color photo of a finger pointing to a car's keyless ignition switchMost new cars today come equipped with a keyless ignition feature that allows the driver to start the car without ever taking the key from his or her pocket or purse – they simply push a button. While many drivers quickly grow to appreciate this new convenience, some claim keyless ignition systems are defective and pose a potential deadly hazard.

Class action lawsuits have been filed against car manufacturers alleging that the keyless ignition feature makes it too easy for drivers to unintentionally leave their cars running. When this happens in an enclosed garage, carbon monoxide fumes can build up and potentially enter the attached homes threatening the safety of the home’s occupants.

An article appearing recently on titled, “I-Team: Class Action Lawsuits Expose Potential Dangers of Keyless Ignitions,” details one case of carbon monoxide poisoning claimed to be connected with the keyless ignition issue and discusses the class action lawsuits car makers are now facing.

Zip line injuries: color photo of man soaring over treetops on zip lineZip lines can be found almost everywhere these days – vacation resorts, summer camps, even schools, farms and backyards vying to attract the adventurous. However, as the popularity of this activity grows, so does the number of related injuries according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine.

The study looked at zip line activity between 1997 and 2012 during which time almost 17,000 zip line-related injuries, including cuts, sprains and broken bones, were reported. The majority of these injuries occurred between 2009 and 2012 at commercial zip line courses; so-called “amateur” zip lines accounted for only about 30% of the reported injuries. Currently, there are more than 200 commercial zip lines in this country; while amateur zip lines number in the thousands.

A recent Associated Press (AP) report titled, “Zip line popularity soars along with injuries, study says,” noted that this study indicates the need for more uniformed safety standards and regulations of the zip line industry. Currently regulations essentially are self-imposed and vary by state. In New Jersey operators are required to obtain a permit before operating a zip line; however, State inspectors perform “paper only” inspections, which involve reviewing the engineering plans, operations manual, and inspection and training records. Zip line operators are, however, required to hire an independent inspector for a hands-on inspection of their equipment, according to the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials.

Halloween injuries: headshot of girl in costume with platinum hair and bright blue eyes wearing bird's nest veilHalloween is just around the corner and if you want a real scare, consider the following statistics:

  • Halloween ranks among the top three holidays in terms of injuries and / or fatalities. The other two most dangerous holidays are July 4th (fireworks) and New Year’s Eve (drunk driving).
  • In the 20-year period from 1990 to 2010, the number of fatal accidents involving child pedestrians on Halloween averaged 5.5 each year, compared with 2.6 for other days.
  • Insurance company statistics indicate that the deadliest night of the year for pedestrians is Halloween.

Motor-vehicle-versus-pedestrian accidents are just one of the dangers associated with this holiday. Contaminated treats, flammable costumes and costume obstructions are others. This year a new warning has been issued regarding potential injuries from certain costume accessories, which could affect adults as well as children

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has warned against the use of decorative, over-the-counter contact lenses, stating that these lenses can leak chemicals that are harmful to the eye or cause scratches or ulcers on the eyeball as a result of their stamped pattern design. To learn more about this latest Halloween hazard, read the article, “This Halloween accessory could damage your eyes, doctors warn.”

For further information on how to keep all trick-or-treaters, both young and old, safe this Halloween, see the Scholastic Parents article, “Safety Tips for a Happy Halloween.”

Artificial turf - picture of goal net on artificial turf fieldArtificial turf as an alternative to natural grass has been growing in popularity, especially in athletic field applications. Durability and low maintenance costs are among the benefits often cited. And now, new manufacturing technologies have yielded a surface designed to be even softer and more yielding to help prevent injuries. However, the safety of long-term exposure to this new surface has come into question.

Recent reports suggest the possibility of a link between student athletes who play on artificial fields made from crumb rubber and those who have been stricken with cancer. Those numbers have increased over the past several years, raising the concern of parents, coaches and even doctors. See the NBCNews article, “Mom of Goalie Who Died of Cancer Wants Answers on Artificial Turf.”

Crumb rubber turf is made from recycled tires which, themselves, contain carcinogenic materials. This has led to the question of whether or not playing on artificial surfaces made from this material is increasing our children’s risk of cancer.

Advocates for the use of artificial turf point out dozens of studies have been conducted on the safety of these fields and none have yet to uncover a link between the underlying materials and cancer. For opponents, however, the coincidence is too big to ignore. What both sides do agree on is that additional testing is needed and that it is time for the federal government to step up to the issue. Currently, the question of whether or not to use artificial turf remains a decision for state and local officials. For more information on where officials stand on this issue, see “Feds Won’t Say If Artificial Turf on Your Kid’s Soccer Field is Safe.”

furniture-dangers-400-04357367dIkea, the giant Swedish furniture company, joined the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) in warning parents of the need to anchor heavy furniture to the walls in order to prevent the furniture from accidentally tipping over and causing injuries, particularly to young children. The CPSC contends that such accidents can be prevented by simply anchoring the furniture to a wall.

