It happens every summer: children are more likely to experience fatalities due to swimming pool drownings, dehydration and overheating during outdoor play, and perhaps most sadly—because it involves adult negligence—child deaths caused by babies and young children being left unattended in cars. These children, even when they are old enough to know how to unbuckle seat belts and get out of booster seats, are generally unable to unlock a car on their own.
When a baby or child is left unattended in a turned off vehicle for just a few minutes, death and permanent brain damage are often the tragic outcomes. But even in the face of dozens of news reports of cases involving child deaths due to carelessness in what are being dubbed “hot car deaths,” less than 20 states in the US have laws on the books about the legality of this ferociously perilous practice.
Who will be the voice for these children, and more importantly, what can be done to keep this tragic and needless child car death spike from occurring each summer? Take Florida, for example, which does have a law that children cannot be left in an unattended car. This law is useless, as it allows for kids to be left in such scenarios for as long as 15 minutes—children can easily pass away in far less time than this, especially toddlers, infants, and exceptionally fragile newborns.
Stricter laws, more severe penalties and sentencing, and better outreach such as more informative and further reaching public service announcements about hot car deaths during the summer months could help to curb the incidence of these heartbreaking events. However, while these are all great ideas, nothing would be more effective than a nationwide law that would make leaving children unattended in a parked car for any period of time illegal. While some may not agree, the convenience people are seeking by not removing their babies and young children is simply not worth the risk of more child deaths each summer.
The “Kids and Cars” program founded by Janette Fennell has been instrumental in passing state laws in an effort to lessen the numbers of child deaths caused from being left in hot cars. While she notes that it is currently illegal for a passer-by to break a window to help a suffering child in most of the country, Tennessee has new legislation that allows cars to be broken into in these cases. Tennessee is the first state to pass a “do-gooder” law of this nature. Those who back the Kids and Cars initiative, among others, are hopeful this will be the impetus for other states to pass similar laws to protect children in danger.
President Obama’s recent virtual excursion at a McClean, Virginia center for automotive and highway research made for plenty of media fodder. While this entertaining jaunt was a show of Obama’s interest in creating safer driving environments for US citizens, there is a much deeper issue at play here.
While the need for serious infrastructure repairs on roads, highways, and bridges is nothing short of an eminent threat to motorists and their passengers, it seems the US House of Representatives and Senate cannot seem to reach agreement on any bill that would solve serious and long term issues for American roadways. Instead, in recently reaching across the aisle, Democrats and Republicans were only able to agree on a short term scope, which will leave plenty of big problems in high traffic areas while also leaving other seemingly smaller issues like potholes behind. This “emergency room instead of preventative care” sort of measure will leave drivers unsafe, while also pressing the house and Senate to have to sit back down at the bargaining table again in less than one year.
To add insult to injury for US citizens and workers, these short term, small time solutions will be paid for from the pensions of workers. While pensions and fixes to roads don’t seem to have anything to do with one another, apparently, this has been the only way to get even the smallest amount progress behind an infrastructure repair plan of any kind.
The hope is that after the time delineated in the bill may give automakers a chance to come up with more smart car options, as well as vehicles that get better gas mileage, and more diversity in hybrid vehicles. With this, more jobs in the automotive industry to support the need for greener driving options to improve the health of our environment is the goal. Obama has definitely thrown his support behind proposals that will incentivize carmakers to churn out smarter and more efficient vehicles, openly noting after his driving simulation that American motorists need and expect cars with higher safety standards, better gas mileage, and the job creation that will be generated by these expectations.
Hopefully, after the short provisions of the latest infrastructure legislation, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate will be able to work together in a manner that will create a longer-term plan to both repair roads and perhaps provide funding for more smart car research.
Even though the 2014 fiscal year is only halfway over, the automotive industry has recalled a record number of cars—even for a 12-month period. With nearly 40 million vehicles pulled from US roads and highways this year, there seems to be little carmakers can do to lessen the burn for themselves or the consumers who are having to experience the very tedious tasks involved in owning—and returning—a recalled car.
