Entries in Safety (12)


Smart Gun Technology Allows Owners to Control Safety with App

Yardarm(NEW YORK) -- Following TrackingPoint's "smart rifle," which has tracking and digital optic technology to create for a more precise shot, a California-based company has demonstrated a different type of smart gun technology.

Yardarm has introduced its Safety First technology, which can allow gun owners to remotely engage or disengage the trigger safety on their firearms. The technology has to be built right into the firearm, though no gun manufacturer has yet done so.

This is how it works: Inside the gun lives a processor, sensor and a SIM card, just like the one in your phone. All of that technology allows the gun to talk to a phone app. Using the app, a gun owner will be able to see information about their firearm when they are away from their gun.

The software will alert the owner if there is movement of their gun. Whether it is just a slight tap or the gun is taken a long distance, the owner will be able to geolocate their gun and engage or disengage the trigger safety. The app will require a password, when logged in a user will be able to manage any of their firearms with the Yardarm technology.

The technology does not allow, however, for the gun to be remotely fired.

"This is much more flexible for the gun owner," Jim Schaff, the vice president of marketing of Yardarm, told ABC News. "It allows the gun owner to set gun rules. It will send alerts -- it can email or SMS them -- and let them know if someone is handling their gun. Maybe they have kids at home. Maybe someone is robbing their house. Whatever it may be, they can track it."

Schaff told ABC News that the company wants the owner to have the choice. That's why there is the engage-and-disengage feature.

"We want to give the control to the owner of the gun," Schaff said. "The owner can set rules based on the motion sensor tech. If there is any motion, they can set it so it always activates the safety or they can go the other way. We don't want the tech to impede."

Even despite the ability to engage the firearm's safety, Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, thinks this type of smart gun tech is needed.

"There is a lot of interesting technology out there. The problem is the manufacturers haven't incorporated any of it," Horwitz told ABC News. "If you have remote access, you have to be able to engage or disengage -- that technology is not remarkable. What is remarkable is that it is widespread and no one is using it. Any type of thing where you can keep your gun locked is good, but it's not good that this isn't an option out there now."

Elliot Fineman, CEO of the National Gun Victims Action Council, agreed.

"Anything that would disable a gun so that the gun owner is the only one who could fire it is a very important step in the right direction," Fineman told ABC News.

He added that this sort of technology could also help specifically with the issues of kids getting a hold of their parents' guns.

"There are two things we hear about over and over. One is the situation where a kid under 19 goes someplace and kills some people," Fineman said. "The other thing that comes up is that of the 18,000 gun suicides that happen a year, 800 of them are kids. And what gun do they use? They use their parents' gun."

Horwitz and Fineman both cited other companies that are working on similar smart gun technology, including a German company called Unterfoehring, which has developed a personalized gun that uses biometrics to recognize who you are.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology is also working on a gun that knows the mold of your hand and won't work unless it recognizes the shape of the hand.

Horwitz and Fineman believe that the NRA has stood in the way of these smart guns making their way to market. The NRA did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Still, Yardarm said that two major gun makers are very interested in the technology, but that it won't be ready for commercialization until next year. The company expects the cost of the technology to add about $50 to the price of a firearm.

"The nature of this smart gun technology is so different," Schaff said. "It gives much more control to the gun owner. Gun owners will be much more interested in what we have. It's a low cost, low burden and it still leaves a lot of control to the gun owner."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Rental Car Companies Pledge Not to Rent Recalled Cars

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The nation's four largest rental car companies have banded together in a pledge not to rent out any vehicles that are subject to a manufacturer safety recall and to support legislation that would legally enforce the promise.

Enterprise/National/Alamo, Hertz/Advantage, Avis/Budget joined Hertz in the agreement pushed by Sen. Charles Schumer (D.-N.Y.), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Calif.) and by Cally Houck, a California mother whose daughters died in the crash of a rental car that was under recall.

Houck's two daughters, Raechel and Jacqueline, were killed in 2004 after the PT Cruiser they had rented from Enterprise apparently began leaking steering fluid and suddenly caught fire before crashing into an oncoming semi-tractor-trailer. As reported in a 2010 ABC News investigation, the car had been under a safety recall for the potential fire hazard and, after a lengthy legal battle, Enterprise had to pay the Houck family $15 million in damages.

WATCH ABC News Investigates: Deadly Rental Cars on the Road

Under current law, car dealerships are banned from selling vehicles that are under a safety recall, but the restriction does not prevent rental agencies from renting out recalled cars. New legislation sponsored by Boxer and Schumer, called the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2012, aims to close that loophole.