Last year, two toddlers in the U.S. reportedly died in separate incidents involving chests of drawers sold by Ikea. In response, the furniture company joined the CPSC in its warning to parents and offered free wall-anchoring kits to consumers who purchased the MALM chests from its stores. For details, the story, “Ikea urges anchoring its dressers and drawers to the wall to protect children.”

marijuana-400-06327115dDrivers know that it is illegal to drive under the influence (DUI) or to drive while intoxicated (DWI) no matter where in this country they are travelling. In New Jersey, as in most states, the legal limit is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration higher than that can lead to serious penalties. These stiff penalties, coupled with anti-drunk driving campaigns, seem to have had a positive impact; in fact, recent data shows that drunk driving is on the decline in the U.S. Unfortunately, the opposite seems to be true for driving under the influence of marijuana.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released results of a survey of drivers travelling on weekend nights. The survey showed that while 8.3% of the drivers questioned had some traces of alcohol in their system, 12.6% were positive for THC, up from 8.6% in 2007. THC is the primary ingredient in marijuana. In light of this trend, researchers now are considering whether or not a legal limit for marijuana use, much like the legal limit for alcohol consumption, can be established and, if so, how. Details of this research conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse can be found in the Time magazine article, “How Much Does Marijuana Impact Your Driving?

HOA_responsibility_Dollarphotoclub_75962578While State law may be clear in regards to who is responsible for maintaining commercial property to prevent pedestrians from suffering injuries in slip and fall accidents, responsibility for maintenance is a little gray when it comes to residential properties. But a recent State Supreme Court ruling sheds some light on this issue at least as it pertains to condominium developments.

Last month the Court reversed a lower court ruling by unanimously agreeing that a condominium’s homeowners’ association could be named in a lawsuit filed by a pedestrian who suffered injuries when she slipped and fell on an icy sidewalk in an adult residential community. Earlier a trial court had ruled that the homeowners’ association was immune from such a suit. Although an appellate court upheld that ruling, the Supreme Court disagreed, observing that the development’s own bylaws stated the association was responsible for seeing to the removal of snow and ice from the common walkways. For further details on this decision, see Samantha Marcus’ article, “You can sue condo association for slipping on its sidewalk, NJ Supreme Court rules.”

Asbestos_Dollarphotoclub_74536186A recent study disclosed that New Jersey ranks eighth in the nation for asbestos-related deaths, with a rate of 7.2 deaths per 100,000 people compared to a national rate of 4.9 deaths per 100,000 people. This information comes as little surprise considering some of the largest asbestos products manufacturers are located here: Johns Manville and Honeywell International.

Asbestos was commonly used in the manufacturing of certain commercial products, including insulation, drywall and plaster. The toxicity of asbestos was first reported about 50 years ago. While many people believe asbestos has since been banned, it hasn’t. Now there is a bill in Congress that if passed would require companies to publicly disclose, through annual reports and a searchable database, any products that are made from asbestos. For details, read Susan K. Livio’s article on entitled “N.J. home to 8th highest number of asbestos-related deaths.”

Toyota-recall-400-06061542dHybrid cars may be safer for the environment, but they aren’t immune to defects. In fact, Toyota recently issued a worldwide recall that is expected to affect over 600,000 Prius hybrid models, which can unexpectedly stall due to software settings that could cause the cars to overheat. See the Associated Press article on, titled “Toyota recalls 625,000 hybrids worldwide.”

Usually if you purchased your vehicle new and it is recalled, you will be notified by mail. If you purchased the vehicle used or if you don’t receive the recall notification for some other reason, what should you do to make sure your vehicle is not the subject of any safety issues? Tara Baukus Mello details the steps you should take in the event of a vehicle recall in an article titled “What to do if your car is recalled” appearing on

seat-belts-400-06733773dIt has been more than 30 years since the first law requiring motor vehicle occupants to wear seat belts was adopted in New York. Since that time, efforts to enforce laws like this throughout the country have been stepped up as our roadways have become more congested. But some are now questioning whether the very same safety feature designed to save lives is to blame for causing severe injuries in some cases.

Originally, seat belts were designed to “catch” on impact keeping both drivers and passengers close to their seats to avoid injuries from hitting the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield. Accident victims, however, were suffering from damaged organs and broken ribs thought to be caused by the tightening seat belts. About ten years ago, the design was changed to allow seat belts to spool out in a crash, leaving the cars’ airbags to cushion the impact. While studies credit this new technology with saving lives, experts say that under certain circumstances the slackening seat belts may be leading to more severe injuries. An investigation by the NBC News I-Team takes a look at these allegations. For more details, see the article, “I-Team: Seat Belt Technology Designed to Improve Safety Blamed for Some Severe Injuries,” by Ann Givens, Pei-Sze Cheng, and Evan Stulberger.