Investigators blame speed in fatal Paul Walker crash

Cause of Collision that claimed the lives of Paul Walker Roger Rodas

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s traffic collision experts have determined the speed of the vehicle driven by Roger Rodas, that claimed his life and the life of Paul Walker, was between 80 and 93 Miles Per Hour (MPH) at the time the car impacted a power pole and several trees.

“Investigators determined the cause of the fatal solo-vehicle collision was unsafe speed for the roadway conditions,” said Commander Mike Parker, North (County) Patrol Division, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

An in-depth examination was conducted with the assistance of expert investigators from the California Highway Patrol – Multi-disciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT).

MAIT investigators conducted a mechanical inspection of the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT’s powertrain and exhaust, throttle and fuel system, electrical system, steering and suspension, brake system, tires and wheels, and airbag control modules. The inspection also focused on the Porsche’s history, safety recalls, and repair records.

The mechanical examination revealed no pre-existing conditions that would have caused this collision. “During the examination, it was determined that an aftermarket exhaust system had been installed which would have increased the engine’s horsepower,” said Commander Parker. The tires on the car were more than nine years old.

There is evidence that seatbelts were worn by both Mr. Rodas and Walker and that the airbags deployed for both the driver and passenger. “Toxicology tests on both men revealed that neither had used any alcohol or drugs,” said Commander Parker.

The traffic collision happened at about 3:26PM on Saturday, November 30, 2013, at Hercules St. at Kelly Johnson Pkwy, which is very near the business park at the 28300 block of Rye Canyon Loop, Valencia, in the city of Santa Clarita. The posted speed limit in the area of the collision is 45 MPH.

No eyewitness contacted the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to say there was a second vehicle and there is no evidence to indicate there was a second car involved in the collision. Investigators sought out eyewitnesses to what happened just prior to the collision, as well as to the collision itself. Security videos and photos from local businesses along with other evidence helped skilled investigators to determine the cause of the collision and that no speed contest was taking place.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s traffic investigators documented the scene extensively after the collision. This included writing a traffic report, photographing the scene, determining the collision’s area of impact and point of rest, measuring skid marks and location of debris, gathering physical evidence such as debris and the on-board car computer data, and examining the car itself to look for such evidence such as paint transfer to help determine whether or not it had impacted other objects or cars.

LA Sheriff’s investigators also consulted with experts from the Porsche and Michelin Corporations as part of the investigation.

The opinion of the Los Angeles County Coroner – Medical Examiner is that Mr. Rodas “died of multiple traumatic injuries. The manner of death is accident.” The opinion of the Los Angeles County Coroner – Medical Examiner is that the cause of death of Mr. Walker is “combined effects of traumatic and thermal injuries. The manner of death is accident.”

Redacted copies of the LASD and CHP traffic collision investigation reports are provided via the hyperlink at the bottom of this message.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station polices the City of Santa Clarita and the unincorporated communities of a portion of the Angeles National Forest, as well as Bouquet Canyon, Canyon County, Castaic, Gorman, Hasley Canyon, Newhall, Neenach, Sand Canyon, Santa Clarita, Saugus, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Sleepy Valley, Southern Oaks, Stevenson Ranch, Sunset Point, Tesoro del Valle, Valencia, Val Verde, West Hills and West Ranch:

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Porsche Acknowledges Findings of Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol

Atlanta. We appreciate the meticulous analysis by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and the California Highway Patrol. It is a sad day for us whenever anyone is injured in one of our cars, and this was a particularly tragic event. At the same time, the results of the investigation show that, according to all the available evidence, this crash was caused by dangerous driving at speeds much too high for the road in question. There is also evidence that this particular vehicle had been altered from its original design state and had not been maintained properly. However, there is no evidence of any mechanical malfunction. We stand by our Carrera GT and by the investigation and conclusions of the responsible authorities.

About Porsche Cars North America

Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (PCNA), based in Atlanta, Ga. is the exclusive U.S. importer of Porsche sports cars, including the Macan and Cayenne SUVs and the Panamera sports sedan. Established in 1984, it is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Porsche AG, which is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, and employs approximately 270 people who provide parts, service, marketing and training for 189 dealers. They, in turn, work to provide Porsche customers with a best-in-class experience that is in keeping with the brand’s 66-year history and leadership in the advancement of vehicle performance, safety, and efficiency.

