The Role of Vehicle Maintenance in Roadway Safety

Given the hundreds of thousands of traffic accidents that occur every year in this country, there are arguably very few people who either have not been involved in some kind of automobile or commercial trucking collision or who don’t known someone that has been. From single-vehicle collisions and auto-pedestrian crashes to multi-vehicle highway wrecks and commercial truck accidents, the odds are quite high that most everyone will likely be touched in some way by a traffic-related accident during his or her lifetime.

As professionals working in the field of personal injury law, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, understand how frightening a sudden car, truck or motorcycle wreck can be to an unsuspecting victim. The violence of a high-speed impact on a Maryland interstate, beltway or surface street can leave an indelible mark on some people’s psyche. While we cannot ourselves ease the emotional effects of a bad roadway collision, our staff has the skills and training to help victims recover damages from the negligent party(s) that caused the crash.

Although most everyone will eventually be affected in some way by a car or truck collision, a smaller percentage will know the physical pain and discomfort of an injury sustained in these kinds of accidents. This is, of course, fortunate for the majority of the general public, since there is nothing enviable about being laid up in a hospital room for days or weeks due to a traffic accident that was not your fault. But as such, there is always a gap in appreciation of the potentially life-threatening results of a serious car or truck wreck.

For most individuals, the thought of a traffic accident usually includes a driver who makes a bad mistake, or commits an outright thoughtless act, which then throws others into a possibly deadly situation as the negligent driver’s car collides with one or more other vehicles. This is typically the case when one vehicle comes into contact with another car, truck or motorcycle.

The severity of the resulting impact can be dependent on numerous factors, such as the vehicles’ individual speeds, whether the cars struck each other head-on, or if there is any significant size or weight disparity between the involved motor vehicles. One of the key factors in some auto injury accidents does not involve the driver much at all. Some kinds of traffic accidents can be the result of a broken part or component on one of the vehicles.

With this in mind, there is much to be said about the role that vehicle maintenance, or the lack thereof, can play in many automobile and commercial trucking crashes. Injuries caused by a failed automotive part or component due to improper maintenance or owner neglect can be just as painful or deadly for victims as those arising from a crash caused by another driver’s careless behavior. As with any kind of potential accident scenario, avoiding those crashes caused by poor or inadequate vehicle maintenance can be facilitated by understanding the possible causes.

As Maryland auto and truck injury lawyers, the professional staff at Lebowitz & Mzhen can appreciate the large potential for serious injury that can result from little or no attention to a vehicle’s critical operating and safety-related systems. Most drivers have at least a rudimentary understanding that annual safety inspections can help keep a car in good working order. However, a percentage of the motoring public often is less involved in their vehicle’s maintenance, which can lead to trouble down the road.

When it comes to proper vehicle maintenance, it is imperative that car and truck owners be aware that the condition of certain critical parts and components such as brakes, tire, steering components and even lighting systems should never be ignored for too long. For those individuals who may feel that saving money is paramount over having a full safety inspection, with all the inherent costs that go with it, it should be stated that this is a penny-wise, but pound-foolish approach. The glaring fault with such a mindset is that a traffic accident caused by an overlooked or neglected part can cause many more times the preventative maintenance cost in terms of property damage and personal injury should the part fail at the wrong moment while driving.

Based on research provided by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), around 20 percent of all traffic accidents are caused in some way by poor maintenance or lack thereof. In fact, every week innocent people all across Maryland, as well as over in the District of Columbia, suffer because some motorist or commercial vehicle owner failed to observe proper maintenance procedures, inspection schedules or other routine services.

There is no doubt that many auto injury accidents take place because a vehicle owner did not adhere to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedules. Sadly, when motorists ignore or forget about proper car maintenance, the safety and well-being of everybody on the road can be placed in jeopardy.

