Westchester pothole experts from Public Works and Highway Departments throughout the region agree this year’s mild winter has meant a mild pothole season.  This is not a benefit to those who hit a pothole damaging their tire and sometimes the rim.  The destructive road craters form when moisture gets into the cracks in the roadway and freezes and expands in cold temperatures which weaken the road.  When temperatures rise (Spring weather) the water melts and leave cracks and gaps that enlarge into potholes by cars and trucks going over the weak spot.

According to an article on March 2, 2017 by Matt Coyne in the Putnam-Northern Westchester Express of The Journal News reports of potholes are entered into a database in New Rochelle.  A supervisor is dispatched to determine how severe the pothole is which helps DPW prioritize repairs.  New Rochelle’s Department of Public Works has two crews out filling potholes averaging 20 – 25 repairs a day.  In 2016, they filled 230 potholes.  This year there have been 100 pothole repairs.

The Westchester County’s Commissioner of Public Works and Transportation, Vincent Kopicke deals with potholes from March through May.  Priorities are given to the parkways and portions of Central Avenue, than smaller less traveled roads.  Public Work crews who are out on other assignments will fill potholes.  Westchester County allocates $300,000 this year for repairs. During the winter when most asphalt plants are closed, the potholes are filled with “cold patch” a temporary fix that fills the potholes with premixed asphalts and tampering it down.  When the weather gets warmer, crews have to return to make permanent “hot patch” fills.

A total of 545 million homes were sold in the US in 2016.  Housing supplies in later December, 2016, fell 10.8%.  Skimpy inventory is expected to act as a headwind in 2017.  After the housing crash, many homeowners owed more on their mortgage than their homes were worth. Owners are waiting to realize bigger equity gains before putting their homes on the market.

According to an article in Putnam-Northern Westchester Express of the Journal News on January 26, 2017 by Akiko Matsuda, the lower Hudson valley housing market was the busiest in 2016 since 2011.  The Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, Inc. reported 18,145 closing of residential homes in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Orange Counties.  This figure is 2019 higher or 12.5% more than in 2015.

The largest percentage gain in volume was in Orange County where sales of single family homes were up 26.7% from 2015.  The number of sales in 2016 in Westchester, Putnam and Rockland Counties showed growth in 2016 up by 8.4% in Westchester, 21.7% in Putnam and 12% in Rockland compared to 2015.  The volume of sales far exceeded the pace of inventory.   Putnam’s replenishment year end inventory in 2016 was down 31.2%; Westchester inventory was down 21.2%, Orange down 20.8% & Rockland 16.1% down compared to inventory in 2015.  Despite the high levels of sales and low inventory, the median price of homes have not risen that much.  In Westchester, single family homes had a median price drop for two years in a row.  In 2014, it was $635,000 in 2015, 628,875 and 624,000 in 2016.  The median sales price of Rockland & Putnam single family homes went up 2.4% and 4.8% respectively.

The Volkswagen group plead guilty on March 10, 2017 to three criminal charges for its diesel emissions scandal setting it up for a penalty.  According to an article in USA Today – The Journal News on March 11, 2017 by Brent Snavely, this will propel Volkswagen’s total cost to the $20 billion mark.

U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox in Detroit accepted the pleas and set down April 21, 2017 for fines.  They plead guilty to charges of fraud, obstruction of justice and misrepresenting the capability of vehicles with diesel engines imported into the USA.  Judge Cox needed time to review the terms of the settlement which proposes a $4.3 billion fine.  Volkswagen has agreed to a settlement worth about $17 billion for U.S. consumers and dealers who own Volkswagen’s diesel vehicles.

Manfred Doess, Volkswagen’s General Counsel acknowledge that Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, willfully and knowingly created software designed to fool government regulators so its diesel engines could pass tougher emission standards adopted in 2007.  The software allowed the cars to engage all emissions gears during testing, then turned it off on the open road.  This resulted in the Volkswagen engine to spew nitrogen oxide at up to 35 times the legal limit.  Doss admitted that Volkswagen’s employees designed software to chat on emissions and some employees destroyed documents after they knew Volkswagen was under investigation.  Doess said high level employees were involved but they were “below the level of Volkswagen AG Management Board”.

The National Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA) keep statistics of winter car accident resulting in death.  NHTSA claims wintry weather car accidents killed 4,000 people over the last five years.

In an article by Doyle Rice in USA Today, The Journal News on February 7, 2017, points out wintry weather such as blinding snow squalls occur often in Pennsylvania on I83.  Snow squalls are like little blizzards.   Most people think tornadoes or floods are the deadliest weather but car accident in wintry weather kill more Americans each year than any other weather danger.

From 2011 – 2015, an average of 800 people died a year in car accidents because of snow, freezing rain, sleet or ice according to NHTSA and the Auto Insurance Center.  Ohio was the deadliest state for car accidents more than 420 deaths in the past 5 years.  The average of 86 deadly accidents per year.  New York averages 46 deadly accidents per year.

Other than two major snowstorms, this winter has been relatively mild.  Tuesday, March 14, 2017 a major snow storm dropped from 7.5 to 24” of snow in New York City and The Hudson Valley Region.  As a result of Tuesday’s storm and the frigid temperatures after the storm, it creates a dangerous snow and ice condition resulting in falls and personal injury.  As a result we are repeating our snow and ice checklist blogged about on January 13, 2016.

