Commuters, Business Travelers Face New Dangers, Shrinking Legal Rights
America has already earned the dubious distinction as the most overworked developed nation in the world: 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week.
And as if long work weeks weren’t enough, we waste more time than ever getting to work in the first place, whether on the road or by air. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, work commutes hit an all-time high in 2018, with the average commuter spending 54 minutes (225 hours per year) traveling to and from their job. Business air travel is also forecasted to climb from 462 million domestic trips per year to 499.4 million by 2022.
Now there’s MORE bad news for the beleaguered American worker in this blistering report from the Center for Justice & Democracy (CJ&D) titled Planes, Trains and Automobiles – And Other Transportation Hazards. Safety and legal protections are increasingly under attack by corporate interests more interested in profits than the public welfare while many of the government agencies created to enforce these protections look the other way. Here are top-line takeaways from that report:
Flying the Unfriendly Skies
The FAA is delegating more oversight duties to manufacturers.
- Safety regulations outsourced: For years, the government has been delegating oversight responsibility to airline manufacturers to reduce bureaucracy. This process has accelerated in recent years, making it much easier for manufacturers to override federal regulators on safety issues.
- Too many near-miss incidents: NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System found more than 130 near-mishaps reported at airports on an average day, most happening with no knowledge by the flying public or those living near the airports.
- Cost-cutting airlines: Long hours, low pay and captains with little experience as well as antiquated planes are frequently found at regional carriers and cheap airlines, creating potential safety issues across the nation.
The Little Engine That Couldn’t
- Slow implementation of safety technology: Congress passed the Rail Safety Improvement Act in 2008, setting a deadline of December 31, 2015, for the implementation of positive train control (PTC) technology on 30 commuter lines, Amtrak and other railroads. However, the industry has failed to quickly implement PTC, and in the years since, deadly crashes have continued in the years since that might have been prevented.
- Out-of-date passenger cars: An aging fleet and unsafe repairs have lead to rail cars that fail to meet crashworthiness standards.
- Forced injustice: In January 2019, Amtrak quietly added a loophole provision called a forced arbitration clause to its ticket purchase agreement. Passengers with any kind of legal dispute – even accident victims and their families – will be forced into secret arbitration with the company rather than appearing before an impartial judge and jury. Thus, passengers are unknowingly giving up their rights by buying a ticket.
Highway Hazards Ahead
Federal law allows used cars to be sold with open safety recalls.
- Tidal wave of auto recalls: In the last 10 years, over 280 million vehicles have been recalled. Unfortunately, recall completion rates are only about 70 to 75 percent, which leaves more than 70 million vehicles on the road with open recalls. The auto industry has repeatedly put hundreds of millions of dangerous and defective automobiles on the roads, only stepping in months or sometimes years after drivers, passengers and others have been hurt or exposed to risk. And federal watchdogs aren’t doing enough to hold auto manufacturers accountable.
- Used cars unregulated: Used cars, which represent roughly 75 percent of vehicle sales, are allowed under federal law to be sold to customers with open safety recalls and known safety defects. For example, a 2017 study of 1,700 vehicles for sale at CarMax, the nation’s largest seller of used vehicles, showed that one in four had unrepaired safety defects.
- More dangerous trucks, buses on the road: Fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses grew 11 percent from 2013 to 2018. Unscrupulous trucking companies push drivers into unsafe practices like speeding or driving while tired. Others skimp on regular maintenance, including proper brake repair.
Download a complete copy of the CJ&D report here. And if you or someone close to you has been injured during work travel – on the road, by train, in the air or by water – don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your legal rights.