Safety Standards Not Always Safe-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Safety Standards Not Always Safe

Most of us would agree that technological advances are a great thing.  But what about the safety standards they often precipitate?  Are they always good?  Some would argue that they are not, and they may be right.

In 2006 a federal safety standard was revised to reflect an advancement in technology.  Some of you who are reading this may have been affected.

That standard dealt with the new "smart" key fobs that are used in millions of vehicles to replace the key that we have become so accustomed to.  These fobs use an electronic code that allows a vehicle to be started by pressing a button or by inserting the fob into a slot on the dashboard.

So what's the problem?  Well, the new standard allows the engine to be shut off without having to shift the vehicle into the Park position.  This, in turn, can allow the vehicle to roll.  Many drivers have been injured after leaving their vehicles, only to see them start to drift away.  The drivers have either been struck by the moving vehicle or have been dragged when they tried to get back in to apply the brakes.

In 2009 a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of owners of vehicles with the new fob, arguing that consumers are being endangered and that the vehicles did not comply with the intent of the 2006 standard, which was to include the prevention of roll-away accidents.  Remarkably, the case was dismissed, with the judge stating that, even though the fob could be removed without the vehicle being placed into Park, there was no violation of the standard because the electronic code remained in the vehicle's system.  Despite the dismissal of the case, many automakers recognized the problem and decided to address the issue voluntarily.

If your vehicle is one of those that uses a fob that  allows your vehicle to drift after being shut off, please take the extra step and place your vehicle in Park , and set the emergency brake.  It may save you from injury.


By: Jim Gindlesperger, jg57@andrew.cmu.edu, 412-268-3760