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Big Brother Expands Probe of Chrysler SUVs to More than 5 Million

The federal government has expanded its lookie-see into the question of whether or not the fuel tanks within 5.1 million Chyrsler SUVs are a serious fire risk. This move expands the probe into 3 million 1993-2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees that started in August 2010. Now, the investigation covers 1993-2001 Jeep Cherokees and 2002-07 Jeep Liberty’s as well.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that it has received reports that 15 deaths and 41 injuries could have been caused by the fuel tanks and rear impact crashes. Talking about these fiery numbers, the NHTSA said in a statement it has found that Chrysler models show “a higher incidence of rear-impact, fatal fire crashes for the Jeep products. [Our investigation is exploring the fact that] “the fuel tank is located at the rear of the vehicle, between the bumper and axle, and is manufactured from a plastic material.”

This is a tough turn of events for Chrysler, who were enjoying their best sales in 5 years.


Uncle Sam Wants You (to Stop Driving Distracted)

The United States federal government has announced that it will spend $2.4 million to stop distracted driving in two of the nation’s lesser states: California and Delaware.

Speaking just a day or two after a teen in Massachusetts was convicted of vehicular homicide for killing another driver in a head-on collision while texting and driving, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood called this financial help a “blueprint for ending distracted driving.”

The feds will assist the two states by helping them enforce the distracted driving laws that the two states already have on their books (texting while driving was just banned in Ohio). Ten states ban all-types of hand-held phone use while driving, while 39 have some sort of texting while driving laws.


New Warp-Free Mirror Eliminates Blind Spots

Cars just keep getting safer and safer. Sometimes the changes are major and something completely new, such as airbags, and sometimes they are an improvement of a safety feature that has been around for some time, such as a new mirror that gives an extremely wide field of view without warping its picture.

This mirror, developed by Drexel University mathematics professor Andrew R. Hicks, eliminates the blind spots that have been a hazard since that first mirror was bolted to racer Ray Harroun’s Indy 500 car in 1911. Hicks’ driver’s side mirror gives a 45 degree view of what is behind a vehicle. This is a huge improvement on the 16-something degrees that the mirrors of today offer.

Talking about how his mirror works, Hicks said it was designed to make use of a new algorithm “so that each ray of light bouncing off the mirror shows the driver a wide, but not-too-distorted, picture of the scene behind him.”

While Hicks already has plans to produce his safe mirror for European and Asian markets, current federal law in the land of the free prevents him, or anyone, from selling mirrors for drivers that are not completely flat.

Thanks to Car Loans Pennsylvania for this tip.


Volvo Tests Self-Driving Cars

Volvo has gone live with its testing of a technology that it has dubbed the Safe Road Trains for the Environment, SARTRE. This society-changing technology is a system consisting of vehicle sensors, adaptive cruise control and forward warning that, when used together, gives driverless cars the ability to follow one another along roads and highways while smart drafting.

As the tests get further along and the technology improves and gets ready for production, vehicles will be equipped with wireless communication capability so that they can communicate with one another as they navigate roads as, what are in effect, road trains.

The Volvo 120-mile live test was performed by a lead truck that was automatically followed by a second truck and two cars. The automaker says that the successful test shows that self-driving technology does indeed work and should, with time, negate the need for drivers to be at the wheel during tedious trips.


Cops Hunting Seatbelt Fakers

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that seatbelt fakers have best be on guard, for the long arm of the law is reaching for them and their lack of seatbelt-buckling skills.

The NHTSA says that the more belts are clicked, the fewer that ghosts will be given up. In fact, according to the administration, 3,341 lives would have been saved if all passengers five and older had worn seat belts in 2010. In a press release, the NHTSA said, “this year’s Click It or Ticket crackdown is specifically targeting drivers who try to fake it. “Our new ad campaign focuses on a move known as the ‘fake-a-roony’ — quickly and momentarily pulling your belt across your chest when driving past a police car.”


Summer Is Deadliest Time For Teens

Summer is the best time of the year for most teens: school is out, they are able to spend more time with friends, and there are so many things to do. Unfortunately, it is the deadliest time of the year for teen drivers. On average, 422 teens die in motor vehicle accidents each month during the summer. Here are a few things that you can do to minimize the chances that you will get that dreaded phone call or visit from the police.