At the core of this success is Porsche’s proud racing heritage that boasts some 30,000 motorsport wins to date.

Legal approach in $1.2 billion Toyota settlement could impact handling of GM recall cases

Attorney General Eric Holder

In the past, if an automaker did something wrong, they were usually prosecuted by the US government through something called the TREAD Act. Short for Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act, it basically requires automakers to report recalls in other countries, along with any and all serious injuries or deaths, to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Failing to report or attempting to conceal anything when there’s been a death or serious injury constitutes a criminal liability. The idea is that this setup puts the onus on manufacturers to keep NHTSA apprised of safety related issues before they become a problem in the US, thereby allowing the regulator to better protect consumers.

In theory, it sounds like a relatively airtight set of rules for dealing with misbehaving automakers. That didn’t stop the US Department of Justice from ignoring TREAD in its prosecution of Toyota’s handling of the unintended acceleration recall, though. The result of this new approach, which charged Toyota with wire fraud, was a $1.2 billion settlement. Now, the wire-fraud approach could be used for the expected case between the US government and General Motors, based on the statements of Attorney General Eric Holder, who specifically mentioned “similarly situated companies” when discussing Toyota.

In order to make wire fraud stick, US prosecutors would need to prove criminal intent. As explained by Reuters, that means there needs to be evidence that GM actively misled either regulators like NHTSA, or the general public, all in a bid to maintain sales. In Toyota’s case, it admitted to misleading both consumers and regulators.

Considering GM’s rather tenuous position in regards to the recall, we don’t think prosecutors will have much trouble. Whether GM comes out and admits to any deception, though, remains an open question. Of course, if anything new develops in this case, we’ll be sure to let you know.

Nissan recalling more than 1M vehicles for airbags that may fail to deploy

2013 Nissan Altima

Nissan and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have issued a recall for 989,701 vehicles in the US due to an issue with their passenger-side airbag systems. Affected Nissan models include the Altima, Leaf, Pathfinder and Sentra from the 2013 and 2014 model years, and 2013 NV200 taxis. Affected Infiniti models include the 2013 JX35 and 2014 Q50 and QX60 utility vehicles.

Reuters is reporting that a total of 1,053,479 vehicles are included in the recall globally, with about 60,000 of the affected vehicles having been sold in Canada.

The fault apparently lies in something called the occupant classification system, which may, in the recalled vehicles, incorrectly classify the passenger seat as empty when it is in fact occupied by an adult. When the system fails to recognize the passenger, the passenger-side airbag may deactivate, and could therefore fail to deploy in the event of a crash.

Nissan is expected to notify owners sometime in the middle part of next month, instructing its dealers to update the vehicles’ software, free of charge. Scroll down to read the official NHTSA press release.

Report Receipt Date: MAR 25, 2014
NHTSA Campaign Number: 14V138000
Component(s): AIR BAGS , ELECTRICAL SYSTEM
Potential Number of Units Affected: 989,701
All Products Associated with this Recall close
Vehicle MakeModelModel Year(s)
INFINITIJX352013INFINITIQ502014INFINITIQX602014NISSANALTIMA2013-2014NISSANLEAF2013-2014NISSANNV2002013NISSANPATHFINDER2013-2014NISSANSENTRA2013-2014

2 Associated Documents expand
Manufacturer: Nissan North America, Inc.

SUMMARY:
Nissan North America, Inc. (Nissan) is recalling certain model year 2013-2014 Altima, LEAF, Pathfinder, and Sentra, model year 2013 NV200 (aka Taxi) and Infiniti JX35 and model year 2014 Infiniti Q50 and QX60 vehicles. In the affected vehicles, the occupant classification system (OCS) software may incorrectly classify the passenger seat as empty, when it is occupied by an adult.

CONSEQUENCE:
If the OCS does not detect an adult occupant in the passenger seat, the passenger airbag would be deactivated. Failure of the passenger airbag to deploy during a crash (where deployment is warranted) could increase the risk of injury to the passenger.

REMEDY:
Nissan will notify owners, and dealers will update the OCS software, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin in mid-April 2014. Owners may contact Nissan at 1-800-647-7261.

NOTES:
Owners may also contact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), or go to www.safercar.gov.

