Electric cars may represent the wave of the future in automotive transportation. For all the potential benefits of electric vehicles, they do come with one safety drawback: they are too quiet. The percentage of car accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists being struck by electric cars is higher than for gas or diesel-powered vehicles. It is believed that the difference in accident rates is based on the fact that people do not hear the electric car coming in time to avoid them. Walkers who would move aside or take precautionary steps at the approach of a gas-powered car continue on their paths until it is too late to avoid an accident.
Motor vehicles are being recalled in previously unheard of numbers. There have been 40 million vehicles recalled already in 2014. General Motors alone has recalled 25.7 million vehicles this year for various defects, some of which pose a significant danger to drivers. Despite the huge number of recalls, many lawmakers believe that the agency most directly in charge of the process needs to be given greater authority. Members of Congress have now been joined by the Obama administration is seeking substantial changes to the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These changes would grant the body greater authority to speed the recall process and punish automakers that do not cooperate. The goal is to reduce the number of car and truck accidents that occur before vehicles with known dangers are recalled.
A high-speed accident is a brutal way to test the safety of your automobile. Of the many components that must function correctly to protect you, airbags may be the most difficult to master. Millions of vehicles have been recalled this year for various defects. Problems with the effective deployment of airbags make up nearly one-third of those recalls. Many vehicles now come with multiple airbags as standard equipment. These airbags must deploy under the right circumstances, in the right order, at the right moment to protect the driver and passengers. The software necessary to make this work is highly complex and is, therefore, prone to failure.
Roughly half of U.S. States have rules requiring all drivers convicted of DUI to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles. Even first time offenders must use interlock devices in 24 states, with California testing such a requirement as part of a pilot program. The devices require drivers to blow into a device that can detect alcohol. If the driver has alcohol in his or her system, the ignition is disabled and the vehicle will not start, potentially preventing a deadly accident.
Investigation into General Motors' conduct has reignited interest in increased auto safety legislation. The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced his intention to introduce new legislation this year or the year after, with the goal of resolving the issues that allowed GM to avoid recalling millions of vehicles for more than a decade. So far, the defective ignition switches have been implicated in 13 fatal crashes.