first palce. The problem with tort reform – a creation of the insurance industry – is that it blocks the one avenue the people have to hold automakers responsible. And now Congress and the courts are letting automakers escape all resonsibility for people hurt in defective cars because the bankruptcy filings. Our companies should be better than this in America.