Traffic Deaths Down 3.1 Percent in 2013

Accident

Fatalities from traffic accidents decreased 3.1 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to a traffic fatality report issued today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In total, 32,719 Americans died in traffic accidents in 2013. That's down from 2012's 33,782 — a figure that's been adjusted since NHTSA released it more than a year ago. In 2013, about two-thirds of fatalities (21,132) were occupants in passenger vehicles; the balance comes largely from commercial-vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

Related: Study: AAA Finds Safety Systems Still Have Kinks

The totals match a February 2014 estimate by the National Safety Council, but NHTSA typically issues the prior-year report near the end of each calendar year. Of note, traffic injuries (not deaths) also decreased 2.1 percent. Deaths from drunken and/or distracted driving both fell, though distracted-driving injuries increased. Finally, the rate of deaths — 1.10 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2013, versus 1.14 deaths in 2012 — also decreased. That's a historic low, NHTSA says.

Still, the nation's 4,735 pedestrian fatalities are 15 percent higher than 2009's record low, and pedal cyclists (anyone riding a bicycle, tricycle, etc.) increased 1.2 percent to a seven-year high.

Want more? Click here to read NHTSA's full report.

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By Kelsey Mays | December 19, 2014 | Comments (0)

Cadillac Debuts Video Rearview Mirror in 2016 CT6

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Cadillac announced Thursday that the 2016 CT6, its forthcoming flagship car that signals a brand-wide nameplate change, will offer streaming video of what's behind you in the center rearview mirror. The video overlays the mirror, but drivers can switch back to the mirror view at the touch of a button. Cadillac estimates it will improve the field of vision by 300 percent, as it removes passengers, head restraints, window pillars and the vehicle's roofline from your line of sight.

Related: Cadillac Changes All Model Names to Alphanumeric, Starts With CT6, Etc.

It reads a lot like Nissan's Smart Rearview Mirror, but that has yet to reach our shores. And it won't be the first time an automaker has streamed real-time video of what's behind you. Tesla and Land Rover have true rearview cameras — not just backup cameras — that do just that.

Like Nissan, Cadillac claims the camera reduces glare and picks up your surroundings even in low-light situations. The display itself is a TFT LCD, or thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal display, that measures 1,280 by 240 pixels; it draws video from a rear-mounted high-definition camera lens with a specialized coating to repel water and dirt.

By Kelsey Mays | December 19, 2014 | Comments (0)

Ford Expands Airbag Recall

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In November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urged automakers to expand a recall of Takata-manufactured airbags, and Ford has announced it's doing just that. Following Honda and Mazda, Ford has decided to expand its Takata airbag recall nationwide. The affected airbags when they deploy can launch shrapnel into passengers; incidents were observed in high-humidity areas, prompting 10 automakers to issue regional recalls affecting scores of 2000s-era models registered in states such as Florida.

Related: What Cars Are Included in the Takata Airbag Recall?

Ford says the nationwide recall expansion affects 502,489 vehicles, an addition of 447,310 vehicles, bringing the automaker's total count of affected vehicles to 538,977. Vehicles included in the expansion are the 2005-08 Ford Mustang built between Aug. 18, 2004, and June 25, 2007, and the 2005-06 Ford GT built between Feb. 11, 2005, and Jan. 30, 2006. 

The automaker is aware of one injury that may be related to the recall, it said in a statement. Ford has not yet issued an owner-notification schedule, but dealers will replace the airbag inflator for free. Customers with questions can call Ford at 866-436-7332 for more information.

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By Jennifer Geiger | December 18, 2014 | Comments (0)

2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport: Car Seat Check

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Can something fast and stylish also be roomy and comfortable? The Lexus IS 350 with the F Sport Package is the perfect example; it nails the first two, but parents might not get enough out of the backseat in the room and comfort departments. Excellent Latch anchor exposure made installing child-safety seats a breeze, but our rear-facing seats took up more than a comfortable amount of room in back.

How many car seats fit in the second row? Two

More Car Seat Checks

By Jennifer Geiger | December 18, 2014 | Comments (0)

Night Drivers Need This Button

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It seems that the older I get, the more sensitive I am to driving at night, whether its lights on the roads or the light coming from test cars' multimedia systems. And I'm not alone.

Related: More Safety News

Most adults have trouble adjusting to bright lights as they age. "The pupil shrinks from a diameter of about five millimeters when we're young adults to about three millimeters in old age," according to an article on night vision in Harvard Health Publications. "A smaller pupil means less lights can enter the eye ... and [is] part of the reason older eyes have a harder time adjusting to changes in light — going from darkness into bright light and vice versa."

Pair this phenomenon with the increasing size of electronic screens in cars and it's a recipe for difficulty driving at night. Chrysler's Uconnect system features an 8.4-inch screen; the new Volvo XC90's touch-screen is iPad sized and inspired, and the Tesla Model S features a mac-daddy 17-inch screen. These screens emit a continuous glow, and it can be difficult to see after looking at a tablet-sized glowing screen and then back to the dark road ahead while driving at night. Want to turn the glow down while its in night mode or even turn it off? With many systems, you'll have to stare directly into the glowing embers, so to speak, long enough to toggle through several menu screens to turn off the screen.