Red Bull F1 program could take ball, go home

F1 Testing in Jerez - Day Three

Dietrich Mateschitz, an Austrian billionaire and the man behind the all-encompassing Red Bull brand, had some stern words for Formula One during an interview with an Austrian newspaper. Vienna’s Kurier asked what it would take for Red Bull to pull out of F1. Mateschitz’s answer was tinged with frustration following the disqualification of Daniel Riccardo, who finished second in last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, but saw his results stripped after the FIA stewards claimed that the rate of fuel flow in his car exceeded regulations.

“The question is not so much whether it makes economic sense but the reasons would be to do with sportsmanship, political influence, and so on,” Mateschitz said. “In these issues there is a clear limit to what we can accept.”

Red Bull appealed the decision and a date has been set in April for a hearing. Mateschitz is still rather salty, though.

“The team has lodged a protest. The fuel-flow sensor, which was given to the teams by [the FIA], gave divergent readings and it is inaccurate. We can prove the exact amount of fuel flow and this was always within the limits,” the billionaire said when asked if he’d reached his self-imposed limit. According to BBC Sport, Red Bull ignored a warning by the FIA in Australia that it must use the official fuel-flow sensor, rather than its own readings. It didn’t comply.

Mateschitz is also displeased by the direction the 2014 regulations have taken the sport, saying, “F1 is not there to set new records in fuel consumption, nor to make it possible to have a whispered conversation during a race.”

“It is absurd to race a lap seconds slower than last year. GP2 partially provides more racing and fighting and almost equal lap times as F1 with a small fraction of the budget,” Mateschitz told the paper.

What do you think? Should Red Bull be penalized? Do you agree with Mateschitz’s view of F1?

GM ignition recall customers offered free rental cars with insurance

Chevrolet Cobalt

General Motors is gearing up to begin recalling 1.6-million cars for faulty ignition switches, and in preparation, it has struck deals with rental car agencies Enterprise, Avis and Hertz to reserve thousands of loaner vehicles to serve affected customers. The company has even dropped its policy to only rent out GM models from the current or previous year, which means some owners will likely be driving competitors’ cars during the repair.

Drivers who don’t feel safe in their recalled vehicles can bring them to a dealer in exchange for a loaner until their car is repaired. Not only will GM cover the cost of the loaner car, it will also cover any additional insurance should the customer’s own policy not offer sufficient coverage, notes Kicking Tires. So far, a few thousand owners have taken advantage of the exchange, according to The Detroit News. GM spokesperson Jim Cain tells Autoblog the recall campaign is scheduled to begin “on or about April 7.”

While it’s possible a few drivers of recalled cars could end up in competitor’s vehicles, Cain tells us “most if not all of them will have GM vehicles.” Dealers will first take cars from their own loaner fleets, and the rental agencies have many of the automaker’s models as well. “We didn’t want anyone to be inconvenienced,” said Cain about the change in policy.

Delphi is supplying the new ignition switches and is running two shifts to keep up with demand, according to The Detroit News. The newspaper claims the repair only takes a few hours, but depending on how many cars a dealer is servicing at once, the loaners could be out for days or weeks at a time. If GM doesn’t have enough of its own models to lend, it could mean a lot of time for already disgruntled GM owners to get used to another vehicle.

How GM is using social media to ease recall woes

General Motors Facebook page

Working through customer service at a giant corporation is often akin to trying to get the attention of a giant by poking it with a twig. Twitter and Facebook users, though, have tossed aside the metaphorical twig in favor of a far more attention-grabbing Howitzer, using the public nature of social media to draw the eyes of major corporations.

For a public affected by the General Motors recall, this new form of ammunition has become key to getting results, whether that be gaining direct access to customer service, acquiring a loaner vehicle or arranging passage on a ferry to get an affected car to the dealer.

The New York Times has a great writeup on the impact that social media is having on both customers affected by the recall, as well as GM as a whole. In fact, according to sources that spoke to The Gray Lady, GM’s public perception isn’t too bad, all things considered.

It’s really worth a read, particularly for students of social media. Head over to the NYT and have a look.

