The Volkswagen group plead guilty on March 10, 2017 to three criminal charges for its diesel emissions scandal setting it up for a penalty.  According to an article in USA Today – The Journal News on March 11, 2017 by Brent Snavely, this will propel Volkswagen’s total cost to the $20 billion mark.

U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox in Detroit accepted the pleas and set down April 21, 2017 for fines.  They plead guilty to charges of fraud, obstruction of justice and misrepresenting the capability of vehicles with diesel engines imported into the USA.  Judge Cox needed time to review the terms of the settlement which proposes a $4.3 billion fine.  Volkswagen has agreed to a settlement worth about $17 billion for U.S. consumers and dealers who own Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles.

Manfred Doess, Volkswagen’s General Counsel acknowledge that Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, willfully and knowingly created software designed to fool government regulators so its diesel engines could pass tougher emission standards adopted in 2007.  The software allowed the cars to engage all emissions gears during testing, then turned it off on the open road.  This resulted in the Volkswagen engine to spew nitrogen oxide at up to 35 times the legal limit.  Doss admitted that Volkswagen’s employees designed software to chat on emissions and some employees destroyed documents after they knew Volkswagen was under investigation.  Doess said high level employees were involved but they were “below the level of Volkswagen AG Management Board”.

The National Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA) keep statistics of winter car accident resulting in death.  NHTSA claims wintry weather car accidents killed 4,000 people over the last five years.

In an article by Doyle Rice in USA Today, The Journal News on February 7, 2017, points out wintry weather such as blinding snow squalls occur often in Pennsylvania on I83.  Snow squalls are like little blizzards.   Most people think tornadoes or floods are the deadliest weather but car accident in wintry weather kill more Americans each year than any other weather danger.

From 2011 – 2015, an average of 800 people died a year in car accidents because of snow, freezing rain, sleet or ice according to NHTSA and the Auto Insurance Center.  Ohio was the deadliest state for car accidents more than 420 deaths in the past 5 years.  The average of 86 deadly accidents per year.  New York averages 46 deadly accidents per year.

Other than two major snowstorms, this winter has been relatively mild.  Tuesday, March 14, 2017 a major snow storm dropped from 7.5 to 24” of snow in New York City and The Hudson Valley Region.  As a result of Tuesday’s storm and the frigid temperatures after the storm, it creates a dangerous snow and ice condition resulting in falls and personal injury.  As a result we are repeating our snow and ice checklist blogged about on January 13, 2016.

If you are a victim and sustained physical injuries as a result of a fall on snow & ice, the following should be done:

  1. Do not move before making sure you haven’t sustained a fracture or a serious injury;

We have previously written about the airbags in millions of vehicles of all makes and type that are causing personal injury or death.  The airbag inflators can explode with too much force shooting metal and plastic shrapnel at the vehicle’s front seat passengers.

The U.S. Safety Regulators are forcing automakers to speed up the replacing of the defective air bags.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an order forcing automakers to prioritize speed acquisition of parts and fix the vehicles most at risk according to an article in USA Today – The Journal News on December 11, 2015 entitled “U.S. forces Takata recall to speed up” by Nathan Bomey.  The recall will affect 42 million vehicles in the USA totaling 64 – 69 million airbag inflators.  The NHTSA issued a series of deadlines based upon the age of the vehicle, especially older vehicles in hot, humid climates.  The NHTSA released an updated list of vehicles affected by the recall.  All automakers are affected by the recall which could affect one quarter of all vehicles on the road.  The list has added the Tesla Model S electric vehicles.

Exploding airbags have been blamed for at least 11 deaths in the US and at least 184 injuries in foreign countries.  The announcement by the NHTSA is Tkata is in financial crisis and could go bankrupt.  All car manufacturers are still responsible to their consumers and will bear a greater brunt of the economic loss.

In a prior blog of February 23, 2017, we discussed criminal indictment of three Takata employers by a Detroit Federal Grand Jury.  The employees were charged with wire fraud and conspiracy for concealment of defect in the airbag inflators.  Takata, the corporation has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and to pay $1 billion in criminal penalties.

The Justice Department following up on manufacturer recalls and concealment of defects, a top Volkswagen executive has been arrested on conspiracy suspicion from the German Automakers emissions scandal.  According to an article in USA today, The Journal News on January 10, 2017, by Kevin McCoy and Tiera Baldors, a weekend arrest of Oliver Schmidt who directed Volkswagen’s regulatory compliance in the United States from 2012 to 2015 was a result of the FBI looking into executive rank on suspected wrong doing.  By virtue of Schmidt’s position, he had to know Volkswagen “intentionally installed electronic software that enabled diesel engines to defeat U.S. auto emission tests”.  A FBI special agent, Ian Dinsmore filed an affidavit in Federal Court.  Schmidt traveled to the US in 2015 for meeting in which he “intended to and did deceive and mislead US regulators” about the corporate cheating on emissions.

FBI investigators believe they have enough evidence to establish Schmidt and other Volkswagen employees “conspired and unlawfully agreed to defraud the US by impeding auto emissions enforcement” and committed wire fraud and violating the Clean Air Act.  Volkswagen, the corporation (like Takata) admitted to rigging its diesel auto to bear emissions tests and Volkswagen is paying about $11 billion to buy back cars and compensate owners.