In the average year for the US automaker market, all recalled cars combined range from about 18 million to the low 20 million in numbers, depending on the year. There’s no arguing the fact that General Motors was the first to experience this trend in recalls. At first glance, while still alarming, the more than two-and-a-half million vehicle recalls from GM caused by issues with vehicle ignition systems were not thought of as a major recall—until it was revealed that the reason for these recalls was information that GM’s higher-ups had been aware of for at least 10 years or more.
The domino effect seemed to be in full swing by the end of the second quarter with millions of cars recalled by Honda, not the least of which were the millions of Honda Odyssey vans recalled for a wide variety of reasons. While clearly these recalls are not related as these carmakers are competitors, is it possible there is an industry-wide lowering of the bar that is causing major issues with these vehicles—issues so severe that there have been fatalities and near-fatalities caused by a handful of other carmakers as well?
In 2001, Ford Motor Company was forced to recall nearly 24 million vehicles in a 12-month period, but the record-setting pace currently being experienced by GM is cause for apprehension among both current car owners as well as prospective car buyers. It could very well be years before General Motors is able to return to a reputation as a reliable carmaker that takes every necessary step to ensure the drivers and the families that purchase and occupy their vehicles that their cars are safe and will not be part of any mass recalls.
Having a compliance monitor assigned to oversee the sales and operations of your car dealership is not a road any dealership owner wants to go down. In addition to the constant scrutiny, the consumers who are made aware of this scenario are far less likely to shop these dealerships for obvious reasons. And such is the case for several New Jersey dealership owners who deceived and violated the consumer rights of their patrons for more than a decade.
And it isn’t just the numbers of violations that were recorded that was so alarming—it was also the fact that the violations were egregious, and included a number of different dishonest sales practices. In a similar fashion (clearly on a much smaller scale) to the ARM home loans approved by predatory lenders before the housing bubble exploded, these Jersey car dealers employed sales tactics that made car buyers confident they could afford the cars they had selected. In addition, salespersons working at these dealerships swindled consumers by deceiving them into believing a vehicle other than the one they had initially chosen was within their budget.
In this massive settlement, the dealerships involved will have to pay out a sum of $1.8 million dollars. The shady sales practices that landed these eight auto dealers involved nearly 50 separate consumers, each of which will receive a portion of the nearly $2 million settlement in restitution for financial losses and other losses they incurred.
Overall, this settlement may seem like a small pittance when compared to the damages sustained by the deceived consumers, but the fact that these dealerships are now in the national news and having to deal with horrible reputations is no small problem. It will take them years to recover from the onslaught of reports of their dishonest tactics, and they will have to work very hard to reel in new car buyers, likely causing them to have to return vehicle inventory to carmakers. With these kinds of sales losses and an ever deepening hole in return on investment from carmakers that stock their dealerships, the $1.8 million settlement is just the tip of the iceberg for these eight New Jersey car dealers.
Just as Henry Ford completely changed how we get around each and every day, Bill Ford, Jr. is suggesting that once again, the field of transportation is experiencing massive uprising that will change how we move from point A to point B, including alternative fuels and new car building materials that make autos (and other forms of transportation) safer. So while the future looks incredibly bright for the automotive industry, it has little to do with the basis of old modes of thinking—how automakers are looking at the future is dramatically different than what it has been over the past several decades.
Electric automobile choices, and the latest trends in the progressive idea for “self-driving” cars will also have a massive impact on how auto makers create cars, as well as how consumers view the industry as a whole. In the future, those on the market to buy a new car will be taking a whole new set of variables into consideration, and this means carmakers will have to stay on top of their game to compete in addition to changing how new and innovative vehicles are marketed to the public.
Bill Ford is probably giving a very accurate forecast for how things will shake out for carmakers and how the future of transportation will be changed. In addition to his discussion of changes that will affect car buyers and how carmakers will have to keep up with trends, Ford discusses the promising new future for jobs in the automotive sector. As with all other industries, when exceptional innovations are part of the upcoming landscape, jobs in these sectors tend to trend upward, and advances in car making will be no exception.
The carmakers that will stay ahead of the pack are those that keep their eyes on upcoming trends, make plans to move in those directions, and those who plan ahead to increase their workforce with employees who have education and experience in the technologies these new kinds of cars will utilize.