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It was described as a “freak accident,” but could it have been prevented?

A truck was parked in the driveway when the vehicle alarm began blaring. A woman went outside to deactivate the alarm, but being unfamiliar with the vehicle, she accidentally activated the automatic start button. When the vehicle started, the truck lurched forward pinning her 4-year-old grandson, who had followed her outside, against a metal fence. The child was rushed to the hospital where he later died.

The important question – how did an automatic start button actually cause the truck to move? According to Mobile Edge, when using a remote starter on a manual transmission, the emergency brake must be on and the vehicle must be in neutral. If either condition does not exist when the remote start is activated, the vehicle could lurch forward; the results can be deadly. The victim’s uncle, who owns the truck, said the emergency brake was on. Maybe the uncle was distracted and thought the brake was engaged when he exited the truck. Maybe he did set the emergency brake but did it incorrectly; maybe the brake was defective or worn. Maybe….

In order to start a manual transmission without a remote starter, the clutch must be engaged; it doesn’t matter what gear the vehicle is parked in or if the emergency brake is engaged. If a remote starter is only safe when the emergency brake is on and the vehicle is in neutral, doesn’t this pose known safety risks?

I decided to do some research on after-market remote starters for manual transmissions; I could not find an auto manufacture that installs them. This appears to be an example of an industry putting safety first and I congratulate the automobile industry for doing so in this instance.

Should there be a ban on after-market remote starters for manual transmissions? This is not just about the safety of children. Anyone could suffer serious injury or a life lost by a “runaway” vehicle; property could be damaged. Why would any company manufacture and market a product with such known potential and deadly risks? Why, to make a profit, of course! Should there be accountability on their part?

Let this be a warning to all owners of manual transmission vehicles that remote starters can be dangerous. I hope this tragic accident is also another reminder of the dangers cars pose to kids. For more information on keeping children safe in and around vehicles, visit kidsandcars.org. This organization continuously collects data to bring attention to the tragic loss of the lives of our children caused in and around vehicles.

No young life should be tragically lost by a totally preventable accident.

Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

2 Comments

  1. Gravatar for Kate

    This terrible tragedy also reminds us that behavioral training is also important in keeping children safe. Teach your children not to stand or play in front of or behind a vehicle. Of course this family may well have done so, as four year olds need reminding many, many times before they grasp such rules. But it may help. Deepest sympathies to the family of this precious child.

  2. Gravatar for chris

    It is sad that innocent people die because of car accidents. People should really be careful when they are driving.

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