Janet Lee

Janet Lee
Photo:Janet Lee, injured by a taxi partition.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

My "American Dream" stifled

When I was young, I was taught concepts such as supply and demand and inflation, and learned about the effect that governments and individuals have on the global economy and on the price of familiar commodities.

I was introduced to the importance of seeking a career that would help me realize my life potential and achieve a noble purpose.

I was taught that if I could learn how to create and run my own business, maybe with the help of the business community, I could succeed. 

My mentors fostered ethical decision-making as I prepared to enter the workforce and global marketplace.

I wanted the chance to examine the U.S. economic system, explore business operations, study the emerging global economy, and acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to function as a competent citizen, worker and consumer.

In short; I was taught capitalism by Junior Achievement.

It hasn’t worked out quite the way I imagined it.

In my effort to fulfill my American Dream I have encountered resistance from every level of our government.

I have had the law explained to me, exhaustively, in a three page letter, by the top lawyer, for the largest US Government agency, in existence, the USDOT. It is abundantly clear, from that letter, that federal law covers automobile partition performance. I seem to be the only person, other than dozens of trauma surgeons, who recognizes that violations of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Laws have severe consequences. Lawyers are astoundingly ignorant about partition safety. 
Thousands are injured every year and all the lawyers can say is "Should have worn the belt" or, "The driver needs the partition". The first will not assure prevention of injury from an illegal partition and the second just isn't true. No lawyer has ever gone after the illegal partition angle. A partition killed Massachusetts State Police Trooper Ellen Englehardt, yet the driver of the small car that struck her cruiser in the trunk, is being charged with homicide.

When I first conceived the idea that an automobile partition could be made to be attractive and safer, I implemented the idea.

I built a prototype taxi partition for Peugeot Motors of N. America in 1984 for the taxi model they wanted to sell in Boston. With the advent of the taxi partition came many drawbacks, when using the conventional design. The first and most glaring problem is the fact that interior dimensions are diminished by the partition always being installed in a “fixed” position. My design would be the first to retain ‘factory dimension’ rear seat leg room and ‘factory dimension’ front seat adjustment travel. The Crowell Partition “moves”… with the front seat adjustment. Both front and rear seat occupants notice this difference immediately when seated in a taxi with a Crowell Partition.

The next thing I addressed was retention of seat belts and head restraints. I took a look at the conventional manner of installing taxi partitions which precluded retention of these federally mandated safety devices. I found a way to avoid removing seat belts and head restraints.

The vertical angle of the glazing section is a problem. Ninety degrees to the horizon is the worst possible angle. It causes every bright light, such as sunlight, headlights and streetlights to reflect, obscuring rear view visibility. I found a way to install the glazing so there are no reflections from the horizon.

Another obvious hazard is the placement of a steel panel, found in conventional partition designs, which covers the padding on the back of the front seat. I found a way to retain the benefit of padding, by incorporating a pad on the partition. Mine is the first partition to comply with FMVSS #201 for padding in the head impact area of the back of the front seat.

An aesthetic and practical drawback of conventional partition design, is the noise that emanates from the conventional partitions’ parts rattling and squeaking. The conventional partition not only blocks sound from front to back and from back to front seat areas, but it also makes its’ own sounds. My design is totally SILENT. It is constructed from a single sheet of 3/8” Lexan sheet glazing, bent into a configuration that conforms to the back of the front seat. It makes a big difference in cab operation when the driver and passenger can communicate without the usual ‘partition noise’ difficulty. I also developed an intercom system which allows the driver to amplify the voices from the rear seat area. It is a significant advantage to be able to hear the conversation going on in the rear seat area, especially when it is assumed the driver CANNOT hear.

But the aspect of this idea that really had me stoked was the fact that Federal compliance is not optional and all of my competitors seem to be oblivious to Federal Automobile Safety Laws. I figured when I prompted official “letters of warning” it would usher in a new age of compliance. The letters have been ignored by state and local municipalities.

I installed no less than 50 partitions in Boston taxis. One year (year four) the police required the removal of the certification of compliance label from every Crowell Partition. Six months later every partition, none of which had ever failed inspection, was required to be removed and replaced by illegal uncertified partitions.

The Massachusetts State Police used two Crowell Partitions for two years with high marks for function and appearance. The Crowell Partition was not seriously considered for purchase. Uncertified, ineligible manufacturers products were welcomed on the bid list.

These constitute restraint of trade and involve unfair bidding practices. 

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