If you are a victim and sustained physical injuries as a result of a fall on snow & ice, the following should be done:

  1. Do not move before making sure you haven’t sustained a fracture or a serious injury;

We have previously written about the airbags in millions of vehicles of all makes and type that are causing personal injury or death.  The airbag inflators can explode with too much force shooting metal and plastic shrapnel at the vehicle’s front seat passengers.

The U.S. Safety Regulators are forcing automakers to speed up the replacing of the defective air bags.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued an order forcing automakers to prioritize speed acquisition of parts and fix the vehicles most at risk according to an article in USA Today – The Journal News on December 11, 2015 entitled “U.S. forces Takata recall to speed up” by Nathan Bomey.  The recall will affect 42 million vehicles in the USA totaling 64 – 69 million airbag inflators.  The NHTSA issued a series of deadlines based upon the age of the vehicle, especially older vehicles in hot, humid climates.  The NHTSA released an updated list of vehicles affected by the recall.  All automakers are affected by the recall which could affect one quarter of all vehicles on the road.  The list has added the Tesla Model S electric vehicles.

Exploding airbags have been blamed for at least 11 deaths in the US and at least 184 injuries in foreign countries.  The announcement by the NHTSA is Tkata is in financial crisis and could go bankrupt.  All car manufacturers are still responsible to their consumers and will bear a greater brunt of the economic loss.

In a prior blog of February 23, 2017, we discussed criminal indictment of three Takata employers by a Detroit Federal Grand Jury.  The employees were charged with wire fraud and conspiracy for concealment of defect in the airbag inflators.  Takata, the corporation has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud and to pay $1 billion in criminal penalties.

The Justice Department following up on manufacturer recalls and concealment of defects, a top Volkswagen executive has been arrested on conspiracy suspicion from the German Automakers emissions scandal.  According to an article in USA today, The Journal News on January 10, 2017, by Kevin McCoy and Tiera Baldors, a weekend arrest of Oliver Schmidt who directed Volkswagen’s regulatory compliance in the United States from 2012 to 2015 was a result of the FBI looking into executive rank on suspected wrong doing.  By virtue of Schmidt’s position, he had to know Volkswagen “intentionally installed electronic software that enabled diesel engines to defeat U.S. auto emission tests”.  A FBI special agent, Ian Dinsmore filed an affidavit in Federal Court.  Schmidt traveled to the US in 2015 for meeting in which he “intended to and did deceive and mislead US regulators” about the corporate cheating on emissions.

FBI investigators believe they have enough evidence to establish Schmidt and other Volkswagen employees “conspired and unlawfully agreed to defraud the US by impeding auto emissions enforcement” and committed wire fraud and violating the Clean Air Act.  Volkswagen, the corporation (like Takata) admitted to rigging its diesel auto to bear emissions tests and Volkswagen is paying about $11 billion to buy back cars and compensate owners.

On January 19, 2017, we wrote about the last train accident of the Long Island Railroad on January 4, 2017.  It was thought that sleep apnea played a part in the engineer failure to stop at the end of the platform at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York.  We stated it was time to have all railroad engineers to be tested for sleep apnea.

In the Westchester & Fairfield County Business Journal on January 30, 2017 under “Briefly” it was announced that ENT & Allergy Associates, LLP has been selected by The Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials to screen and treat MTA employees for sleep apnea and other sleep conditions.  The medical staff of ENTA said the service and employee compliance could be a significant step in reducing potential dangers on the regions rails.

Sleep apnea has been identified by The National Transportation Safety Board as a contributing factor in some highway, railroad and airplane accidents.  The sleep condition is often underdiagnosed in transportation personnel.  The NTSB has been among federal agencies undergoing screening of commercial drivers, train engineers and pilots.

A Federal Judge Ok’d Volkswagen settlement of nearly $15 billion over the Volkswagen group emissions scandal.  The settlement calls for a massive vehicle buyback program and environmental remediation program.  The Federal Judge was Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.  The settlement is with the U.S. Government and California regulators.

An article in USA Today – The Journal News by Nathan Bomey claims the settlement comes a year after Volkswagen admitted it rigged 11 million vehicles worldwide with software to dodge emission standards.  Volkswagen still faces a criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and German prosecutors.

About 475,000 vehicle owners can choose between a buyback or a free fix and compensation if repairs became available.  Buybacks range from $12,475 to $44,176 including restitution payments.  Owners who opt for a fix must be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and will receive a fix and a payout from $5,100 to $9,852, depending on book value of their car.  Volkswagen will also pay another $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and another $2 billion for clean emissions infrastructure.

Wednesday’s Long Island Railroad accident sounds all too familiar.  A rush hour commuter train crashed into the end of a platform at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn on January 4, 2017.

According to an article in Lohud.com – The Journal News by Deepti Hajela & Michael Balsamo, more than 100 passengers were injured.  Passengers were hurled to the floor and slammed into each other.  The train had been traveling 10 mph when it crashed, double the 5 mph speed limit.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigator said the train had erratically changed speeds in the 3 minutes before the crash, accelerating and decelerating between 2 & 10 mph.