One of the most common failures resulting from poor vehicle maintenance are blown-out tires. High-mileage, ozone cracking, damaged sidewalls, and bald tires can each present a serious future accident risk if left unrepaired. Of course, braking components and other safety-related parts should always be looked at when doing a routine assessment of a vehicle’s mechanical condition. The following items may help drivers to know what to look out for in order to keep themselves, their passengers and the rest of the driving public safe and healthy for years to come.

  • Make it a habit to do a visual inspection of your tires each time you take a drive
  • Replace worn or damaged tires; if you can’t tell, ask a qualified auto technician to inspect them
  • Check for proper brake operation BEFORE driving in traffic
  • Follow your car manufacturer’s vehicle maintenance schedule
  • Have a professional auto technician inspect your vehicle before the summer and winter driving seasons
  • If your car needs a repair, don’t put it off. Take your vehicle to a qualified professional

Tires
Over- or under-inflated tires can cause trouble for motorists, which could end up resulting in an accident if ignored. As part of any general maintenance program, the vehicle’s tires should be checked regularly for proper inflation pressure. Also, have the depth of the tread on all tires checked, and replace those tires that do not meet safety requirements.

Braking System
Most motorists do not have the ability to adequately check the condition of their brakes. For this reason alone, it is advisable to take one’s vehicle to a skilled auto technician for regular inspection of the brakes and all other safety-critical systems. Some drivers may be able to discern changes in the performance of their braking system by detecting possible “sponginess” when pressing on the brake pedal, or if there is any strange vibration when operating the brakes.

Of course, noises such as squealing, grinding or scraping should be checked as soon as possible to avoid possible loss of brake system function. The cost of repair will likely be far less than the results of a rear-end collision, runaway situation, or pedestrian accident because your brakes were not up to par.

Steering System
Vehicle control can hardly be discussed without talking about the driver’s ability to steer the vehicle safely. Flawless operation of a car or truck’s steering system is a prerequisite to safe driving. Any problems that crop up with this critical control system should be referred to a qualified automotive technician before any further trouble threatens to result in a traffic accident. Among the various warning signs that motorists should be aware of when operating their vehicles include the following:

  • Vibration felt through the steering wheel
  • Higher than normal steering effort or difficulty turning the steering wheel
  • Any kind of loose or sloppy feeling when turning the steering wheel
  • Deterioration in the car’s ability to track in a straight line, or a tendency to “wander” back and forth in one’s lane
  • Squealing, screeching or other out-of-the-ordinary sound when the driver turns the steering wheel

It goes without saying that any loss of control due to a steering problem could result in a serious traffic accident, including a possible head-on crash. With this in mind, every driver should have his steering system checked whenever the vehicle is in for service. Similarly, maintenance of a car or truck should include checking and filling the vehicle’s power steering fluid and other related lubrication areas. Most of these tasks must usually be left to a professional auto mechanic who has the skills and experience to do the job right.

In cases where lax vehicle maintenance may have played a part in a serious injury-related or fatal car wreck, it may be time to contact a Maryland personal injury attorney to discuss one’s options as an auto accident victim. Lebowitz & Mzhen understands that defective vehicle equipment, as well as improper maintenance, can lead to unfortunate car, truck and motorcycle collisions. If negligence is suspected, especially in those instances that resulted in serious bodily injury requiring extended hospitalization or long-term nursing care, it may be wise to consider a personal injury lawsuit.

As experienced Baltimore injury accident attorneys, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen understands that proving negligence takes the proper research and case preparation. Our legal staff knows that most any case that is well prepared has a better chance at influencing a favorable out-of-court settlement. Such settlements can be better for victims of personal injury auto accidents since it eliminates much of the potential stress of a trial while still allowing the victims to recover medical costs and other damages.

If you have been involved in a negligence-related auto accident, we recommend that you consult a qualified personal injury attorney who is skilled in representing victims of automobile and commercial trucking accidents. The lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are ready, willing and able to help you and your family by discussing the details of your case and sharing our advice regarding the filing of a personal injury claim. Please contact us, toll-free, at (800)-654-1949. You may also email either Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen to set up a time for a no-obligation legal consultation.