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One Tragic Car Accident, One Remarkable Oversight

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Fontana, CAThere is probably little that could save you from a car accident that sees a vehicle plunge into a brick wall at 90 miles an hour. Car crashes happen every minute of every day, and the crash that happened January 28 in California was horrific in of itself. But advocates of car crash safety are always mortified when safety mechanisms designed to aid a crash victim could inflict harm instead.

Car Accident"The latter is suggested by a global recall of the popular Toyota Yaris, a sub-compact car known for its fuel efficiency. Cars like the Yaris have been snapped up over the past year as drivers, fuelled by concern over dramatically rising gas prices, looked for a less-expensive way to get around.

Now a worldwide recall will see as many as 1.3 million cars, manufactured in Japan, come into the shop for the replacement of sound-insulating foam in the pillar that holds the safety belt. The concern is the potential for the sound-deadening foam inside the pillars to ignite during a serious crash.

At issue is the relationship between the sound insulating foam, and a pyrotechnic pretensioner, which is only activated in the event of a serious crash. A chemical that, according to reports has also been described as a high-temperature gas is released when the pretensioning mechanism is triggered by a car accident of sufficient force to require the seat belt to lock tightly, and thus hold the occupant in place.

Unfortunately, the chemical has the capacity to react with the sound-insulating foam and spark a fire. So far there have only been two reports worldwide. The recall affects only the Yaris cars for the 2006, and 2007 model years.

Meanwhile, it is not known what kind of car an underage driver was operating when it slammed into the brick wall of a house in Fontana, California Wednesday night. But the miracle was extended only to the occupants of the house. There was no miracle for the occupants of the car.

They were all children. Even the driver.

According to reports a car was pulled over on Sierra Avenue near the 210 Freeway for running a red light. When the California Highway Patrol Deputy walked up to the car, it suddenly sped away.

A short pursuit followed, described in reports as lasting less than two minutes. At the height of the pursuit the speeding car had reached 90 miles per hour when the driver lost control at a dip in the road, and the doomed car slammed into the brick wall of a home at Alder and Shamrock, went airborne, hit the home's roof before landing on the lawn.

Inside were three children—three boys, aged 15, 11 and 8. It was not reported if either, or any of them were wearing seatbelts. The age of the car was also not reported, thus the full complement of safety gear in the car is a question mark.

What is known, however, is that the driver of the car was underage at 15. The 9-year-old boy in the back seat may have been the driver's brother.

A third child, aged 11, was sitting beside the driver in the front passenger seat and was believed to be an acquaintance of the driver. The car is believed to have been owned by a parent of the 15-year-old who was behind the wheel.

All three occupants of the car died. Miraculously, none of the five occupants of the home were hurt.

In the end car crashes can, and do happen on a daily basis, and for a lot of reasons. A car accident may be preventable. Others are not. And sometimes car crash safety, in a relatively new vehicle, can be compromised when a piece of safety equipment malfunctions.

It is not known what testing procedures Toyota used when selecting the type of sound-deadening foam to be used in the Yaris seat belt pillars, or whether the two incidents previously reported constituted the first hint of trouble. Nonetheless, Toyota has triggered a voluntary recall of this vital piece of safety equipment in the 2006 and 2007 model year Yaris. Owners of the cars would be pleased to see this safety oversight taken care of.

Unless, if course, you have already been affected by it. So far, there have been two. All it takes is a serious car accident to trigger the pretensioners in the seat belt pillars, for the foam within to catch fire. If this type of car accident, or any other car crash safety issue has affected you, you would be well advised to seek legal counsel.


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