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Numerous studies have shown that the so-called new car smell – which is actually a potent outgassing of volatile organic chemicals and heavy metals – can be potentially dangerous to breathe in, and that some people are more bothered by these VOCs than others.

But could that new car smell be so insidious that it could cause you to lose consciousness long enough that you get into an accident? And if so, could an attorney use such a new car smell defense to ease a client's legal woes? Sounds a bit odd, but just such a case is currently taking place in Colorado.

Here are the facts: Martin Erzinger, owner of a 2010 Mercedes-Benz sedan (model unknown), fell asleep at the wheel, drifted off the road and struck a bicyclist named Dr. Steven Milo before colliding with a concrete barrier. The unresolved questions are whether Erzinger's sleep apnea was compounded by his car's odors, as suggested by a forensic specialist, and if he was aware that he had struck a pedestrian.

Of course, it's not up to us to decide how guilty or innocent Erzinger may be... we'll leave that up to the court. But we are curious what you think. Could a particularly noxious new car smell be a contributing factor in an accident?

[Source: VailDaily.com | Image: Dyanna – CC 2.0]


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  • 47 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's the MB driver's fault for having sleep apnea! ZING!
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sounds like the guy is full of it. Having said that my mother works for the Ccac here in Canada where I live. It is in home nursing for people who have had surgury or other medical treatment. It is part of our healthcare system. People heal better at home they say. Anyway, I asked her about this and she was telling me about one patient who she had treated a few years ago who was passing out at work. They later determined it was due to a sensativity to the smell of the dye that was used during the colouring of plastics. He just suddenly developed an acute reaction.
      She thinks this man is full of poo, bur it is medically possible to suddenly have it happen. As far as she it concerned though, the fact this guy fled the scene probably is a decent indicator of guilt. Just thought I would pass it along
      • 4 Years Ago
      Really, this guy couldn't come up with a better excuse? Talking about grasping for straws.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Putting aside this case , the answer is YES ! This is called MCS [Multiple Chemical Sensitivity ] .It is like all immune system problems a fast growing one . Symptoms can be varied .I have in fact had dangerous sleepiness from chemical exposure .Car makers have recently been trying to deal with this by using materials with lower chemical outgassing.
      As for the specific case there are tests that would prove or disprove the drivers claims.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I was in a new Mercury Topaz many years ago that literally made my eyes water with the smell of plastic and glue, I thought I was in a canoe factory. I would expect more from a Mercedes but you never know.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So, he can afford a Mercedes, but not a $500 CPAP Machine to treat his Sleep Apnea?

      I have OSA. Without treatment I'm uselessly tired throughout the day. But using my CPAP at night, I'm just fine. The man in the article is either an idiot or a liar. Or both.
      • 4 Years Ago
      That story sounds a little fishy to me. But the fumes from new cars can affect people in some ways. In 1991 we had just acquired the Hyundai franchise and my father thought it would be a good idea for me to drive one as a demo to show our support for them. So I got a Scoupe but right from the start it had a powerful chemical smell inside it which gave me a headache. We tried different air freshners but nothing would help it much. After two weeks I had to give it up.
      • 4 Years Ago
      @ Darkangelamd
      That is an important part of the story. I hope he get what he deserves. Fled the scene after an accident should at least tell you this guy is trying to do everything to get out of taking responsibility.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't know. If inhaling these chemicals was that dangerous you'd think that there would be more reported cases like this.
      • 4 Years Ago

      After a full day of snowmobiling I hop into my wife's car to drive 4 hours home. Earlier that day I had a bit of a mishap fueling the snowmobile and spilled some on my clothes. While the odor wasn't initially detectable outside the vehicle - right before I got in the car and removed my outer layers I got in and WOAH ! Gas smell.

      Next thing I know - suddenly - my wife is SCREAMING in my ear and I'm literally jerking (thanks to my newly found snowmobile reflexes I earned that day) the steering wheel away from the concrete barrier on the highway. Thankfully my wife's 1998 Honda Civic DX was the only casualty that day. Wrote it off against a telephone pole. Police charged me with "careless driving" and I beat the charge.

      I think the gas smell / odor was a huge factor to us crashing that day. And, in addition to my tiredness coupled with the yank and bank reflexes you get from snowmobiling = a recipe for disaster.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Of course it probably did assist you in falling asleep. However, you do know that your windows are operable, right? All you needed to do was crack a window and let in some fresh air. The gas fumes didn't cause your wreck, your negligence/stupidity did. You are lucky that your dumb a$$ didn't kill anyone.
        • 4 Years Ago

        Windows were buttoned up and we had the recirc button on the environmental controls because it was cold outside and we were cold too.

        I thought I'd open up about a near tragic experience to aid other Autobloggers - Hey thanks for the compassion and sincerity ShameMT and anyone else that felt the need to vote this comment down.

        Good karma !
        • 4 Years Ago
        Were we to click [+] for your stupid move?
        • 4 Years Ago

        Rocketboy - if you die in a house fire tonight and your momma comes on to tell us all the horrible tragedy that took place ..... we'll make sure to vote her down too you lil' Troll.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If you feel this is wrong, that a man who hit and run on someone should not be allowed a lesser punishment because he makes a lot of money please take the time to post in these threads:


      http://forums.colbertnation.com/?pag...=1#post-261598

      http://forums.thedailyshow.com/?page..._id=35095&pg=1
      • 4 Years Ago
      so he has this benz for over a month, and now this new car smell makes him pass out? no problems in the first month driving it? nobody else ran over? shows just how far money can go in this country, and i am disgusted.
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