On January 19, 2017, we wrote about the last train accident of the Long Island Railroad on January 4, 2017.  It was thought that sleep apnea played a part in the engineer failure to stop at the end of the platform at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York.  We stated it was time to have all railroad engineers to be tested for sleep apnea.

In the Westchester & Fairfield County Business Journal on January 30, 2017 under “Briefly” it was announced that ENT & Allergy Associates, LLP has been selected by The Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials to screen and treat MTA employees for sleep apnea and other sleep conditions.  The medical staff of ENTA said the service and employee compliance could be a significant step in reducing potential dangers on the regions rails.

Sleep apnea has been identified by The National Transportation Safety Board as a contributing factor in some highway, railroad and airplane accidents.  The sleep condition is often underdiagnosed in transportation personnel.  The NTSB has been among federal agencies undergoing screening of commercial drivers, train engineers and pilots.

A Federal Judge Ok’d Volkswagen settlement of nearly $15 billion over the Volkswagen group emissions scandal.  The settlement calls for a massive vehicle buyback program and environmental remediation program.  The Federal Judge was Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.  The settlement is with the U.S. Government and California regulators.

An article in USA Today – The Journal News by Nathan Bomey claims the settlement comes a year after Volkswagen admitted it rigged 11 million vehicles worldwide with software to dodge emission standards.  Volkswagen still faces a criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and German prosecutors.

About 475,000 vehicle owners can choose between a buyback or a free fix and compensation if repairs became available.  Buybacks range from $12,475 to $44,176 including restitution payments.  Owners who opt for a fix must be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and will receive a fix and a payout from $5,100 to $9,852, depending on book value of their car.  Volkswagen will also pay another $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and another $2 billion for clean emissions infrastructure.

Wednesday’s Long Island Railroad accident sounds all too familiar.  A rush hour commuter train crashed into the end of a platform at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn on January 4, 2017.

According to an article in Lohud.com – The Journal News by Deepti Hajela & Michael Balsamo, more than 100 passengers were injured.  Passengers were hurled to the floor and slammed into each other.  The train had been traveling 10 mph when it crashed, double the 5 mph speed limit.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator said the train had erratically changed speeds in the 3 minutes before the crash, accelerating and decelerating between 2 & 10 mph.

Our last blog on the defective airbags manufactured by Takata, a Japanese company was February 22, 2016.  As of May, 2016, 25 million vehicles over the past 8 years have been recalled.  In May, 2016, Federal Regulators announced an expansion of the recalls to at least another 35 million vehicle with airbags that come out with such power that it shoots out metal shrapnel into the person in front of the airbag (driver’s and passengers’ sides).  At least 11 global deaths and approximately 100 injuries are attributed to the faulty airbags.

25 million airbags under recall is the largest consumers’ product recall in U.S. History.   Now with an additional 35 million added to the recall list, a new largest recall has been instituted.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that the cars covered by the existing recall would not be fixed until 2019. So far, according to an article by Peter Bigelow at autoblog.com, a million airbags have been repaired with doubling the recall of airbag by Takata.  The time line for fixing the airbags will extend into the future and millions of motorists will drive around with ticking time bombs in their cars.  Meanwhile, Takata spokesman states “Takata is working with regulators and automakers to develop long term orderly solutions to handle the millions of airbags recalled”.  Investigators state the defect drew worse with age.

On October 10, 2016, it was reported in USA Today – The Journal News that Takata Corp.’s defective airbag has been attributed to at least 14 deaths and more than 100 injuries.  Unfortunately, Takata Corp. is considering a U.S. bankruptcy to deal with the costs involved in the recall of its product.  The Wall Street Journal reported the companies consideration, Takata Corp. declined to comment.  Takata is still trying to find a private equity investor or an auto parts maker to consider a deal that would result in more cash for the company to deal with their recalls.  Takata’s Steering Committee confirmed this year that it was working with restructuring firm Lazard to seek new investments.  If this fails, Takata will go bankrupt and then who replaces the defective airbags?

On July 31, 2015, September 28, 2015 and July 29, 2016, we blogged on cyclists and cars, bicycle lanes and bicycle safety.  Our blog on September 28, 2015 discussed bicycle laws and how Rockland County is increasing bike lanes as well as The City of White Plains.  All agree that bike laws make it safer for cyclists and cars.  Designating a lane for bicycles separate cyclists from cars and result in less accidents.

In an article in The Journal News on October 17, 2016, by Dan Reiner entitled “New Rochelle delay bike share launch”, New Rochelle City officials anticipated a fall launch for New Rochelle.  Bike Share, a program that would allow residents and visitors to rent bicycles from locations around the City just like New York City’s Citi Bike System.  Major Noam Bramson says delays and dropping temperatures have pushed back the project to Spring, 2017.

Chris Hall from Marketing and Social Media Coordinator at the development company that heads the project said the setback in building the bike lanes is largely due to the lack of funding.  The company is seeking local businesses to sponsor the privately financed project.  At present, funding is about half way to the needed total to build the bike lanes.