Jury Finds 2011 Hyundai Sonata to Be Unmerchantable

CORYDON, IN–(Marketwired – Mar 25, 2014) – On March 17, 2014 after a 4 day jury trial, a verdict was delivered in favor of Charlestown, Indiana resident, Lee Fenn, against Hyundai Motor America, Inc. in a federal and state “lemon law” action brought in the Circuit Court of Harrison County, Indiana. Mr. Fenn purchased a brand new 2011 Hyundai Sonata from Bales Motor Company on November 13, 2010 for $24,359. From day one, the Sonata was rife with defects, including a pulling to the left condition, failing to start, and jerking while driving. Hyundai vigorously defended the case for over 3 years forcing Mr. Fenn to continue to drive the defective vehicle while waiting for his day in court, since he could not afford to park the Sonata and purchase another vehicle, and because Hyundai would not settle his claims. During this time, the vehicle had to be towed back to the Hyundai dealership at least twice for failing to start. One of the repairs made to Mr. Fenn’s vehicle led to a federally mandated safety recall to the stop lamp switch, which was causing failures in the brake lights, cruise control, and push button starter in other Sonatas. Ultimately, the jury found in favor of Mr. Fenn and awarded him $8,000 in diminished value damages, finding that Hyundai breached the implied warranty of merchantability in that his vehicle was not of the level of quality that you would expect from another like it. Additionally, federal law will now allow Mr. Fenn to seek payment for the attorneys’ fees and costs his lawyers incurred litigating this case. John Barker, Mr. Fenn’s trial counsel, commented on the jury’s verdict, “Mr. Fenn should never have spent so much money for a vehicle that was repeatedly in the shop for repair. The jury’s verdict sends a message to car manufacturers that they should stand behind their products and not force cases like this to trial.” Mr. Barker can be reached by calling Krohn Moss, Ltd. Consumer Law Center® at (312) 578-9428, extension 252 or e-mail via jbarker@consumerlawcenter.com.

About
The law firm of Krohn Moss, Consumer Law Center®, was founded in 1995 by attorneys, Adam J. Krohn and Gregory H. Moss, providing legal representation to consumers with defective vehicles and products, and assistance to those consumers victimized by fraud and violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The firm can be found at www.yourlemonlawrights.com or by calling the firm toll free at 888 MY-LEMON (888-695-3666).

Consumer Ed

Q:   When you buy a car, what documents is the dealer required to give you?

A:   When you buy a new vehicle, the dealer must provide you with several documents. These include standard documents, such as the sales contract (which is often referred to as the “Buyer’s Order” or “Bill of Sale”).  Depending on your particular circumstances, there may be additional documents the dealer must provide.  For example, if you finance the vehicle through the dealership, you should receive a Retail Installment Contract, and if you agree to a service package, the dealer should give you a copy of the signed Service Contract.  Below is information on the more common documents you should expect to receive when you buy a new vehicle:

• Buyer’s Order or Bill of Sale: This is the basic sales contract. The seller should provide you with a copy of the completed and signed contract at the time you purchase the car.   This is very important, because it is required in order to register your vehicle and to apply for a license plate. You should ensure that it reflects the terms you negotiated with the seller.   If the seller made a verbal promise during the negotiations, make sure you get it added in writing before signing anything!

• Finance Agreement or Retail Installment Contract: If you finance your vehicle through a dealership, Georgia law requires that the agreement be in writing in what is typically called a “Retail Installment Contract”.   The seller must give the buyer a completed copy of this contract at the time the buyer signs it. Make sure that it contains no unfilled blanks before signing.

• Odometer Mileage Disclosure Form: A written mileage disclosure statement is required whenever a vehicle is bought or sold, or at the end of a lease.   The disclosure statement includes the buyer and seller’s information, basic vehicle information, and the odometer reading of the vehicle at the time of sale.   This requirement applies to individual sellers as well as dealers.

• Lemon Law Rights Statement: Under Georgia law, a dealer must give the buyer a written Statement of Consumer Rights that explains the Georgia Lemon Law Act at the time of purchase or lease of any new motor vehicle.  The law is very specific: the Statement must be printed in 11-point type, Arial font, on the front side of a sheet of standard, letter-sized paper that is yellow in color.  The consumer must sign and date the Statement, and the dealer’s representative must print his or her name, date it and give the original to the consumer.

• Certificate of Title: A vehicle’s Certificate of Title is the document that establishes legal ownership over the vehicle. When you buy a new car, it is necessary to apply for a Certificate of Title within 30 days of the purchase or else fees and penalties will apply. If you purchase the new car from a dealer, the dealer should accept the application for title and an Ad Valorem Title Tax (TAVT) payment on your behalf.   The dealer must then deliver the title application and your TAVT payment to the county tag office in the county where you plan to register the vehicle.   If you paid for the new car in full and didn’t finance it, when the title is issued it will be sent to you. If you financed the car purchase and the finance agreement created a lien or security interest in the car, the title will list any lien or security interest holder and the title will not be released to you until you finish making the agreed upon payments.