"If this bill had been the law, and the rental companies complied, my beautiful, precious daughters would still be alive," Cally Houck said day. "My abiding hope is that it will be enacted, and other families will be spared our devastating loss."

After the 2010 ABC News report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation to see how quickly rental car companies repair vehicles that have been recalled.

With the exception of Hertz, all the major American rental car companies declined to sign a pledge this summer saying they wouldn't rent cars under recall. At the time, they said that while they supported safe rental car legislation, they wanted it to extend to other businesses that transport passengers in vehicles, like limousine and taxi companies. All the companies said then that they address safety recalls in a timely manner, and representatives for Enterprise and Avis said their policy was already not to rent cars that were under recall.

But their recent decision to sign the pledge -- along with the newfound support of several safety auto agencies -- is a "breakthrough years in the making," according to Sen. Schumer.

"Consumers will no longer have to worry about what they aren't being told when they go to the rental car counter," he said. "With the industry's full backing, we think we have a great shot to get this legislation passed before the end of the year."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Law Would Block Rental of Recalled Cars

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new bill that would keep rental car companies from renting out vehicles that have been recalled because of safety risks was introduced today in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act of 2012, named after two girls who died in a recalled car rented to them by Enterprise, would require companies to ground vehicles in their fleet that are under safety recall until they are repaired.

"If a recall notice has been issued for a rented car, that car should be taken off the road until it's fixed – it's that simple," said Rep. Lois Capps, D.-California, one of the sponsors of the bill. "Passing this straightforward bill will protect the public's safety and ensure that what happened to Raechel and Jacquie Houck will never happen again."

Cally Houck, the mother of Raechel and Jacquie Houck, began pushing for changes to the law after her two daughters, aged 24 and 20, were killed in 2004 when the Chrysler PT Cruiser they rented from Enterprise apparently began leaking steering fluid and suddenly caught fire before crashing into an oncoming semi-tractor trailer.

As reported in a 2010 ABC News investigation, the car had been under a safety recall for the potential fire hazard, but was still rented to the sisters.

The Houck family sued Enterprise, and after a lengthy legal fight, the company admitted negligence and was required to pay $15 million in damages.

After the ABC News report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation to see how quickly rental car companies repair vehicles that have been recalled.

In February, Houck started a petition on calling on Enterprise, the nation's largest rental car company, to drop its opposition to an earlier version of the bill that was introduced in the Senate last year by Sens. Barbara Boxer, D.-California, and Chuck Schumer, D.-New York.

The petition garnered signatures from over 100,000 people, and within days, Enterprise had changed its stance and announced it would be supporting the law.

But last month, Sen. Boxer, joined by Houck, announced that three of the nation's four major rental car companies had declined to sign a pledge promising not to rent or sell cars under safety recall until those cars are fixed.

Boxer said that only Hertz had agreed to the pledge, but that Enterprise, Avis and Dollar Thrifty had not. "I want to say to America's families: You demand that all these companies sign this simple pledge. . . Tell your families that Hertz is the only one that signed this pledge."

There, Houck said that a law is necessary because "we cannot depend on the industry to do the right thing."

The three companies that declined to sign a pledge still maintained that they support federal legislation to ensure rental car safety, but they believe that any legislation should also cover other business that transport passengers, like limousine and taxi companies.

Representatives of Enterprise, Avis and Dollar Thrifty all responded to Boxer's press conference by saying their companies address safety recalls in a timely fashion. An Enterprise spokesperson said categorically that the company "does NOT rent any vehicles under recall that have not been repaired first." An Avis spokesperson said the company "[does] not and will not rent a vehicle" under recall, while Dollar Thrifty released a June 5 letter to Boxer in which the company asserted that "Dollar Thrifty has an outstanding safety record . . . specifically with respect to the timely repair of safety recalls."

An aide to Sen. Boxer told ABC News that Boxer and Sen. Schumer are now "putting the finishing touches" on a Senate version of the new House bill.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Car-Brake Override Rules Proposed After Toyota Accidents

Mark Renders/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After a rash of unintended acceleration accidents in Toyotas, a federal agency Thursday proposed a rule to require automakers to install a brake override switch in all new vehicles when both the brake and gas pedal are pressed at the same time.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the “Brake-Throttle Override” requirement will “help reduce the risks of high-speed unintended acceleration and prevent crashes involving a stuck or trapped accelerator pedal by allowing the driver to maintain control through normal application of the vehicle’s brakes.”

The Toyota accelerator accidents in some 2009-2010 models were traced to carpet protectors that jammed the gas pedal. When the drivers tried to brake, the gas pedal took precedence and they were unable to stop the cars.

