Do you remember your first car or the car your parents owned when you were a child? When I was a child, my parents’ car had a metal dashboard, no airbags, and an open cargo area that doubled as a wrestling ring for my older brother and me during long trips. I’m sure many of you have similar memories–minus the wrestling ring.
According to a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the likelihood of crashing in 100,000 miles of driving has decreased from 30 percent in a model year 2000 car to 25 percent in a model year 2008. Also, the likelihood of escaping a crash uninjured has improved from 79 to 82 percent as a result of improvements between the 2000 and 2008 model year.
Nowadays, cars are manufactured differently. Safety regulations require airbags and seat belts for all passengers. The fact is, traveling by vehicle has gotten remarkably safer in recent years, but who has played the biggest role in automobile safety improvements?
Up until the 1960s, car manufacturers were only held liable for defects in manufacturing that resulted in accidents and had
largely avoided responsibility for defects in design. Even when a design defect caused a car to burst into flames, manufacturers succeeded in persuading courts that “no duty exists to make an automobile fireproof.”
During the 1960s, court cases began highlighting the dangers of car design and the negligence of manufacturers in designing cars that they knew were unsafe. The Larsen case became a landmark decision and is often referenced in product liability cases. General Motors claimed they had no duty to design an automobile that would protect the occupant if an accident occurred. The court disagreed and sent a message that car manufacturers had to change their ways.
Design defect litigation has enforced safety standards, revealed previously concealed defects and regulatory weaknesses, and deterred manufacturers from cutting corners on safety for the sake of greater profits.
According to this study, one thing we can do to potentially increase our safety while on the road: drive a newer car.
Wilson Kehoe Winingham brings you this information with best regards for you and your family’s safety.
Bruce Kehoe Bill Winingham