The Utah Department of Transportation reports that in 2009, the state saw 238 traffic fatalities. While drowsy driving, poor driving conditions, and driver distraction cause the vast majority of car accidents, the culprit is not always a human being. Statistics vary widely, but mechanical failures—misfires in the operation of a motor vehicle—are said to contribute to 5-15% of car accidents. This amounts to 12-36 lives lost in Utah, alone, and 150-450 fatalities nationwide.
In the moment of an accident, seemingly insignificant problems with an automobile can come with serious consequences. Listed below are the most common forms of vehicular malfunction and what can be done to check them beforehand.
1. Seat Belt Malfunctions
An improperly manufactured seat belt can cause a great deal more harm than good in a high-impact car crash. If the lap and shoulder straps of a seat belt are not integrated, for instance, the pressure from one can cause serious or even fatal injury (as when the spine is damaged by the shoulder strap when the lap belt is absent or inadequate). In other cases, seat belts have actually been designed to unspool at a given threshold limit, rendering them basically useless. To prevent injury from a seat belt malfunction, always choose a vehicle with integrated lap and shoulder straps WITHOUT torsion bars—devices which fail at a given threshold limit.
2. Bad Brakes
In cars manufactured after the ‘70s, the braking systems are primarily electronic. In a very few cases, glitches surface in the mechanism responsible for stopping the car—or a car crash. To prevent a calamity during check-ups, pay attention to your vehicle’s handling and take it to a professional at the first sign that something is amiss.
3. Broken head/taillights
In conditions of low visibility, vehicular lights are vital to safe navigation of the roadway. A motorist that cannot see or be seen is a hazard to others and to themselves. Therefore, broken head and taillights should be replaced promptly.
4. Dysfunctional Wipers
Another important component of visibility is a working pair of windshield wipers. During rainstorms or blizzard conditions, it can be impossible to find one’s way, no matter how well the lights are working or how thoroughly the driver knows the road. To maintain windshield wipers, keep them clean, scrape off ice before putting them to use, and inspect them every 6 months so that you can replace them before bad weather hits.
5. Compromised Steering/Suspension
If a vehicle “jumps” off to the side when it hits a pothole or other obstruction, or if it becomes abnormally springy or “clunky,” there is probably a problem with the steering and/or suspension. These issues are usually caused by a growing disconnect between the bearings that link tires to the steering mechanisms. These “jumps,” or even separation of components, drastically reduce the ability of a driver to avoid car accidents at vital moments. To prevent this disconnect from turning to detachment, the bearings should be replaced as soon as warning signs appear.
6. Worn or improperly inflated tires
When a wheel’s integrity is jeopardized, a number of undesirable consequences may ensue—a drifting, loss of contact with the road, increased friction (and, thus, wear) with the ground, or even a blowout. A monthly check of tire pressure and replacement of tires once the tread has worn down to the level of the tread wear indicators should forefend against these mishaps.
7. Bearing/Axle Failures
When not sufficiently lubricated, the bearings and axles on which tires rotate become worn down by friction from foreign objects like dust or spiteful metal particles and heat. This can result in a loss of control of a wheel, or of the wheel, itself. Consistent use of a high quality grease extends the life of bearings and axles and decreases the odds of a car crash.
If you have recently been involved in a car accident in the Salt Lake City area and suspect that a problem with your vehicle may have contributed to its occurrence or aggravated its seriousness, lawyers Christensen & Hymas can direct you on your course to finding evidence, filing claims, and attending to other necessaries. For a free consultation, call (801) 506-0800.
Image Courtesy of The CTBTO Photostream