Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Airlines May Be Forced To Remove Defective Seats

American and European aviation safety regulators have proposed a two-year deadline for the testing of certain defective passenger seats on more than 1,000 planes, failing which the seats will have to be removed from the planes. It's likely to cause airlines financial distress as they are forced to yank seats manufactured by Japan's Koito Industries Ltd., unless the company is able to determine which of the seats are defective.

In 2009, Japanese authorities began investigating the possibility that the company had falsified test data. Koito later confessed that it had used a computer program that delivered falsified strength test readings. The company also admitted that it had, in some cases, used results from previous tests. Late last year, officials at the company admitted some more discrepancies. Test results involving more than 150,000 seats in more than 1,000 planes supplied across the world, have been falsified. These planes are currently being used by more than 30 carriers. Koito has since apologized, and promised to conduct tests and fix any defective passenger seats.

The concerns are that these passenger seats increase the risk of injury or fatality during an accident or other emergency situation. These potentially unsafe seats could catch fire during a rough landing or crash, and could injure passengers and crew members. Earlier this year, California plane crash lawyers had believed that airlines would voluntarily be able to remove some of the seats found to be defective from their cabins. However, the problem seems to be in determining which of the seats are defective. Independent experts are conducting tests to confirm which of the seats manufactured by the Japanese company are unsafe.

However, considering the number of seats that are involved and the number of airlines that these seats have been supplied to, determining which of the passenger seats are defective is going to be a monumental task. In the meantime, the airlines could have a two-year deadline during which they either wait for the test results to confirm which seats are defective, or get all of these Koito-manufactured seats removed from cabins.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Back to School : Car and Kid Safety Tips to Avoid Accidents

School has been back in session for a few weeks and for those with little ones attending, people who live near a school, or commuters who drive by during the am drop-off or pm pick-up rush - it can be a very chaotic and potentially dangerous driving and pedestrian situation.

Some schools have established a regulated traffic flow pattern for dropping off and picking up children, including the use of cones and staff dedicated to guiding drivers. This is in addition to crossing guards, who do a very important job of ensuring the safety of and reducing accidents involving pedestrians.

A few tips have been published in the Consumer Reports Blogs about Kid Safety. But here are some other things to consider
  1. Avoid distractions by staying off your cell phone, turning off your stereo, and putting down your cup of coffee (or even worse habit when driving - food).
  2. If weather permits (practically year round in California), roll down your window(s) so you can hear any sirens, warnings, instructions, etc. This will keep you tuned into any possible alerts or pending messes.
  3. Keep your child buckled in as long as possible, and have them buckle up as soon as possible.
  4. Avoid backing up. This is one of the most dangerous driving maneuvers when children are present.
  5. PLAN ACCORDINGLY - school starts times and end times are scheduled, be a responsible adult and take the time needed to afford you decreased stress and less rush. Routine is key.
For more information and other types of tips. see www.KidsAndCars.org.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Toyota Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuit against San Diego family

It all began with the deaths of four people in a fiery car crash in San Diego last year. That accident, which was later blamed on the sudden acceleration of the Toyota-built Lexus, set off a series of recalls that brought the attention of the world to Toyota’s numerous safety problems. The automaker has now settled with the families of the victims of the crash.

Off-duty California highway patrol officer Mark Saylor, his wife, daughter and daughter-in-law were in the Lexus. It was a loaner vehicle from a local Lexus dealership. At some point, the Lexus began to accelerate to uncontrollable speeds. Witnesses reported seeing the wheels burst into flames as Saylor stood on the brakes. The Lexus crashed into an embankment, bursting into flames. All four people in the car were killed instantly. 911 recordings later confirmed that the car had accelerated to high speeds, with the motorist, an experienced driver himself, unable to stop it.

Mark Saylor’s parents, as well as the parents of his wife and brother-in-law, filed wrongful death lawsuits against Toyota. Out of the hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed against Toyota, all related to unintended acceleration, these California lawsuits were believed to have the strongest case against Toyota. The company has now settled with the family. However, the Toyota settlement does not include the dealer whose car was involved in the accident.

Since the first recall last year, car accident lawyers in Los Angeles and around the country have filed hundreds of lawsuits against Toyota. The automaker is expected to deny liability in many of these crashes, and blame driver error instead.

