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SB 1054: Arizona Collision Law Moving to Senate

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On June 17, 2016, recent Horizon High School graduate Joe Smith and three of his high school friends were driving back from a post-graduation trip to California. Upon nearing Quartzsite, Arizona on Interstate 10, the boys slowed down due to an accident, when an 18-wheeler barreled into them and another vehicle.

As a result of the impact, 18-year-old Joe was killed and the three other boys in his vehicle were seriously injured. In the other vehicle, 74-year-old Sun City resident Joseph Garcia was killed, and his wife Mary Lou was left paralyzed from the waist down.

Seven months later, and the truck driver has not been charged with any crime. As it stands currently, Arizona law does not require that drivers in deadly accidents be given a drug or alcohol test. Steve and Tana Smith, Joe’s parents, are on a mission to change that.

The Smith’s are lobbying a new bill in the Senate that would change the law in his name. SB 1054, known as “Joe’s Law” would require drug or alcohol testing for driver’s involved in crashes that cause serious injury or death.

According to records obtained from a Department of Public Safety trooper, the 42-year-old semi-truck driver seemed lethargic and tired after the accident, and when asked if he was tired, he responded “yes.” However, he was not tested for drugs or alcohol.

“If this bill passes, ‘Joe’s Law’ would help ensure that families who endure a tragedy like ours won’t have the added stress of forever wondering and never knowing if there were more factors that caused the crash, “ Tana Smith wrote in a post on Facebook.

The bill’s primary sponsor is Senator Judy Burges, and the co-sponsors are Senator Sylvia Allen, Senator David Farnsworth, Senator Steve Montenegro, and Senator Frank Pratt.

While not an official bill sponsor, Senator Lupe Contreras spoke emotionally in support of Joe’s Law. He lost his sister in a car accident when she was just 18 years old, as well.

“I know what that pain is cause here I am today and I’m able to sit up there and hopefully pass this law that will hopefully prevent another family from having to endure what we have endured for so many years,” Contreras said.

On January 26th, a Senate Panel approved SB 1054 on a 7 to 0 vote. The law will now move to the full Senate for action.

According to Joe’s dad, Steve, simply knowing whether the driver had been impaired would make the death of their son easier to manage.

“Had we known whether or not this driver was impaired, it would make this unbearable situation easier to cope with. The not knowing, because no test was done in our case, is agonizing,” Steve said.

A petition on Change.org has garnered more than 2,000 signatures in support of having the law passed, and will be delivered to Senator John McCain.

Tana believes that many individuals are unaware that the Arizona law does not require drug and alcohol testing after a deadly accident, and hopes that Joe’s Law will bring the flawed law to light, and ultimately change it.

“I’ll do whatever I can do to change this because this is something that can affect anybody at any time,” Tana said.

This will be an interesting story for the Arizona collision industry, as well as all Arizona residents, to follow in the coming months.

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The Future of Online Review Platforms

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Do the names John and Jen Palmer sound familiar? If they don’t already, you’re about to take notice. This Utah-based couple is the reason President Obama signed the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016 into law earlier this month.

The story begins in 2008. John purchased an item for his wife, Jen, from an online company called KlearGear. After the product never arrived, and after numerous failed attempts to work it out with their customer service department, the Palmer’s posted a negative review online about the company.

Fast-forward four years, and the Palmers were being harassed by KlearGear to remove the review, saying it went against the ‘non-disparagement’ clause in their terms of service. If they didn’t comply, they’d be hit with a $3,500 fine.

The couple refused, and a few months later noticed that the fine had been passed on to a collection agency, and their credit had taken a major hit. With the help of Public Citizen, a consumer rights advocacy group, the Palmers won a default judgment in federal court and had their credit restored.

This KlearGear case attracted significant media coverage, and led to legislators around the country to take action. California led the charge by outlawing non-disparaging clauses back in 2014.

President Obama signed the Consumer Review Fairness Act into law on December 14th, and it states that a contract is void if it “prohibits or restricts an individual who is a party to such a contract from engaging in written, oral, or pictorial reviews, or other similar performance assessments of analyses of, including by electronic means, the goods, services, or conduct of a person that is also a party to the contract.”

While this law sets out to protect the consumer, other online-based companies are doing their part to ensure the brands are protected, as well. For example, online marketplace Amazon has placed a limit on the number of reviews shopper can leave on the site.

In an effort to put an end to false feedback, individuals can now only write five reviews a week for items they did not purchase on Amazon. The new rule is meant to make it very difficult for people who are trying to make money by selling fake reviews.

When it comes to fake reviews, both brands and consumers are to blame. Kellogg’s was the latest brand to be ousted for using individuals to promote their brands on social media and review sites. Referred to as the “Breakfast Council,” the group included nutritionists and other experts who received an average of $13,000 a year to “review Kellogg’s products, post favorable reviews on social media, and use ‘talking points’ provided by the company in their reviews.”

So where does this leave brands and consumers? With 84 percent of online customers trusting online reviews, it’s imperative that brands pay attention to their online reputation. It’s also crucial that reviews be verified, as they are on GarageFly.com, to ensure that the individuals leaving the review have actually received the service or product.

The new law, as well as changes made by large online companies, is just the latest in the story of online reviews. What we do know is that they are here to stay, and new regulations must be made to ensure both brands and consumers are protected and receiving accurate information.

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