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If your car crashes in the woods and no one is around to hear it, will anyone come to the rescue? They will if your car is equipped with sensors that automatically call for emergency assistance in the event of an accident. For example, with Ford SYNC™, if you are in an accident where an airbag deploys or the fuel pump shuts off, Emergency Assistance uses your paired mobile phone to contact 911 and gives your exact location. An emergency specialist will call the vehicle to assess the condition of the occupants. Through the microphone, any occupant can speak to the operator, even if they can’t reach the controls. If there is no response, or help is deemed necessary, local emergency services are contacted to respond.

One Florida woman recently learned the system has another important feature – catching hit-and-run drivers. In this case it was her. Cathy Bernstein hit a truck then rear-ended a van before leaving the scene of the accident. Because her Ford Focus was fitted with the SYNC™ Emergency Assistance technology, it automatically contacted 911. Here is part of the recorded conversation:

Bernstein: “Ma’am, there’s no problem. Everything was fine.”

Dispatcher: “OK. But your car called in saying you’d been involved in an accident. It doesn’t do that for no reason.” Then she asked: “Did you leave the scene of an accident?”

Bernstein: “No, I would never do that.”

Suspicious, the dispatcher contacted police who had just received a call from the driver of the van saying that a black vehicle had “struck her from behind” and then took off. When police arrived at Bernstein’s home, they found “extensive front-end damage” on her Focus and silver paint from the victim’s car. The airbag was also deployed. When questioned, Bernstein said she struck a tree, but after further questioning she admitted to the hit-and-run. Police also learned she was actually fleeing from an accident with the truck when she hit the van. Bernstein was arrested and treated at a hospital before being sent to jail.

According to Alan Hall, a spokesman for Ford, at least 10 million Ford vehicles on the road today are equipped with the 911 Assist capability. He said that although the company has never heard of the system being used in a situation like the Florida incident, it “worked exactly like it was supposed to.”

The emergency call feature is opt-in, meaning that drivers, must turn the feature on and pair their car with their phone before it will work. Apparently, Bernstein forgot or was unaware the feature was enabled before she decided to flee the scene.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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