Toyota issued a recall to address the problem. “America’s drivers should feel confident that anytime they get behind the wheel, they can easily maintain control of their vehicles, especially in the event of an emergency,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement.

“By updating our safety standards, we’re helping give drivers peace of mind that their brakes will work even if the gas pedal is stuck down while the driver is trying to brake.”

A 60-day comment period has opened before the proposal is published in the Federal Register.

View the proposal here.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Safer Alternative? New Technology Allows Drivers to Check Tweets and More

Ford Motor Company(NEW YORK) -- From checking tweets to purchasing concert tickets, automakers say they are providing a safer alternative to what drivers are already doing in their cars -- even though critics warn the move just adds to the distracted-driving epidemic.

Ford Motor Co.’s Sync uses voice commands to allow drivers to command and control apps on their smartphones, make calls and select songs on an MP3 player -- all without the use of their hands.

General Motors Co.’s CUE will have an eight-inch touch screen display that functions much like a tablet and smartphone, allowing drivers to make calls, access apps and maps and scroll through lists.

Mercedes-Benz’s Mbrace system will help drivers find destinations via Google Maps, locate a parked vehicle with their smartphone and buy event tickets.

Rob Reynolds, executive director of FocusDriven, an organization that seeks to educate people about the dangers of distracted driving, said these “infotainment systems” were dangerous because they were visually attractive to drivers.

“You shouldn’t be interacting with computers when you’re driving,” said Reynolds, whose teenage daughter was killed in a car crash caused by a distracted driver in 2007. “The propensity for loss of life is much too great.”

“Distracted driving is an epidemic. This will cause crashes, I guarantee it,” he said. “We need to listen to government bodies like the NTSB.”

In December, the National Transportation Safety Board urged all U.S. states to ban drivers from using electronic devices while driving, including for text messaging. In 2009, more than 5,400 people died and nearly 550,000 were injured in crashes linked to distraction, according to the Department of Transportation.

Reynolds said that by adding these in-dash technology systems to vehicles, carmakers were suggesting to drivers that they could safely drive while they are occupied doing other tasks.

But Alan Hall, Ford Motor Co.’s technology communications manager, said the company’s Sync program was in response to consumer trends that had grown in the last five years because of mobile devices.

“Drivers that are doing these activities (such as checking tweets), we are providing a safer alternative to them,” Hall told ABC News. “This is a growing trend inside of the car. Technology is critical for our customers.”

Doug VanDagens, the global director of connected services at Ford, said the carmaker was taking a practical view.

“We looked at what people were already doing in their cars. … If they’re doing that in their cars, we’re going to make it safer with voice [command],” he said. “Voice orientation … allows you to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while you do things you normally do in the car. [Sync is] a safer alternative to how people use phones in the car.”

Carroll Lachnit, a features editor at, said carmakers were correct that drivers were requesting more technology in vehicles. A survey at the end of 2011 by Deloitte found that 59 percent of those ages 19 to 31 said that the most important part of a car’s interior as the in-dash technology. Of that 59 percent, 75 percent preferred a touch-screen interface to dials or buttons.

“Carmakers are in the business of selling cars … [and] meeting customer demand,” she told ABC News. “Automakers are trying to reach an accommodation and give consumers what they want in a safe way. [But] drivers need to be aware when they’re in the car [that] their job is to drive and multitasking is not a good thing. No[body] is making you update your Facebook status in your car.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


2012 Small Cars: Safer and More Affordable Than Ever

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Small, safe and affordable: That’s the latest trend seen in the 2012 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety top safety picks.

This year’s top selections are vehicles that earned the highest crash-test ratings in four categories; a frontal-offset crash test at 40 mph, a side-impact test that mimics a collision with an SUV or pickup truck, a rollover roof-strength test, and a rear-impact evaluation test, institute spokesman Russ Rader said.

Vehicles are then categorized as good, acceptable, marginal or poor, based on their test performances. Each of this year’s picks was rated “good” in all four categories. The Fiat 500 was among the top-four picks in the mini category.

Of the 29 top-rated mini and small cars, 20 of them cost $20,000 or less. The new numbers indicate continuing demand for safe but affordable small cars, Rader said.

Rader expects such a trend to continue in the future.  “Automakers are really focusing on safety because they know it’s a selling point and they know that consumers are paying attention to safety,” he said. “No automaker wants to be seen as behind the curve in crash-test safety.”

