Motorcycle Fatality Statistics Encourage Riders to Stay Away from Novelty Helmets

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California law requires all motorcycle drivers and passengers to wear a safety helmet. California Vehicle Code, Division 12, Chapter 5, Article 7, Section 27803 states that is it illegal to operate a motorcycle or be a passenger on a motorcycle without wearing a safety helmet.

What are the standards for these safety helmets? California law requires that the helmet worn by the motorcycle rider or passenger must be fastened with straps and fit the person’s head securely without excessive lateral or vertical movement.

Recent media reports show that nationwide, including in California, novelty helmets are boosting motorcycle accident fatalities. What are novelty helmets? These are basically head gear for motorcyclists and passengers that are designed to do little more than giving a false impression of compliance with helmet use laws.

In several states where motorcycle helmets are mandatory, motorcyclists wear novelty helmets as a symbol of resistance to such laws. Others use them simply because they “look cool,” are much cheaper than the DOT-approved ones or are less bulkier and more comfortable to wear.

Novelty Helmets are Useless in a Crash

Novelty helmets do not meet federal safety requirements. In fact, government safety agencies have released several reports after testing numerous brands of the novelty helmets finding that they failed all or most of their safety tests. Six years ago, NHTSA hired an independent laboratory to research seven novelty helmet models and found that all of them were absolutely useless in a crash.

The analyses gave 100 percent probability of brain injuries and skull fracture indicating that the person wearing the helmet is likely to sustain fatal head trauma. What’s worse, these helmets give riders and passengers a false sense of security. Also, it remains legal to make and sell novelty helmets as long as they are not falsely represented as meeting federal standards. California is one of several states that has made them illegal, but this law is ill-enforced in the Golden State.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 54 percent of road riders wore an approved helmet in 2010, which was down from 67 percent in 2009. More than 800,000 novelty helmets are sold in the United States each year with the number of the motorcycle accident fatalities mounting.

A NHTSA rule taking effect next month will hopefully make it easier for police to spot helmets with fake safety labels. Many of these labels and stickers are sold online for as little as 50 cents. Numerous tests over the years have clearly shown that certified helmets, those meeting federal standards, save hundreds of lives every year and prevent traumatic brain injuries.

Higher Number of Motorcycle Crash Fatalities

In 2011, motorcycle crashes killed 4,612 people, more than twice the number of motorcyclists killed in the mid 1990s. NHTSA has estimated that as many as 754 people die each year in states with mandatory helmet laws because they wore novelty helmets instead of the safer helmets. That amounts to one in six rider fatalities. In the 19 states that require all riders to be helmeted, including California, novelty helmets account for about one of every five helmets sold.

Crashes Involving Novelty Helmets

NHTSA has estimated that as many as 754 people die each year in states with mandatory helmet laws because they wore novelty helmets instead of safe headgear, which amounts to nearly one in six rider fatalities. Yet in the 19 states that require riders of all ages to wear some form of protection, the novelty versions account for about one out of every five helmets sold. Novelty helmets are sold in stores and online by numerous companies. Prices start at around $30 and top out at $305.99.

California has particularly seen an increase in accidents involving novelty helmets, officials say. Most recently on March 14, 2013, 56-year-old William Rivers was killed in a Riverside County car accident after the driver of another vehicle failed to yield the right-of-way to his motorcycle at a street intersection. Officials said Rivers was wearing a novelty helmet and died from his injuries although both the pickup and motorcycle were traveling at or below the speed limit at the time.

These are injuries and fatalities that can easily be prevented. A DOT-approved full-face helmet can help significantly reduce the probability of a traumatic head injury or a fatal injury.

Protecting Victims’ Rights

Regardless of the type of helmet, if a motorcycle accident was caused by someone else’s negligence, the at-fault party can be held liable for the injuries, damages and losses caused. Injured victims or families of deceased victims would be well advised to contact an experienced California personal injury lawyer who will analyze all aspects of the incident and ensure that the negligent parties are held accountable.

Toyota Recalls 2.8 Million Defective Vehicles

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Toyota is issuing a vehicle defect recall for 2.8 million cars including its high-profile Prius hybrid models. According to an NBC News report, the most recent recall is the result of a water pump problem and a steering shaft defect. These defects can result in steering problems on a variety of Toyota models using the components. The steering shaft defect is involved in the recall of vehicles including the Corolla and Prius models. About 620,000 of those vehicles may also be equipped with the defective water pump.

Vehicles that may need both parts repaired were sold between 2001 and 2010 in Japan and from 2003 to 2011 in the United States. Another 10,000 Toyota vehicles are being recalled solely due to the faulty water pump. This recall is being viewed as a significant setback for Toyota, according to the news article. One month ago, the Japanese automaker announced its biggest recall ever for a single part – 7.4 million vehicles over a faulty power window switch that could pose a fire hazard.

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Britax Child Safety Seats Recalled for Potential Choking Danger

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Car seat manufacturer Britax has issued a defective product recall for children’s safety seats and boosters due to a potential choking hazard. According to a news report in The Wall Street Journal, the chest pads in these safety seats are made of a softer material that could come apart if the child bites or chews on it. If that happens the pieces could become a choking hazard. The recall involved 55,455 restraints.

