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On October 29, 2015, the FDA issued a recall of Skippy Peanut Butter, due to the fact that, during production, small pieces of metal may have entered into nearly 2,000 pounds of Skippy Peanut Butter, posing serious injury and/or choking hazards for consumers, many considered children.

The possible error was announced after a routine in-line magnet check discovered small metal fragments had entered the product at some point during the production process. No injuries have been reported or received by the Manufacture or the FDA, to date.

Skippy peanut butter is manufactured by the company Hormel Foods. Hormel Foods voluntarily announced the recall due to the severity of injuries that could occur if consumers ingest peanut butter products with significant sized metal shavings. Any food borne object greater than 7mm in length has the ability to cause injury. Injuries, such as: severe choking, airway obstruction, intestinal perforation and secondary infections.

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Distracted driving is defined as driving while engaged in activity that has the potential to distract the driver from the task of driving such as texting or talking on a cell phone, applying make-up, eating, etc.

As the dangers of distracted driving became more and more clear, states began to fund awareness campaigns such as online videos of real-life tragedies from distracted driving and add laws to make it easier for police officers to pull drivers over issue tickets.

Use of handheld devices, while driving, is prohibited in 14 states and the District of Columbia and is considered a primary enforcement law. As for texting while driving, 46 states and D.C. ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 5 states have primary enforcement on their texting ban.

All of these laws and new restrictions have been put in effect because distracted driving has been responsible for too many accidents, injuries and deaths across the United States. It is ultimately the drivers’ responsibility and drivers need to be aware of their surroundings and driving conditions before getting behind the wheel. Driving is a privileged and drivers need to remember that and take responsibility for their actions. Safety should come first.

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When you have the option to connect your vehicle to the internet, it is no longer just a vehicle. It is now a computer on wheels. Some vehicles are able to search on Google, send tweets and be remotely accessed from a smartphone app. These vehicles will need cyber security measures beyond the traditional safety measures currently established. Therefore; the Security and Privacy in your Car Act is currently in consideration by Congress.

These software driven vehicles will need cyber security features. To date, there are three specific measures that can dramatically improve the cyber security of vehicles.

1) Vehicles will need over-the-air update systems to avoid expensive and lengthy recalls every time a security vulnerability is found;

2) The manufacturer must separate infotainment systems and the critical drive systems, therefore; tightly controlling communication between them; and

3) Manufactures must assume that some attacks will succeed and secure each individual software component in the vehicle, so that if an attacker compromises a single system they do not automatically get access to the entire vehicle.

These three measures are just a start. It will take years for companies to develop a strong cyber security system, but in the meantime, it is up to the driver how much control they are willing to give their vehicles when connecting them to the internet

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So far in 2015, there have been 5 Amtrak Train derailments. For the past two years there has been an increase in hazardous materials releases and therefore; fires have doubled in the past two years. According to projections by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, train derailments will double in the next year. Therefore; the Federal Department of Transportation has released new rules to regulate tank cars that carry crude, ethanol, and other flammable liquids.

Derailments are usually caused by equipment failures. Broken, settled, spread, shifted or overturned rails account for about 50 percent of the equipment related derailments.

Human and environmental factors can also contribute to train accidents. Some of the human factors that contribute to train accident are things like poor train handling, incorrectly set track switches, unsecured cars on a hill, shifted loads, vandalism, and obstructions on the track. Floods, avalanches, rock slides and high winds are some of the environmental factors.

Therefore; if you or a loved one is a victim of train derailments, please contact our office, so we can better inform you and assist you of your rights and help you seek the needed medical treatment for your injuries.

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Maryland vehicle owners can now start using the new and convenient self-service Vehicle Emission Inspection Program (VEIP) kiosks, to test their vehicle’s emissions. There are two VEIP self-service kiosks available in Maryland. One located at the Glen Burnie VEIP station and the other in the Gaithersburg branch VEIP station. Both stations/kiosks are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These stations are administered and monitored by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).

MDE Secretary Ben Grumbles and the Deputy Transportation Secretary James Ports Jr. were at each location demonstrating how the VEIP self-service kiosks operate. These kiosks are part of a pilot program which will run for one year. The driver/user will plug a device into their vehicle’s computer diagnostic system to determine whether their vehicle’s engine is working properly and whether its emissions are up to Maryland environmental standard. The process will take less than 10 minutes.

Light duty vehicles model years 2005 and newer and heavy duty vehicles model years 2008 and newer are eligible to use the self-service VEIP kiosk. That means that about 58% of vehicles tested annually will be able to use the kiosk. The cost will be $14 and the test must be done every two years in the state of Maryland.

