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Federal crash investigations aim to prevent car accidents

Not all auto accidents in Maryland are caused by negligent drivers. Some car accidents are caused by negligence on the part of automobile designers and manufacturers who put defective vehicles out in the market. However, the federal government has taken steps to study and enhance vehicle safety features.

The National Center for Statistics and Analysis's Special Crash Investigations program provides the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration with detailed information on data regarding crash investigations collected by the NHTSA. The program began in 1972. Data analyzed includes information collected from insurance crash reports, police reports and reports generated by other crash investigation professionals. This includes information related to roadways, occupants, vehicles and safety systems. More than 100 motor vehicle accidents are studied each year.

The results of such studies are used anecdotally, in order to allow the agency to examine crashes from the perspective of an engineer. The information can be used by motor vehicle safety organizations including motor vehicle companies and the motor vehicle industry as a whole to enhance the operations of safety features and systems.

There are three primary components of data collection. They are motor vehicle inspections, accident victim interviews and inspections of the accident scene. These inspections and interviews are buttressed by police reports, medical records and other official records. In the past, data collected has focused on safety issues such as child safety seats, air bags and seat belts. The information obtained for each case is kept confidential.

The SCI is an important component in helping the automotive industry keep our roads safe. However, accidents caused by automotive safety defects can be devastating. Such defects could range from faulty brakes and airbags, to engine fires, to roof crush. When an accident is caused by a defective vehicle, the accident victims may pursue a personal injury lawsuit. Doing so could be the first step in getting the financial help the victims need to aid in their recovery.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "Special Crash Investigations (SCI)," Accessed Jan. 4, 2015

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