Used Vehicles

When a dealer sells you a used car, it must provide you with many of the same documents as are required for a new car purchase, with some exceptions and additions:

• Buyer’s Order or Bill of Sale: Just as with a new vehicle, a used car Buyer’s Order or Bill of Sale is the basic sales contract between the buyer and the seller. The seller should provide you with a copy of the completed and signed contract at the time of purchase so that you can register your vehicle and to apply for a license plate.  Again, you should ensure that the contract reflects the terms you negotiated with the seller and that you get all verbal promises in writing before signing.

• Finance Agreement or Retail Installment Contract:  Just as with new cars, used cars are often financed through the dealership. If so, Georgia law requires that the finance agreement be in writing in a retail installment contract. The seller must give the buyer a completed copy of this document at the time the buyer signs the contract.

• Odometer Mileage Disclosure Form:  As with new vehicle purchases, whenever a used motor vehicle is bought or sold, the seller must provide a written mileage disclosure statement .  Again, this requirement applies to individual sellers as well as dealers.

• Buyers Guide: Under the Federal Trade Commission’s Used Car Rule, a used car dealer that sells six or more cars a year is required to post a Buyers Guide in every used car they offer for sale. The dealer must then give the buyer the original or a copy of the used vehicle’s Buyers Guide at the time of sale.  The guide provides important information and notices to the buyer, including: whether the vehicle is being sold “as is” or with a warranty; the percentage of repair costs a dealer will pay under the warranty; a caution that spoken promises are difficult to enforce (and to get all promises in writing); a recommendation to keep the Buyers Guide for reference after the sale; a listing of the major mechanical and electrical systems on the car, including some of the major problems the buyer should look out for; and a recommendation that the buyer should ask to have the car inspected by an independent mechanic before buying the vehicle. The back of the Buyers Guide lists the name and address of the dealer, and should list the appropriate person at the dealership to contact if the buyer has problems or complaints after the sale.  If you buy a used car and the sales discussion and negotiations are conducted in Spanish, the dealer must let you see and keep a Spanish-language version of the Buyers Guide when you make the purchase.

• Certificate of Title: Again, a vehicle’s Certificate of Title establishes legal ownership.  When you buy a used car that is already titled in another person’s name, the existing title is very important, because the seller must transfer legal ownership of the vehicle to you by transferring the title to your name.  The back side of the Certificate of Title has spaces for entering the transfer of ownership, which must be completed by the current owner (the seller) before they deliver it to you (the buyer). The seller should give you the title at the time the vehicle is delivered, and you must then promptly apply for a new title in your name at the county tag office in the county where you will register the used car.  When you purchase a used car from a dealership, however, the dealer must handle the transfer process and submit the application for a new title in your name along with the appropriate Ad Valorem Title Tax (TAVT) payment on your behalf.   As with a new car purchase, you will only receive the title if there are no liens or security interest holders listed on it.  So, for example, if you financed the used car through the dealership and a security interest was created when you made the financing agreement, you would not receive the title until you finish making the agreed upon payments.

For more information on your rights and dealers’ obligations, visit our website at www.consumer.ga.gov .

Do you have a consumer question?  Go to ConsumerEd.com to submit your question and read additional consumer tips. Always consult a lawyer about legal issues.

Ford’s simple suit makes you feel like a drunk driver

Ford Driving Skills for Life

We’ve all heard about the dangers of drunk driving for practically our entire lives. Whether it’s from PSAs on TV or lectures in school, no one can claim ignorance of drunk driving being extremely dangerous. However, that doesn’t prevent some people from still doing it. Ford is trying to take the safety message directly to young drivers with a special suit that allows them to simulate driving under the influence.

It is all part of Ford’s Driving Skills for Life program that gives free driving education to young people. The program is meant to “train kids in skills they don’t learn in driver’s ed,” said Kelli Felker, Ford Safety Communications Manager, to Autoblog. The drivers don a few items to impair their senses and make them off-balance to simulate having a few too many drinks and then go out on a closed course with an instructor to see the effects.

Felker said that the suit is a new part of the program, and Ford just received the outfit in the US. It will be incorporated into the training here in the late spring or early summer. Scroll down to see the effect it has on drivers in Europe.