| Ensuring proper trailer connections saves lives |
| Ron Melancon makes a profoundly valid point. If devices that don't threaten public safety are regulated in this country, then why shouldn't something that claims hundreds of lives annually fall under greater scrutiny and control?|
There is no reason why it shouldn't, but, much to Melancon's dismay, communities and states have done little to nothing to step up enforcement of the thousands of trailers that are hitched to vehicles on any given day across this land and on any given road, street or highway.
The statistics, as Melancon is quick to underscore for the visually impaired, speak for themselves.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, improperly towed or built trailers are an extreme danger and nuisance in this country.
Since 2003 alone, trailers - or some part or parts of them - have broken loose from moving vehicles, killing 2,239 citizens. That is 2,239 lives, including a life in Glynn County about a year ago on the F.J. Torras Causeway.
The number of injuries they've inflicted on Georgians and other Americans is equally disquieting. In just the past five years, 122,500 individuals have sustained minor or major injuries.
Then there's the property damage, of course.
An estimated 342,000 vehicles, trailers and other property that includes fences, shrubbery and structures have received light-to-severe or total damage from the tip of Washington State to the bottom of Florida by runaway trailers or jettisoned, hurtling parts from poorly hitched or constructed trailers.
If nothing else, the nation or state ought to require some standards on their design and development.
Laws that require additional safety devices such as chains that reinforce, if not indeed ensure, the attachment of a trailer to a vehicle ought to be enforced every day in every community, including Brunswick and the Golden Isles.
Motorists should observe whether a passing trailer is chained to the bumper or another part of the vehicle and call police when they see that it is not. They might save a life or spare someone from needless injury.
State lawmakers ought to look into this and determine whether the industry - as well as act of trailer towing itself - is in need of a shake-up, in need of additional safety devices and checks and higher fines for those who fail to do either. The number of deaths since 2003 - 2,239 - says it does.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Dec. 26--Ron Melancon can't believe it.
The 44-year-old Richmond, Va., crusader says the number of accidents and deaths caused by trailers that are unsafe or which are improperly secured to vehicles screams for attention, yet only one state is toughening the law to combat the problem -- his own, Virginia.
Georgia is not immune, and that includes Glynn County, where a runaway trailer claimed a life almost a year ago.
Just look at the nationwide figures since 2003, Melancon will tell anyone who will listen. The data was compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
--Number of persons killed: 2,239
--Number of persons injured: 122,500
--Number of vehicles, trailers and other property damaged: 342,000
"We have people dying in Idaho because of trailers," he said. "We got people dying in Las Vegas. Can we connect the dots?"
Just this past week, a speedboat broke loose from the hitch of a pickup truck while being towed and landed on top of another vehicle in Albany. Fortunately, none of the three persons in the car was hurt.
A woman in Glynn County wasn't so lucky. In January 2007, a homemade trailer became unattached from a pickup truck on the F.J. Torras Causeway. The trailer crossed the centerline. striking the vehicle driven by Karen Simpson. The 48-year-old was killed.
Melancon, who dove into a crusade for stronger trailer laws after slamming into one himself earlier this decade, said he can't believe Georgia and other states are ignoring what is a well-publicized danger to all motorists.
Among other things, states should mandate a safety course for anyone who uses trailers and adopt uniform design standards. While there is a standard for trailer hitches, there is no standard for trailers, he said.
"Every county has different standards," he said. Every state has different laws. We should have a definition for what a trailer is.
"We have 80 people killed in Ford Pintos and what happens? Ford recalls the cars (built prior to 1976). Seven astronauts die in the space shuttle Challenger and suddenly all the other shuttles are grounded. We have 2,239 people killed by trailers, and we do nothing. Can someone explain that to me?"
He said it was an uphill struggle just convincing Virginia to pass a law requiring reflector tape on trailers.
"With lawsuits and damages, we'll are paying for this," he said. "We should not have to sue in this country to force states to use common sense."
Right now, Melancon is writing and speaking to anyone and everyone who will listen, especially those in the upper layer of government. So far, it's been like trying to go up against a 200 mph headwind.
"I've sent emails to governors," he said. "I'm trying to get Congress involved, too."
There's no headway there, either, but don't count on him quitting anytime soon.
"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I will continue to monitor this. I can't give up. If I do then my son will (think) this country doesn't care anymore."
Check out Ron Melancon's trailer safety site at wwwdangerous.trailors.org
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Copyright (c) 2008, The Brunswick News, Ga.