By Kristin Varela | December 18, 2014 | Comments (4)

Toyota Social Safety Campaign Aims to Keep Kids Safe

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Despite my desire for a more meaningful Christmas, my family usually goes down to the wire frantically trying to fill shopping carts and stockings. I'm probably not alone with this hectic holiday hullabaloo, but even with all the activity there should be enough time to take part in Toyota's child safety campaign.

Related: How to Transport Your Christmas Tree

Toyota's #BUCKLEUPFORLIFE campaign uses social media to buckle up many children who otherwise would be without child safety seats this holiday season.

By Kristin Varela | December 16, 2014 | Comments (0)

GM Issues Fix for New Key Issue in Cars Under Ignition Recall

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GM is sending letters to the owners of some 2.2 million 2000s-era small cars involved in the automaker's ignition-cylinder recall for an unrelated problem: Put the car in Park and the key may not come out when you turn it off. Although it applies to the same group of vehicles subject to one of the automaker's most serious recalls this year, GM spokesman Alan Adler insists it's unrelated.

Related: GM: 58 Percent of U.S. Cars in Ignition Recall Are Fixed

You can still get a stuck key out of many cars by pressing a plunger under the steering column. But it’s an inconvenient procedure, as depicted above in the owner's manual for a 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt. GM's fix? Replace the console-mounted automatic transmission shifter, which can fail to send an electrical signal to the ignition when the car is put in Park. That signal allows you to rotate the key from the Run position into the Lock position and remove it, the automaker said in an emailed statement.

The problem only occurs in "3 to 4 percent of the vehicles," Adler said, but GM is sending letters to owners of all 2.2 million cars in the original recall. That figure comes from 2.59 million cars worldwide — the vast majority in the U.S. and Canada — under the ignition-switch recall, minus cars with manual transmissions, which don't have the problem, and cars that have been scrapped. If owners experience the sticking key, they can bring their vehicles into any GM dealer (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet or GMC) and get the transmission shifter replaced for free.

By Kelsey Mays | December 12, 2014 | Comments (0)

Recall Alert: 2014 Ford Transit Connect

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Vehicles Affected: Approximately 25,000 model-year 2014 Ford Transit Connect vehicles manufactured Aug. 1, 2013, to July 10, 2014

The Problem: The fuel and vapor lines may have been installed incorrectly and could make contact. This could result in an abrasion to the lines and a possible fuel leak, increasing the risk of a fire.

The Fix: Dealers will inspect and replace the affected lines for free.

What Owners Should Do: Ford began notifying owners last month. Owners can call Ford at 866-436-7332 or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 888-327-4236 for more information.

Need to Find a Dealer for Service? Go to Cars.com Service & Repair to find your local dealer. 

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By Jennifer Geiger | December 12, 2014 | Comments (0)

Congress Moves Closer to Choosing NHTSA Chief

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You probably haven't heard of Mark Rosekind, a former NASA member who's been on the National Transportation Safety Board since 2010. But he soon may head to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the country's top auto-safety agency. The Detroit News reports the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved Rosekind's nomination on Dec. 9. If nominated, he would replace a chair vacated by outgoing NHTSA chief David Strickland nearly a year ago.

Related: New York Times: NHTSA Has 'Record of Missteps'

Deputy Administrator David Friedman has been at the helm since then, fueling speculation he might be the eventual heir, but that isn't the case. After being nominated by President Barack Obama in November, Rosekind's committee approval moves him to the Senate floor for a vote. One senator told The Detroit News he thinks the chamber will confirm Rosekind this week. His NTSB biography describes eminence in the field of human fatigue, having launched a Cupertino, Calif., consulting firm called Alertness Solutions, which consulted on the science of fatigue management. He also directed an anti-fatigue program at NASA and oversaw human-sleep research at Stanford University's Sleep Disorders and Research Center.

The upshot for consumers? If Strickland's legacy was distracted driving, Rosekind may clamp down on tired driving.

By Kelsey Mays | December 10, 2014 | Comments (0)

Acura Issues Stop-Sale on Certain TLX Sedans

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Bloomberg News reported Dec. 9 that Acura told dealers to suspend sales of certain V-6 versions of the redesigned 2015 TLX because the parking brake may fail, and the car could roll away if parked. Parent company Honda said it would notify TLX owners beginning Jan. 6, Bloomberg said. A Honda spokesman told the news agency the company is still investigating whether the condition has led to any accidents.

Related: 2015 Acura TLX Review

Honda told Cars.com that it notified dealers to stop sales on Dec. 4, but the order only applies to certain cars. "Acura notified its U.S. dealers to stop the sale of certain TLX V6 [sic] vehicles until they receive specific inspection and repair instructions from Acura," the automaker said in a statement. "Only certain vehicles are included in this action, and nearly all new TLX V6 [sic] vehicles being delivered to dealers currently are unaffected by this stop sale order."

That suggests the automaker has already come up with a fix, and virtually all cars leaving the assembly line right now have been remedied. Honda did not elaborate on the cause or solution. It also didn't say how long sales would be stopped or whether current V-6 TLX owners should bring their cars in. The automaker only said Acura will provide more information when it's available and encourages drivers to use the parking brake whenever they park.

By Kelsey Mays | December 10, 2014 | Comments (2)

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