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“Deck the Halls – Not Your Steering Wheel,” Advises Fort Myers Injury Lawyer

Snowman-Steering-Wheels-300x220Sparkling decor is part of the magic of the holiday season. But as a Fort Myers injury lawyer, I’d strongly advise you to keep it away from your steering wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety administration (NHTSA) just issued a warning not long ago about the dangers of aftermarket, gem-studded decals that can cause serious injury in a crash. In one documented case, a driver lost sight in one eye after a rhinestone-emblazoned decal dislodged from the wheel during a crash and struck her in the face.

Aftermarket Vehicle Parts Can Complicate Product Liability Case

In Florida and throughout the United States, we have certain safety standards for products sold and distributed to the public. That includes vehicles and vehicle parts. When they fall short of those standards, people who are injured can pursue product liability claims against the manufacturer, distributor, retailers, etc.

However, when a crash-related injury involves an “aftermarket” vehicle part, this can complicate matters. We have to determine who made it, who sold it, how it was marketed, where it was marketed, who installed it, how they installed it, etc. Such information can be more difficult to uncover when we’re dealing with aftermarket parts.

“Aftermarket” refers to secondary parts or equipment not made or sold by the original manufacturer. They can sometimes be used to replace damaged parts (airbags, brakes, seat belts, engines, windshields, etc.), but they can also be decorative, as in the case of the sparkly steering wheel decals.

According to the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association, aftermarket products are a $257 billion industry in the U.S. The AAIA encourages consumers to think of aftermarket parts like the generic version of drugs: They’re usually cheaper than the name brand, but they’re supposed to have comparable effectiveness.

The problem, from the perspective of a Fort Myers injury lawyer, is that aftermarket products often don’t undergo the same rigorous testing and analysis as the originals. Some parts may be made with subpar components or those that don’t work properly with the manufacturer’s original system. Fort Myers car accident attorney

The Danger of Decorative Accessories in Vehicles

In the case of something like decorative decals, an idea might sound cute and innocuous, but the lack of consideration for the potential safety implications when it’s used in a vehicle is problematic. It’s highly unlikely such products have undergone crash safety testing to ensure they won’t pose any unnecessary risks.

According to NHTSA, the decals in question are typically made of metal or plastic and they’re covered with shiny plastic or metal decorations, which are supposed to cover the vehicle logo on the steering wheel. If it were placed somewhere else, it might not be an issue. Unfortunately, these decals are right over the airbag. In the event of a crash, the bag turns the bejeweled decoration into a projectile – which can result in serious injury or death.

Also worth considering is that any alteration to an airbag can minimize its potential to properly function. Airbags are estimated to save roughly 2,800 lives a year, NHTSA says, so this is highly problematic.

Other aftermarket vehicle decorations and accessories that have posed documented safety risks include:

  • Lift kits. Throwing off your center of gravity is never a good idea.
  • Anything hanging from the rearview mirror. It can obstruct your line of sight.
  • Seat covers. If your vehicle contains side airbags, it could impede the airbag’s ability to function.
  • Dash-mounted TV screens. Yes, they’re supposed to be for passengers, but they can be a huge distraction for drivers and obstruct the line-of-sight.
  • Monster tires. If the tires exceed manufacturer recommendations, it’s not only going to destroy your transmission, the speedometer reading is unlikely to be accurate. That can pose all kinds of problems.
  • Cup holders. It seems like a minor thing, but an aftermarket cupholder isn’t as reliable as the manufacturer one. That means it might be more prone to causing a spill – a big problem, especially if the drink is super hot and you’re driving.

A crash can happen in a fraction of a second, and all it takes is one seemingly minor problem to turn a moderate crash into a major one with serious injuries.

If you are injured in Fort Myers, Naples or Key West, contact Garvin Injury Law at 800.977.7017 for a free initial consultation.

Additional Resources:

Consumer Alert: Don’t Buy or Use Steering Wheel Decorative Emblem Decals, Nov. 6, 2023, NHTSA

More Blog Entries:

Why Fort Myers Motorcycle Accident Claims Are Trickier Than Your Typical Crash Case, Feb. 17, 2023, Fort Myers Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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