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Friday, December 26, 2008
The Dangerous Trailer and Hayride Injury Lawyers of Reiff and Bily Proudly Salute the Efforts of Ron J. Melancon of Richmond, Virginia
The Dangerous Trailer and Hayride Injury Lawyers of Reiff and Bily Proudly Salute the Efforts of Ron J. Melancon of Richmond, Virginia
Ron has been a step ahead of government officials and many lawyers. Ron has recognized that many trailers used for hayrides and other utilities are under 3,000 lbs. and fall below federal guidelines. These trailers do not need to be inspected. You can build one on your own and use it yourself or sell it. As Ron has recognized, there is very little regulation addressed with trailers under 3,000 lbs. Most state laws are silent regarding design or construction specification for utility trailers used in hayrides or for towing hitches. Obviously, a potentially dangerous situation exists using these trailers for hayrides or even on the roads of the Commonwealth. In many cases, we find trailers have obvious violations of safety codes that related to lighting, braking and inspection requirements.
The unregulation of the hayride and trailer obviously allows profit hungry operators to cut corners on safety, often leading to preventable catastrophic injuries of innocent children.
We urge you to link to Ron’s website at www.dangeroustrailers.org. We salute Ron’s efforts to become a crusader for public safety and in his attempts to keep the public informed of the dangerous situations of unregulated trailers and hayrides in the United States and abroad. Consumer advocacy is what change in laws and regulations is all about.
The hayride and defective trailer accident lawyers at Reiff and Bily fight to keep consumers’ rights protected. As attorneys, we feel this makes our life full of purpose by helping injured people as opposed to helping companies. Reiff and Bily is a Pennsylvania law firm that has been litigating catastrophic injury, defective product and wrongful death cases since 1979. We champion the rights of consumers to restore safety and regulation and dignity to the lives of victims and their families injured or killed in catastrophic and unavoidable accidents. We salute the efforts of Ron Melancon, a champion of consumer rights.
Reiff and Bily has recovered more than $150,000,000 in settlements and judgments for its clients, including cases against the largest automobile and truck manufacturers in the world. For more information, please visit our website at www.reiffandbily.com.
Activist Shines Spotlight on Tragedies Caused by Runaway Trailers
I came across this interesting column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that talks about an issue that has been of great concern to me – runaway trailer accidents. Runaway trailers usually occur as a result of not being properly secured to a vehicle and can cause catastrophic accidents with serious injuries or deaths.
This news report is about an activist, Ron Melancon from Glen Allen, Virginia, who has taken it upon himself to document accidents involving passenger vehicles that tow trailers. A 43-year-old retail sales manager, Melancon is working to get national safety standards in place to prevent these tragic accidents from happening. Most recently in Pennsylvania, 36-year-old Michelle Kott was killed on a local highway when a trailer came loose from a truck and crashed into the car she was driving. In fact, this tragedy was similar to a horrific April 2006 accident in Richland, Pennsylvania, where a wood chipper detached from a truck and slammed into a minivan killing 37-year-old Spencer Morrison and two of his 4-year-old triplets.
California is no stranger to these tragic runaway trailer accidents. Statistics on these accidents are not readily available because the government does not keep track of these incidents very well. However, a recent Los Angeles Times investigation identified 540 runaway trailer accidents from news reports and court files between 2000 and 2007. These accidents resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of injuries and at least 164 deaths. It is very likely that there were many more runaway trailer accidents, injuries and deaths that were not reported by news sources.
Ron Melancon says these are by no means “freak accidents.” His informative Web site Dangerous Trailers keeps a running tally of such accidents.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 64,275 such accidents causing 425 deaths and 16,482 injuries in 2005. According to Melancon’s count, between 2003 and 2007, 2000 people have been killed and 120,000 injured in accidents involving passenger vehicles towing trailers.
Melancon says he became involved in this cause after rear-ending a small trailer at night in 2003 because the rear of the trailer did not have reflective material. He simply couldn’t see it in the dark. It was a minor accident, but it motivated Melancon to successfully lobby Virginia legislators in 2004 to pass a law requiring these trailers to be fitted with either two reflectors or 100 square inches of reflective material.
The safety standards for large trailers vary from state to state. No standards even exist for smaller trailers, which are most often involved in these catastrophic incidents, Melancon says. He applauds the efforts of local safety groups that organize one-day safety seminars providing driver training in securely connecting trailers to vehicles and properly attaching safety chains. I agree with Melancon that such training should be made mandatory before people are even allowed to attach a trailer to their vehicles.
Here’s a million-dollar question from Melancon: “Why do people have to keep dying before we act?”
That’s right. Why do our federal authorities wait until thousands die before they take action to pass a safety regulation or improve safety standards? I stand behind Ron Melancon and offer my support to his efforts to make this country’s roadways safer and better for all of us.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2008
By Eric Heyl
Friday, December 19, 2008
When he heard about Michelle Kott's death, Ron Melancon understandably was horrified.
But after spending more than five years documenting accidents involving passenger vehicles that tow trailers, the Glen Allen, Va., man wasn't surprised.
"I've seen this happen way too often," said Melancon, 43, a retail sales manager. "Until we get some meaningful safety standards in place nationally, it's going to continue to happen."
Kott, 36, of Ellsworth was killed Monday on Route 19 in North Strabane when a trailer came loose from the truck that was towing it, crossed into oncoming traffic and crashed into the car she was driving.