There had been murmurs about sudden unintended acceleration in these vehicles even before that deadly accident in San Diego. However, the accident that killed Mark Saylor's family really put the spotlight on the problems that Toyota had, for so long, been brushing under the carpet. All the focus on Toyota’s problems with electronic throttle controls also created a domino effect; with other safety problems with the company's cars now out in the open.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Ryanair Chief Wants to Eliminate Copilots - Says "Bloody Computer" Can Run Plane

Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary is not exactly a stranger to controversy. This time however, he has sparked outrage among California plane crash lawyers and the flying public over his comments that a copilot in a cockpit is not really a necessity. According to O'Leary, one pilot is more than enough to get the job done. O'Leary is quoted in Bloomberg as saying - "Let's take out the second pilot. Let the bloody computer fly it."

The "bloody computer" he is referring to is all the computerized technology in modern cockpits that make it easier for pilots to fly planes. California plane crash attorneys don't expect to soon see the day when we actually will have just one pilot, and plenty of gadgetry, flying planes. However, when someone in a position of responsibility, even if he runs a European budget airline, says something as outrageous as this, we need to speak up, and set them right.

Computers don't fly planes, people do. All that a computer can do is release some of the stress on pilots, and make their job easier. That's what computer systems in most other industries also do. Sure, planes can perform auto landings, but the numbers of landings that are automated constitute a minuscule percentage of the millions of plane landings every day. Even with all this automation, pilot and copilots can be very busy in the cockpit. Make no mistake. Flying a plane is stressful, highly sophisticated and skilled work.

It's also hard to imagine the kind of impact these kinds of statements will have on copilots who currently fly Ryanair planes. It can't do much for job satisfaction to find that your boss thinks you are useless, and can just as easily be replaced by a computer.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Influx of Russian Drivers in Trucking Industry

Time magazine has a piece on the growing numbers of Russian immigrant drivers in the trucking industry, and the kind of safety impact drivers with a limited knowledge of English could have in an industry that’s so dependent on the professionalism and quality of its drivers.

There no studies to indicate exactly how many Russian-born drivers are in the United States currently. But immigration in the segment has been increasing steadily over the years. A dismal economic scene for truck drivers in Russia has meant more numbers of them coming to the US. Most of them lack educational qualifications and are above the age of 35. For them, there may be no other options than to drive trucks.

So are they really any safety issues from these drivers, or is Time magazine overreacting? Anytime there is a truck driver behind the wheel who is not able to read road signs or understand English properly, there is a serious risk to trucking safety. Just about every Las Vegas truck accident lawyer will agree with that.

In fact, to be able to obtain a Commercial Drivers License, drivers need to be able to read and speak English at least sufficiently enough to be able to talk to the public. They also need to be able to understand traffic signs and signals. They also must be able to talk to inspection officers if they're pulled over for a check.

There are Russians who can speak English sufficiently well, but most drivers do struggle with the language. In 2001, an audit of Utah's CDL system found that many immigrant drivers had been using electronic translation devices to take the CDL test. In August, federal prosecutors broke open a scheme in Pennsylvania, selling CDLs to incompetent drivers, many of them Russian-speaking immigrants.

None of this is to say that all of the country's Russian-born truckers are not qualified to operate rigs. However, any time you have a truck being operated by a person who can't speak sufficient English to perform his job appropriately-whether it is a Russian, Finn or Brazilian - you have a definite trucking safety issue.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

No Clues yet in Fatal Arkansas Medical Helicopter Crash

A medical helicopter went down in the hills of central Arkansas this week, killing three crew members on board. The helicopter went down near Scotland in Van Buren County in the early hours of Tuesday morning. It had been on its way to pick up an injured victim from a traffic accident site, when it apparently exploded in midair. According to local sheriff's officials at the scene, it's fair to assume that the victims were killed on impact. The helicopter disintegrated to several pieces, and these were scattered across a large area.

The National Transportation Safety Board has sent an investigative team to the site. According to the investigators, they will look at mechanical malfunctioning of the helicopter and other issues that could have contributed to the crash. According to representatives of Air Evac Lifeteam, the company that operated the helicopter, it was equipped with night vision equipment. There seems to have been no distress call from the helicopter before the crash.

This is not the first medical helicopter crash involving an aircraft of Air Evac Lifeteam in recent years. In 2008, a helicopter owned by Air Evac went down in a cornfield in Indiana. Three people died in that crash. In 2007, another helicopter went down in Colbert County, Alabama killing three people on the helicopter. In 2006, another helicopter crashed in Northwest Arkansas, injuring three crewmembers and killing the patient who was being transported. Just last month, a medical helicopter had to make a crash landing in Tulsa, Oklahoma after a hydraulic failure. No one was injured in the crash.

In a span of just four years, 10 people have been killed in medical helicopter accidents involving air ambulances operated by Air Evac. This record of fatal crashes is likely to draw the attention of investigators and medical helicopter accident lawyers.