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Summer in the District of Columbia seems to be a high time for Car thefts and break-ins. July and August have been deemed the top months for these types of crimes in the District. According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, since June 1, 2015, there have been 655 car thefts in the District, with 287 of the thefts occurring in July 2015. In Prince George’s county there were 3,543 cars stolen in 2014 and 845 in Montgomery County. Both of these counties are larger municipalities than D.C., each with populations of about 890,000 and one million, respectively.

As for car burglaries, there have been 2,310 car burglaries in D.C. since June 1, 2015. That number is up from the 2,042 car burglaries recorded, in 2014.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that a vehicle is stolen every 44 seconds in the U.S. The NHTSA and AAA Insurance have some recommendations for preventing vehicle thefts and burglaries. Here are seven of them:

1. Get your Vehicles Identification Number (VIN) etched on each piece of glass on your car. That way the thief is deterred from taking the vehicle since all windows etched would need to be replaced.

2. Always lock your car and make sure all windows are closed. Even if you part your car in a garage.

3. Never leave expensive belongings out in plain site.

4. Never leave your keys inside your car and never leave your vehicle running at any time while you are not in it.

5. Park your car in well lit areas.

6. If your car doesn’t have an alarm or hidden tracking device then have one installed.

7. Remove all spare keys from inside the car. Never hide spare keys in or around your car.

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Brian Frosh, Maryland’s Attorney General, asked a federal court on Friday, July 17th, 2015 to lift a 20 year-old injuction that prevents the state of Maryland from recalling license plates with Confederate logos. This action would make it so that the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) can develop an emergency regulation to recall Confederate logo plates already in use statewide. Maryland has already stopped issuing new plates with Confederate logos. The issuing of these Confederate logo plates have been suspended until further review from the attorney general.

The Maryland request to lift the injuction follows the Supreme Court’s ruling on June 18th, 2015 that found states could reject specialty license plates as a form of government speech. This means that states can exclude the Confederate flag from government specialty license plates. The issue at hand is that in 1997 the U.S. District Court made a decision that blocked the state’s attempt to recall license plates with the logo of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, based on the fact that the group’s First Amendment rights to freedom of speech where being violated.

The MVA says there are 151 Confederate plates on vehicles and 27 on motorcycles to date.

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The major law passed is that a driver may now cross a double yellow line to pass a pedestrian or a device powered by human power. This means that drivers can cross the double yellow lines to pass a slower bicyclist, skateboarder and/or foot scooters, when driving in a single lane road with the above vehicles going at a slower pace.

Another law now in effect is one where you have to pass a stopped waste collection vehicle at 10 miles below the speed limit and allow at least two feet between you and the waste collection vehicle. Therefore; Virginia’s “move over” law has been revised to include all traffic management service vehicles with blinking amber lights to the list that requires drivers to move over one lane or slow down.

In addition, Bicycles, mopeds and other non-motorized vehicles can now be cited for tailgating.

Also, drivers who receive red light camera citations may now have the right to appeal them in court.

The final new law in effect in Virginia is where drivers of Uber and Lyft must register their vehicles with the DMV and comply with state regulations.

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Auto industries biggest problems, presently, are recall related. The number of affected vehicles and the number of recalls in the past two years have been brutal for various Automobile industries. Just when driver safety seemed to be getting better, the massive recalls due to the defective Takata airbags steered the sector uncontrollably toward yet more problems.

Safety recalls and related costs have become a major issue for most automakers. 632 recalls covering about 22 million cars have been announced since 2013. These numbers only increased in 2014. In 2014, there were 60.5 million recalls. That is nearly double of the previous record of 33.8 million in 2004, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, these numbers only cover the recalls in the United States and not globally.

With regards to the Takata airbag recalls, Takata, finally, publically acknowledged that 33.8 million of its airbags are defective. This announcement will increase the number of vehicles and trucks recalls due to the faulty airbags by almost 100%.

In total, 11 automakers were affected by the Takate airbag recalls. These included: Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd, Ford Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. However; Honda, was the biggest company affected. Each of these companies were affected by the Takate recalls. The recall related repair costs intensify the financial burden of these auto manufacturers

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On June 2, 2015, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade held a hearing on the Takata Airbag recalls.

At the hearing the H.R 1181, otherwise known as the Vehicle Safety Improvement Act of 2015 was presented. The Act would increase auto safety reporting, oversight and accountability and help reduce the likelihood of another Takata like failure. It would help restore a culture of safety among automakers, parts suppliers, and federal regulators. It includes commonsense and cost effective solutions to problems revealed in various congressional committee hearings examining government missteps and auto industry cover ups of deadly vehicle safety defects.

H.R. 1811 would provide for increased and improved public safety access to motor vehicle safety information, enhanced tools and accountability for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and for the protection of motor vehicle consumers.