The tragedy was similar to a horrific April 2006 incident in which a wood chipper detached from a truck and slammed into a minivan on Route 8 in Richland. The crash claimed the life of teacher Spencer Morrison, 37, of Cranberry and two of his 4-year-old triplets.
Not according to federal statistics and the Web site Melancon maintains, www.dangeroustrailers.org, which keeps a running tally of such incidents.
In 2005, the most recent year information was available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 64,275 such accidents causing 425 deaths and 16,482 injuries.
Between 2003 and 2007, according to Melancon's count, 2,000 people have been killed and 120,000 injured in accidents involving passenger vehicles towing trailers.
Melancon took up the safety cause after rear-ending a small trailer at night in 2003. Because the rear of the trailer lacked reflective material, he failed to see it attached to the back of a truck.
The minor accident prompted Melancon to successfully lobby Virginia legislators in 2004 to pass a law requiring trailers to be fitted with either two reflectors or 100 square inches of reflective material.
While researching the issue during the lobbying effort, he discovered how common such accidents are.
According to Melancon, the problem is that safety standards vary from state to state for large trailers and are virtually nonexistent for smaller trailers.
He noted that many states -- including Pennsylvania -- don't require trailers under 3,000 pounds to be inspected. "And guess what kind of trailers are most commonly involved in accidents?" he said.
Melancon applauds local programs such as Operation SOAR (Safe Operations Are Your Responsibility) -- a joint venture of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, the Allegheny County Police and Pennsylvania State Police and the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office.
The annual one-day safety seminars, initiated after the Morrision accident, provide driver training in securely connecting trailers to vehicles and properly attaching safety chains.
But Melancon believes such training should be mandatory before people are permitted to take to the road with a trailer.
"Why do people have to keep dying before we act?"
Eric Heyl is a Tribune-Review staff writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7857.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Accidents put trailer safety in spotlight
Unlike many states, Idaho doesn't require private trailers to have safety chains, secured loads or state inspections.
BY DAVID KENNARD - email@example.com
Edition Date: 06/12/08
On Monday night, a big rig was hit by a runaway flatbed trailer on Interstate 84, closing the highway for several hours. Luckily, no one was injured.
In May, a father and two of his children died when a farm trailer swung into the path of their truck, which vaulted over the trailer and into Squaw Creek.
It is a scenario that repeats itself too often on Idaho roads, according to Idaho State Police.
"In Idaho, there are no regulations that deal with private individuals and towing," said ISP spokesman Rick Ohnsman.
But on Tuesday night, safety chains kept a camper trailer attached to a truck that rolled on Interstate 84 when the driver lost control. The driver and passenger were hurt, but the trailer was not sent hurtling toward other vehicles.
It is states like Idaho and simple solutions like safety chains that have a Virginia man on a personal crusade to pass towing laws to help make roads safer.
According to Idaho law, the only regulation that applies to towing a private trailer is that it must have working taillights, according to ISP officials.
Safety chains are not required. Loads are not required to be secured. And the state does not inspect trailers before they are registered.
The one law that seems to apply is that trailers more than 15,000 pounds are required to have working trailer brakes.
Lt. Bill Reese, deputy commander of the state's Commercial Safety Division, said some states - such as Colorado, Utah and Oregon - require safety chains.
"In other states, they require that (chains) be in good working order and usable," Reese said.
State Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said he plans to learn more about the crashes to decide whether new legislation is appropriate.
"We constantly look at ways to make our highways and freeways safer," he said.
Ron Melancon, who runs a Web site called DangerousTrailers.org, said it is for time all states to do something about the situation, not just think about it.
Melancon, an advocate for trailer safety, began lobbying lawmakers across the United States for stiffer trailer laws after he ran into the back of a trailer being pulled by a truck. He saw the truck but not the trailer until it was too late.
He turned that experience into a mission to make hauling trailers safer.
"In Idaho, you can go to the junkyard, pick up an axle, put a box on it and get it registered," Melancon said.
Based in Virginia, Melancon tracks accidents and laws involving trailers and said Idaho's regulations are among the loosest in the nation.
"No one checks welds. No one checks bearings. And no one checks wiring," Melancon said.
Drivers who do lose a trailer in Idaho can be cited for careless driving or littering a highway, Reese said.
"If it's my personal trailer, I'm not required to secure the load," Reese said, "although it's against the law to place debris on the highway."
"We're always blown away by how people carry things on their vehicles," Ohnsman said. "We'll find people in construction or lawn companies or smaller outfits, and we usually do load securement enforcement because they fall under commercial vehicle laws"
But Reese said most farm equipment, like the trailer involved in the fatal crash in Sweet, is exempt from the commercial rules.
Idaho police officers can apply a general equipment code to private vehicles pulling trailers, but Reese said the law is very nonspecific and hard to apply in most circumstances.
"The bottom line is crashes involving a trailer are difficult to address," Reese said.
David Kennard: 377-6436