Cruise Ship Safety Improves with Surprise Ship Inspections

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If you are considering a vacation at sea on one of the big cruise vessels, a new U.S. Coast Guard inspection program may interest you. As of just last month, the Coast Guard has begun to board cruise ships in U.S. ports for the purpose of performing unannounced safety inspections. The bi-annual regular inspections already required by law will still be performed, as well.

The impetus behind the new unannounced inspection program is the finding that some cruise lines have a pattern of safety deficiencies that can put passenger lives in danger. The problems found most often during regular inspections involve lifeboats and fire doors, but many other potentially dangerous oversights have also been noted. A Coast Guard spokesperson explained that the new program will focus its efforts on the cruise lines and vessels that have most often had deficiencies in the past. Cruise lines using substandard vessels will be held accountable for the safety issues. The Coast Guard will not allow any passengers to board these vessels at any U.S. port until all of the identified safety problems are fully addressed.

The issue of cruise ship safety has made the news numerous times in the past few years. A norovirus outbreak on a number of vessels is the most recent health and safety issue plaguing the industry. Other recent problems include the fire that broke out last year on the Carnival Triumph, leaving the vessel drifting in the Gulf of Mexico for days, and another Carnival Lines fire, this time on the Splendor, which knocked out power and stranded passengers at sea.
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Bicycle Accidents: When a Cyclist is Struck By a Car

People who ride bikes have likely experienced – or know someone who has experienced – a crash of some kind. Some incidents, such as slipping off the edge of a road or losing control on a soft shoulder and ending up in the ditch, may leave you with a bruised ego, road rash, and minor discomfort. Other bicycle accidents and collisions can be far more serious, especially if they are hit by a car or other motor vehicle.

Cyclists are hit by cars more often than you might believe. Usually, the accidents are the result of the inattention of the vehicles’ drivers. They may not come to a complete stop at an intersection because they don’t notice the bicycle crossing in front of them; they may make a turn or pull into a lane without looking; or they may be focused on something other than the road, and sideswipe a cyclist in passing. The injuries sustained by bicyclists in these kinds of accidents can be severe and life-changing, requiring a long recovery process and racking up thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost income.

Most states, including Florida, consider bicycles to be “vehicles”; they require bicyclists to ride on the street instead of sidewalks, and to follow traffic laws such as coming to complete stops at stop signs and red lights, signaling stops and turns, and yielding when another vehicle has right-of-way. Cyclists also often ride at high speeds, meaning that they cannot avoid a collision as easily as a pedestrian if a vehicle is coming toward them or stops suddenly in front of them. Unfortunately, not all drivers on the road treat bicycles as vehicles, thinking of them more as pedestrians if they pay any attention to them at all.
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Fatal Car Accidents: General Motors Faulty Ignition Switches

Thumbnail image for Gm recall image.jpgGeneral Motors Company has been in the news recently regarding a number of its cars found to have faulty ignition switches. General Motors has voluntarily recalled over 1.6 million vehicles in response to this problem, but a new product liability lawsuit against the automobile giant includes plaintiffs who own a wider range of vehicles than those already recalled.

The new lawsuit, which seeks nationwide class action status, was filed in San Francisco by a coalition of 10 different law firms on behalf of 13 plaintiffs. The suit claims that, in addition to the ignition switches themselves being faulty, GM’s Chevy Cobalts from a number of model years as late as 2010 had ignition switches poorly placed on the steering column. Due to this poor placement, drivers tended to accidentally put their keys in “accessory” position while driving. In this position, the vehicles’ airbags are inoperable, even in the event of a car accident. An airbag not operating during a car accident can greatly increase the severity of injury and even death.

GM has already recalled Cobalt models from 2005 through 2007, as well as Saturn Ions from 2003 through 2007, for having the faulty switch. The company has admitted to the problems with the ignition switch in the recalled cars being the cause of 12 known traffic fatalities. The San Francisco lawsuit claims that GM was aware of the ignition switch problems as early as 2001. In fact, some GM documents show that engineers at GM even suggested a remedy for the problem, which was rejected by the company. The lawsuit claims that the poor placement of the ignition switch on Chevrolet Cobalts was still a problem in models from 2008 through 2010, three years beyond those of the recall. During that time, there were almost 400,000 Cobalts sold in the U.S. alone.
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