  • Talk to your teen about distracted driving. Texting while driving seems to be front-and-center currently, but there is more to distracted driving. Having a car full of teens is distracting. Blasting their favorite music is a distraction. There are many distractions. Talking to your teen could encourage them to reduce the number of distractions in their car.
  • Your teen does not have to be the driver to die in an accident. Talk to them about calling you if they feel unsafe at any time. Stress that you will be there no matter what at any time of the day or night.
  • Talk to your teen about driving under the influence. Alcohol or drugs kill more teens in vehicles than anything else. Your teen needs to know that even if you are going to be angry with them for getting drunk or high, you will protect them. Doubly stress that they should never get in the vehicle with someone else who is under the influence.

As a parent, the most you can do is keep the lines of communication open with your children. Start by setting an example. Do not do things that you do not want your children to do. Talk to them frequently, even if you are ignored most of the time, some things will get through.

Thanks go to Insurance for Teen Drivers for these tips.


NHTSA Investigating the 2012 Fisker Karma Fire in Texas

Man. If it wasn’t for bad news, Fisker Automotive wouldn’t get any news whatsoever. The latest blow for the costly electric vehicle maker is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened up a field inquiry into the infamous Texas 2012 Fisker Karma fire.

It was only in early May that a parked Fisker Karma luxury sedan may have started a house fire in the Lone Star State. Though Fisker Automotive initially said that it had “not ruled out possible fraud or malicious intent,” it is now saying that it will not comment further until all of the facts have been laid out. Regardless of the finding, it is never good for a company’s first words to be so blatantly defensive. 

Also, though not mentioning Fisker by name, NHTSA director of vehicle safety compliance Claude Harris said, “We are conducting an ongoing field inquiry for an EV incident in Texas. We are still engaged in that activity, and no determination has been made at this time.”


Are Black Boxes Coming to All Cars in the U.S.?

The U.S. Senate has just passed a bill that will, if law, require that all new cars from the 2015 model year forward be fitted with black boxes. These boxes, also called event data recorders, will serve a similar purpose as they do in airplanes, let others know what went on with a crashed vehicle.

Thankfully for now, the bill as it is currently written, the data captured by the boxes will be controlled by the vehicle’s owner. The amendment to not grant owners of white vans this same privacy protection failed to make it out of committee. Unfortunately, this privacy is not absolute. Court orders could force owners to give up the information contained within their black boxes.

According to Car and Driver magazine, it is believed that the House of Representatives will pass this latest assault on our freedom. Also, the magazine reported that the Department of Transportation has already declared that black boxes shall record five seconds worth of pre-crash data, including information about speed, braking and airbag deployment.


Top Life-Saving Auto Tech

Good news America, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that highway deaths are at an all-time low. While there are a number of reasons for this happy drop, from tougher laws and fewer young drivers, perhaps the greatest cause is the spread of life-saving car safety technology.

Some of the newest and most effective safety features are rearview cameras, lane departure warning systems, forward collision warning systems and adaptive headlights.

This year, the camera is offered on 223 models. The NHTSA is recommending that all new cars carry the cameras as standard equipment by 2014. The lane departure warning systems are called by some experts to be the feature that is most likely to save lives. The forward collision warning system uses radar sensors, loud signals, and an adaptive smart cruise control to keep a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you. The special headlights turn as your vehicle turns to give you a well-lit view of where you are headed, as depicted in this BMW adaptive headlight video.


Brake-Override Now Standard on all Hyundai Vehicles

Hyundai has recently announced that a brake override system is now standard equipment on all of its vehicles. Though a welcome development, the move is not all that large of one since all of its vehicles, with the exception of the Elanta Touring, already comes with a brake override system as standard equipment.

Some industry insiders are giggling that the announcement was a way for the South Korean automaker to take a swipe at the Japanese auto-making giant Toyota that continues to wallow in the courts due to unintended acceleration problems that may have led to accidents and deaths in the U.S. Regardless of the motivation for the decision, there is widespread belief that it will prove to be the end of production of the Elantra Touring.