Although compact cars are safer than ever before, “the laws of physics still apply,” Rader warned. “Even though these small cars are top crash-test performers, it doesn’t mean they are just as safe as bigger vehicles with the same rating.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dangerous Toys on Store Shelves, Consumer Group Warns

File photo. (Digital Vision/ValueLine)(WASHINGTON) -- Consumer advocates are out with a holiday-season warning for parents. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group says in a new report that it found more than a dozen toys on store shelves in violation of federal safety standards for lead and other chemicals, as well as toys that could present a choking hazard to small children.

Nasima Hossain, a public health advocate for US PIRG, says toys marketed to children aged three and under are not allowed to contain small, removable parts, and calls on the Consumer Product Safety Commission to “revise the small parts standard to better protect children from choking hazards.”

“Over the last twenty years, more than 400 children have died playing with toys. More than half of them choked to death,” Hossain said.

Along with toys that contain high levels of lead and small parts, Hossain says that excessively loud toys can also put young people at risk.

“We found one toy on store shelves that exceeded the recommended continuous exposure to 85 decibel limits, and two close-to-the-ear toys that exceeded the 65 decibel limit when measured with a digital sound level meter,” she said.

Click here for more on this report.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Toys Are Getting Safer: Report

Digital Vision/ValueLine(WASHINGTON) -- Toys recalls have been falling since a tough new product-safety law was enacted in 2008, USA Today reports. The paper revealed there were 34 toy recalls in the 2011 fiscal year, ended Sept. 30, down from 172 three years earlier.

Respected toy testing expert Stephanie Oppenheim tells ABC News Radio, “things are better in toy land in terms of safety, but you still need to look at toys carefully before you give them to your kids.”

Magnets in children’s toys are a growing hazard.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission says an increasing number of incident reports indicate that high-powered magnets continue to be a safety risk to children. From toddlers to teens, consumers are swallowing these magnets and the consequences are severe, the group says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Last Days for Government's Product Safety Database?

SaferProducts [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- With lawmakers still debating the deficit and whether to raise the nation's debt ceiling past $14.29 trillion, the only government sponsored online product safety database is near its end.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) online database,, just launched in March, but the House Appropriations Committee approved a spending bill late last month decreasing the Commission's budget and eliminating funding for its online database.  The bill, which needs approval of the House and Senate, could be on the House floor as early as the middle of next week, according to Jennifer Hing, communications director of the House Appropriations Committee.

"CPSC's database is an example of a poorly executed regulatory policy that does not protect consumers and hurts business at a time when industries need our help the most," Hing said.

Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., introduced a provision on page 90 of the bill for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012.  The provision states "none of the funds made available by this act may be used to carry out any of the activities described in section 6A of the Consumer Product Safety Act," saving about $3 million.

The database was mandated by section 6a in 2008, when President Bush signed the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act, regulating products for children under 12.  That law was an update to the Consumer Products Safety Act in 1972.  In 2008, the law was passed 89-3 in the Senate and 424-1 in the House.

Out of the database's 1,600 complaints, 104 were found to have inaccuracies by the Commission, mostly related to an incorrect manufacturer.

Alex Filip, CPSC spokesman, said the Commission has received strong support for the database from consumers, who submit the majority of complaints.  Another large source of complaints are from medical professionals.

Filip said the Commission vets the complaints before posting them online.  Once a consumer submits a complaint, the Commission has five days to contact the manufacturer.  The Commission then offers 10 days for manufacturers to respond to the complaint.  Consumers must describe the product, identify a manufacturer or private labeler, describe whether there was any injury, and verify that the report is true and accurate to the best of their knowledge.

But lawmakers say the database is flawed and must go.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) introduced legislation in February prohibiting funds to implement the database.  The bill passed in the House 234 to 187.

Pompeo said there are other more effective means to help protect consumers not funded by the government, such as Consumer Reports or contacting manufacturers directly.  He said the government should not post information online "unless it knows the information to be accurate."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Generation of Safer Cribs Hit Stores Nationwide

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission(WASHINGTON) -- A new generation of safer baby cribs will go on sale at retail stores across the U.S. Tuesday, thanks to a government rule that bans old drop-side cribs.

The new cribs will have fixed sides, preventing infants from getting their necks stuck as they could have with the drop-side models.  These older cribs have caused at least 32 infant deaths in the last decade, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The CPSC's Nychelle Flemming says "the new requirements include stopping the manufacture and sale of dangerous traditional drop-side cribs as well as making mattress supports and crib slats stronger, crib hardware more durable and also more rigorous safety testing."

Although companies can no longer produce or sell the drop-side cribs, that doesn't mean they've disappeared entirely.  Since 2007, the government has recalled over 11 million drop-side cribs.  If you want to check if your crib is on the recalled list, visit the CPSC's wesbite.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio