On October 7, 2019, we blogged about the tragic limousine accident in Schoharie County, New York where 20 people died. We discussed the safety measures that could have saved most, if not all, of the limo passengers.

On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, an article was published in The Journal News by Joseph Spector entitled “10 laws planned in wake of the limo crash”. Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders in New York State have agreed on a 10 point package of limousine safety regulations that will be adopted into law. Cuomo stated “the comprehensive reform will give authority much needed new power to get dangerous vehicles off the road, weed out bad actors and put into place common sense safety standards that will increase public safety in every corner of New York”. The Schoharie County limo crash was the result of a poorly maintained limo that suffered catastrophic brake failure. Efforts to get the limo off the road failed for months prior to the crash.

17 passengers, including four sisters, three of their husbands and friends and family were celebrating a birthday all died, as did the driver and two pedestrians at a country store where the limo crashed. “The crashes that have taken place because of unsafe limos and lax regulations are tragedies, and we have a responsibility to address that problem” said Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers.

The number of pedestrian deaths has increased more than 50% over the past decade. There were 10 pedestrian fatalities in Westchester, Rockland & Putnam Counties in 2019. Pedestrian fatalities involving motor vehicles throughout the United States steadily declined from 1979-2009 when the death toll dipped from 8,096 to 4109, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The number has since skyrocketed 53% according to the Institute, a Virginia based non-profit dedicated to traffic safety.

According to an article on the front page of The Journal News on January 14, 2020 entitled “Pedestrian deaths spur focus on safety” by Matt Spillane, several factors contribute to these accidents and experts agree the rise in SUV’s have played a significant role in fatality increases over the past decade. Pedestrian deaths involved SUV’s jumped 81%, a bigger bump than any other vehicle. Dan Gelinne, a senior research associate with the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center said “we’re seeing fewer sedans on the road and more SUV’s and larger passenger vehicles and the way in which those impact a pedestrian’s body, they make more likely that a person will be severely injured or killed in the crash”. The high front ends of SUV’s are more likely to cause injury to a pedestrian’s chest and head. More pedestrian fatalities also seem to occur on arterial roads that are typically wide with many lanes of traffic and surrounded by commercial strips and businesses. These are found in suburban areas where residential activity has grown around roads that were mainly designed for drivers not pedestrians.

The article points out that the nation’s obsession with smart phones could be adding to roadway dangers said Retting, who authorized a pedestrian traffic fatality report for the Governors Highway Safety Association in 2018. He noted the rise in pedestrian death parallels the boom in smart phone users. Other factors have been consistent contributors to pedestrian deaths. In 2017, 80% of pedestrian fatalities took place in urban areas and 75% occurred when it was dark outside. Only 18% of deaths were at intersections.

In September, 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to bolster the safety of children and infants in New York State. Day cares in New York will be required to fasten large pieces of furniture and electronic equipment to walls or floors as a way to prevent heavy items from tipping over onto young children. Another law includes a ban on crib bumper pads. Organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics have warned parents against using bumper pads since 2008 due to significant risk they pose to infants.

According to an article on the front page of The Journal News on Sunday, September 1, 2019 by Chad Arnold, Cuomo also signed “Harper Law” which requires furniture retailers in the State to only sell furniture that meets Federal Safety Standards and sell devices designed to anchor furniture in its place. The law is named after Harper Fried, a three year old from Monroe, Orange County, New York who died in 2016 when a dresser tipped over onto her. Harper’s parents, Aaron & Erica Fried have been advocating to pass the measure since their daughter’s death.

Harper’s law takes effect in December, 2019. There is currently no Federal Standard which requires furniture to be secured to a wall or floor. The Fried’s, along with several other families who lost children in tip over incidents are pushing to pass the STURDY Act, a Federal law that would require the Consumer Product Safety Commission to pass a rule designed to prevent tip over deaths. In New York, Cuomo and law makers approved legislation that would require day cares in New York State to secure furniture and large electronic equipment such as TV’s to either an adjacent wall or floor.

Lax building code enforcement has come to the attention of a revamped State Senate Committee that wants to gauge housing safety outside New York City. The new manual will focus on four municipalities: Ramapo, Mount Vernon, Newburgh and Albany.

According to an article in The Journal News on March 15, 2019 entitled “State panel focusing on lax housing code enforcement” by Nancy Cutler, the investigation was started by State Senator James Skoufis, the new Chairman of the Senate’s Investigations and Governmental Operators Committee. This panel has its’ own investigators and subpoena power. Senator Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat stated “Our committee will expose slumlords in the four communities we’re examining and just importantly identify best practices, determine areas where enforcement can be improved or will as recommended legislative and regulatory changes to create a safer New York State.”

New York’s suburbs are dotted with illegal, dangerous housing operated by shady landlords and allowed to continue with lax building code enforcement. Families and first responders have died in dangerously, unpredictable fires in dilapidated houses that have been carved up into illegal apartments. Landlords take advantage of tenant’s grabbing whatever apartments are available even though these apartments are illegal and rely on Cities, Towns and Villages that skimp on enforcing safety codes. Plenty of slumlords find it more profitable to ignore regulations.

We recently wrote about school buses and seatbelts, see blog of October 2, 2019. As a result of the limousine accident in Schoharie County, New York on October 6, 2018, Federal investigators issued new safety recommendations for limousines seeking to improve dangerous seating issues. 20 people died in that limousine crash. The new safety measures focused on the lack of lap and shoulder seatbelts and modifications made to stretch limos that would reduce the chances that passengers could survive such crashes. Federal safety experts also called on New York to improve it regulations and laws controlling inspection of limos. The regulators claim that the 20 deaths were part of a complex breakdown of government oversight and accountability according to The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

According to an article in The Journal News on October 3, 2019 by David Robinson, the NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt spoke to the potential for saving lives across the Country if limo seating safety fixes are implemented.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends:

In the less dense parts of the lower Hudson Valley, school children are dependent on school buses to get to school and return home. As a result of a high profile May, 2018 crash in New Jersey that left two dead, has led to new concerns on school bus safety in New York, especially with regard to seatbelts. On May 17, 2018, a dump truck hit a New Jersey school bus trying to make a U-turn flipping it from its chassis and killing a student and a teacher.

New York is one of the few states that mandates school buses to be outfitted with lap belts but, the law leaves it to individual school districts to make seatbelt use mandatory. The National Transportation Safety Board has pushed for seatbelts on school buses. The NTSB wants 3 point seatbelts on all school buses and require students to wear the seatbelts. Those who do not want seatbelts in school buses argue that school buses are different by design including a different kind of safety restraint system that works well according to NHTSA. Some school districts enforce seatbelt use of elementary school students and have monitors on board to enforce the rule.

Opinions on the use of seatbelts are split. The NHTSA says school buses are designed to be safe without seatbelts. They argue school buses are bigger and heavier than passenger vehicles and are able to handle the impact of crashes better than passenger vehicles plus, the design of school buses use the principle of compartmentalization which protects students in strong closely spaced seats that keep student in place and absorb impacts.

Twenty-five years after a truck accident disaster on 287 in 1994, sleep deprived truck drivers continue killing themselves and innocent victims. Truckers now push for Feds to ease regulations written to keep tired drivers off the road.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were 4600 fatal accidents involving large trucks in the U.S. in 2017. More than 1% – an average of 62 per year between 2015-2017 were attributed to drivers who fell asleep or were fatigued.

In an article in The Journal News entitled “Truckers Don’t Want Feds to Limit Their Hours” by Thomas C. Zambito points out that the Federal Transportation Department has agreed to reconsider hours of service rules that limit long-haul drivers to 11 hours of drving over a 14 hour period after being off for 10 consecutive hours. The hour’s service rules went into effect in 2012. Last year, companies were recalled to equip their trucks with electronic logging devices that keep track of hour’s drivers are on the road, eliminating paper logs that were subject to fraud.

The number of cyclists killed last year in 2018 went up by 10% according to estimate for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Pedestrian deaths rose 4%. The number of auto drivers and passengers killed in accidents went down for the third straight year, down 1% compared to 2017.

According to an article by Chris Woodyard in USA today on July 4, 2019 entitled “Cars gets safer, but not for people outside them”. The cyclist and pedestrian deaths percentages estimates a sharp reversal from decline the previous year, underscore a troubling trend! While cars have been getting safer for occupants, they remain potentially deadly for those outside the vehicle. It is much safer for people inside the car according to Bill Nesper, executive director for The League of American Bicyclists. Yet a steady stream of bicyclists and pedestrians are being killed.

Automakers backed by Government Safety regulators have filled cars with features such as airbags, front and side and advanced child restraints to protect passengers in crashes. However, improvements to protect walkers and bikers have moved more slowly.

Orangetown in Rockland County passed a new law requiring cyclists to ride single file. According to a coalition of cycling clubs, it is unenforceable because it conflicts with State law. The group also criticized the potentional jail time for offenders who don’t pay their fines as unprecedented because it effectively criminalizes. The offense carries fines of between $100 and $240 or up to 5 days in jail. A second offense could cost $250 to $300 or 10 to 20 days in jail.

This law is more restrictive than New York State own regulators which allows cyclists to ride two or more abreast if there is enough room except for passing. A Mannhattan attorney, Steve Vacarro said New York Vehicle & Traffic Laws prohibit local authorities from enacting or enforcing any regulations that conflict with State laws. He had a similar view of the single file laws in Villages of Piermont, Grand View on Hudson, South Nyack and Nyack. Mr. Vacarro who specializes in cyclists said he never heard of a traffic violation that could land an offender in jail for not paying the fines. Orangetown Supervisor, Chris Day countered that organizations law were sent to the State Department of Transportation which returned with no comment. Chris Day stated “this does not conflict with State law at all nor does it mandate that a bike stay to the right and allow a car past if conditions are unsafe to do so”.

According to an article in The Journal News entitled “Cycling group call Law on single file unenforceable”, by Robert Brum on June 24, 2019, Piermont Mayor Bruce Tucker said “his village’s single file law has been on the books since 1997 and has never been challenged in Court and therefore, is presumptively valid until a Judge says otherwise”. The cycling coalition comprising about 3800 members from the Rockland Bicycling Club, North Jersey Bicycle Touring Club and New York Cycle Club faulted the Town for not reaching out to the cycling committee beforehand. The law came about as a result of complaints from motorists and pedestrians mostly about large group of cyclists passing through from out of town. The Town’s Facebook post announcing the law received more than 100 comments, many of them positive. Commenters specifically complain about cyclists riding two or more abreast on Routes 9W and 340 South Greenbush Road, Kings Highway and Western Highway. “Bicyclists have gotten out of control and obnoxious with the packs riding 2–3-4 wide along with blowing stop signs and red lights”, commented Sandy Boan. Other commenters criticized cyclists for blocking roads and riding aggressively. The Rockland Bicyclists Club president, Mike Hays says cycling clubs support the rules of the road and told workshops to reinforce safe riding. But, he said the focus on single file cycling doesn’t address the issues responsible for a handful of bike and pedestrian crashes with cars.

A startup company by the name of Charge is trying to legalize e-scooters in New York State. If e-scooters are approved to operate in New York, Charge would provide docks for 10,000 scooters throughout New York City. Charge is dealing with a significant obstacles for e-scooters and e-bikes which is blocking of roads and sidewalks. This is a consequence of the dock less models used by scooter focused bird and bike operator Lime. This model allows riders to hop on a scooter or bike when they need it and leave it just about anywhere but scooters have piled up on sidewalks from Boston to Los Angeles and complaints from residents.

According to an article in Crain’s New York Business on April 22, 2019 entitled “Startup puts a charge into e-scooter legalization” by Ryan Defenbaugh and Eric Enquist. Andrew Fox, co-founder & CEO of Charge called the issue of e-scooters strewn about the streets and sidewalks the business model’s weakness. Docking stations could help persuade State lawmakers to support legislation legalizing e-scooters in New York. “This is a problem around the world” Fox said. “Our thought was let’s build a docking and charging station that would pass the litmus test of municipalities and help accelerate the advancement of micro mobility instead of seeing its demise as people get frustrated by scooters thrown around the street”.

Charge plans to launch elective charging docks for e-scooters and electric pedal assist bicycles in close to 400 locations throughout New York City. The company has negotiated deals to lease space in privately owned garages and commercial buildings to host the docks which would recharge and shelter devices from e-scooter and e-bike operators such as Bird, Bolt Lime and Spin. The docks could offer a new stream of share-economy revenue to garage owners who will face a loss of customers when Manhattan congestions pricing takes effect in two years. Charge employees have spent the past few months signing long term deals with partners including LAZ parking, Imperial Parking, Big City Parking and Little Man Parking. The companies rave about how 15 scooters can be stationed in a single parking spot.