Once the recall begins, Britax will provide replacement pads made of firmer material, with instructions on how to install them. Those who own these seats are asked to remove the current pads and continue to use the seat until the replacements arrive. Anyone with questions is encouraged to call Britax at 1-888-427-4829.

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Federal Officials Investigating Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable Cars for Sudden Acceleration

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is launching an investigation into 310,000 older model Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable vehicles after reports of unintended sudden acceleration. According to an article in the Detroit News, the federal auto safety agency is conducting a preliminary investigation on 2000 and 2003 Taurus and Sable models and has so far received 50 complaints regarding incidents involving stuck throttles. The defect is apparently due to the failure of a plastic bracket that holds the speed control cable in place. The vehicles that are a part of this probe are equipped with 3.0L V6 Duratec engines.

The fractured bracket in these vehicles allows the cable to move, which may cause the throttle to stick. A number of these failures occur in vehicles that have more than 100,000 miles on the odometer. So far, no car accidents or injuries have been linked to this potential vehicle defect.

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Nissan Recalls Altima Vehicles for Incorrectly Torqued Bolts

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Nissan has issued a vehicle defect recall for about 13,919 of its 2012-2013 Altima sedans because they may have been equipped with incorrectly torqued transverse link bolts and power steering rack bolts. According to an article in Consumer Reports, the bolts could become loose and fall out leading to loss of vehicle control and increasing the risk of a car crash. This recall involves Nissan Altima vehicles made between May 10 and July 26, 2012. When the recall begins at the end of the month, Nissan will notify owners and dealers will tighten the bolts to the proper torque specifications at no charge to car owners.

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Kellogg Issues Massive Recall of Mini-Wheats Due to Contamination

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Kellogg has issued a defective product recall for its Frosted and Unfrosted Mini-Wheats cereal because the products may be contaminated by metal mesh fragments. According to a CBS News report, the recall involves nearly 2.8 million boxes of the cereal including Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size Original and Mini-Wheats Unfrosted Bite Size products. The “use by” dates for these products range from April 1, 2013 to Sept. 21, 2013. Kellogg had posted the recall information on their web site on October 8, 2012.

However, consumers were not made aware of the potential problem until three days later, on October 11, 2012. Kellogg officials say the public is not at a high risk as a result of the contamination. So far, no injuries or illnesses have been reported due to these recalled products. Anyone with questions or concerns is asked to contact 1-800-962-1413.

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Manufacturer Recalls Bicycles for Potential Crash Danger

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Specialized Bicycle Components Inc. has issued a defective product recall for about 12,000 bicycles because a part can break off and cause riders to fall down and get injured. According to a news report in The Associated Press, the company made the announcement along with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stating that the front fork of the bicycles can break. So far, the company has received four reports of these front forks breaking. Victims have suffered facial fractures, head and shoulder injuries as well as lacerations as a result of these defective bicycles.

The recall includes some 2008 and 2009 models of Globe bicycles for both women and men, which were sold from July 2007 through July 2012. Consumers are asked to stop using these recalled bicycles right away and take them to an authorized dealer to have the faulty fork uninstalled and replaced at no cost.

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Rental Car Companies Agree not to Rent or Sell Recalled Vehicles

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The four largest rental car companies in the country have agreed to requests made by two senators who are pushing for legislation to prevent rental companies from renting or selling defective vehicles that have not yet been repaired. According to a news report in the Los Angeles Times, Senators Barbara Boxer and Charles Schumer announced the agreement Thursday with Hertz, Avis, Enterprise and Dollar Thrifty, the four most popular rental companies in the United States.

The companies have said they will support the law, which will for the first time put them under federal oversight on recalls. The push for this new law came from Cally Houck, the mother of Raechel, 24, and Jacqueline, 20, who were both killed in a fiery crash in 2004 while returning to the Bay Area after visiting their mother in Ojai.

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Toyota Yaris Ranks Poorly in Injury Crashes

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The Highway Loss Data Institute released a report based on insurance data for vehicle model years 2009 to 2011, which shows that people traveling in a Toyota Yaris are more likely to get injured than occupants of any other vehicle. According to the Los Angeles Times, the institute found that personal injury claims were filed 28.5 times for every 1,000 Yaris vehicles that were insured by the industry.

Next to the Yaris, the Suzuki SX4, a small crossover, had the second highest risk of injury to occupants posting 26.6 claims per thousand vehicles insured. Other vehicles that scored poorly in terms of occupant safety include the Chevy Aveo, Mitsubishi Galant, Kia Rio, Nissan Versa and Sentra, Hyundai Accent and the Dodge Avenger. It is interesting to note that the vehicles with the highest injury claims are also small cars.

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Man Killed in Angeles Crest Highway Motorcycle Accident

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Dan Cretu, 38, was killed in a Los Angeles County motorcycle crash, after he lost control of his cycle near mile marker 27 of the Angeles Crest Highway. According to a report in The Pasadena Star-News, the fatal accident occurred the morning of September 22, 2012 in La Canada Flintridge about four miles north of the 210 Freeway. Cretu was riding a 2012 Aprilia motorcycle when it veered off the right side of the roadway and struck a sign, California Highway Patrol officials said. Cretu was thrown off his motorcycle and landed on a dirt and grass embankment. He was transported to an area hospital where he died. Officials are still looking into what caused this fatal injury accident.

I offer my deepest condolences to everyone who knew and loved Dan Cretu for their terrible loss. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

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