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Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention released encouraging statistics regarding seatbelt usage. As a Chicago area personal injury lawyer, I am thrilled by the news that seatbelts are used by “nearly six in seven U.S. adults.” (Atlanta AP, 1/14).

To put the results in perspective, 85 percent of adults said they wore seatbelts, which is up four percent from 2002, but is a dramatic increase from 1982 when only 11 percent of adults wore seatbelts. The first state law requiring seat belt use was passed after 1982, which kicked off the trend.

The CDC also reported Tuesday that there has been a marked “ decline of more than 15 percent in non-fatal vehicle crash injuries from 2001 to 2009. The government previously reported traffic fatalities fell in 2009 to 33,808, the lowest number since 1950.”

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General Motors Co. is recalling nearly 100,000 vehicles “to fix two problems that could cause the rear axle to lock and the passenger-side airbag not to work.” (NY AP, 12/23). The airbag recall affects 2005 to 2007 model year Cadillac CTS. The axle recall affects the 2011 model year versions of the Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Avalanche 1500, GMC Sierra 1500, and Silverado 1500.

As a personal injury attorney in Chicago, I urge all GM consumers to determine if their vehicles are affected. A defective airbag is an especially serious issue that has the potential to lead to many unnecessary serious injuries and even deaths. Please act quickly if your vehicles are affected.

Honda Motor Co. says it is “recalling 1.35 million Fit subcompact cars globally to fix defective wiring in the headlights.” (Tokyo AP, 12/16). The recall will affect just shy of 150,000 cars in the United States, as well as over 700,000 cars in Japan. Honda has not released numbers for the European and Asian recalls, and say not accidents have resulted from the recall.

Chrysler and Volkswagen also issued large recalls. The Chrysler recall affects the 2008 Town and Country and Dodge Caravan minivans because of a leak near the heating and air conditioner.

Volkswagen says its recall affects “2007-2009 model year Golf, Jetta, Jetta Sportwagen, Rabbit and 2006-2010 New Beetle small cars [due to a] small plastic tab in the windshield wiper fluid reservoir could rub against a fuel supply line under the hood. A fuel leak could develop and lead to fires.” (Washington AP, 12/15).

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As a Chicago personal injury attorney, I want to spread this safety information, which can be critical during the winter months. Three intense winter storms in New York have made a nightmare for many come true for some drivers – being stranded on the roadway for hours. Experts say, however, that the drivers did the right thing by staying put and not risking being lost on foot in blizzard conditions. (Buffalo NY AP, 12/15).

However, where shelter is visible, it may be wise to try to get to shelter. Nonetheless, experts advice passengers “to stay in your car if stranded is especially true if there's no other shelter in sight and there's still gas in the engine to power the heat. It's best to just use your cell phone and stay in your vehicle until we can get out there and get somebody to get you out of there," Indiana State Trooper Jones said.

The Department of Homeland Security further urges “travelers to know what they're headed into when they get on the road, and to be prepared with a disaster kit that includes blankets and a shovel. The must-haves for winter driving Include: fully charged cell phone, small shovel, food and water, heavy gloves, scarf and hat, and a warning device to signal other drivers, like flares or reflective triangles.” Stranded drivers should turn on and run the engine for approximately 10 minutes every house to warm up, but should crack the window and ensure the tailpipe is clear of snow to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning.

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