Articles Posted in Car Accidents

New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee has been studying “textalyzer” technology since July, 2016.  The technology has the potential to determine if a driver had been using their phone in the moments leading up to a car accident.

According to an article in The Journal News on September 21, 2017 by Natasha Vaughn “this year New Yorkers set an all-time record for seatbelt use. But many of those same motorists who are saving lives by buckling up are still texting behind the wheel putting countless lives at risk” said Terri Egan , Executive Deputy Commissioner of New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.  Texting while driving has become increasingly perilous on the roadways.  New York has bolstered laws to crack down on the habit between 2011 and 2015.  678 people died from distracted driving car accidents in New York.  During the same time, 2,784 people were injured as a result of cellphone related car crashes.  In 2015, New York issued 217,021 tickets for cellphone violations.  39% of these tickets were for texting while driving.

In 2015, New York increased the penalty for texting while driving from 3 points to 5 points and made it up to $200 fine for the first offense.  Young drivers under 21 with a junior license can get their license suspended for a first offense.  The ongoing study of textalyzer technology has been looking into variations of the product.

Some self-driving vehicles need sophisticated sensors producing data being analyzed by powerful computers.  An article in The Journal News on June 25, 2017 by Marco Della Cava writes “it seems the success of this transportation revolution hinges on decidedly low tech material: Paint”.   The most critical upgrade of infrastructure amounts to making sure the lines on 4 million miles of roads are solid, bright and preferably white so they can be picked up by computer vision gear.

A USA Today network survey of nearly a dozen states hoping to lead the way in self-driving cars and trucks reveals varying degree of readiness as officials balance anticipating a high shift in mobility with a reluctance to spend infrastructure funds.  Some states such as California, Michigan, Arizona and Ohio are eagerly welcoming self-driving vehicle tests and beginning to make upgrades to roads to accommodate self-driving vehicles.

Two factors make it difficult for states to dive headlong into concrete infrastructure, improvements whether that is painting lane stripes or embedding sensors in road and traffic signs. The first according to the article is a lack of national vision for self-driving vehicles.  President Trump promised to spend upwards of 1 trillion on infrastructure needs.  But so far there is no road map for securing such funds.  The second factor causing some states to put the brakes on is the sense that tech companies such as Uber & Google.  Waxmo and automakers such as Ford, General Motors and others are developing self-driving cars that will have sensors and mapping systems that will not rely on roadway upgrades.

New York has been talking about self-driving vehicles for the last four years.  The first obstacle was a New York Law that requires to have at least one hand on the wheel while the car is in motion.  In late April, 2017, Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped in and set aside that law to jumpstart a one year pilot program that gives self-driving companies access to New York roadways.  New York began accepting applications for companies in testing autonomous vehicles.  Audi was the first to receive approval.  Self-driving cars are the next frontier in transportation with potential to vastly improve traffic safety on New York roadways.

According to an article in The Journal News on June 25, 2017, by Thomas C. Zambito and Nathan Bomey self-driving cars are likely to disrupt business models.  (See our blog of October 4, 2016).   Disruption on that scale could represent one of the more dynamic changes to the American economy in the 21st Century.  Twenty-two states have passes legislation related to self-driving vehicles.  The patchwork of rules being created by states could play havoc confusing owners of self-driving cars.  With autonomous vehicle technology changing quickly, no on e

Knows how these cars will evolve.  That is why it is important to develop regulations that are adaptive and flexible.

New cars have cameras, computers and warning signals to make driving safer.  However, all cars have outdated 20th century technology for headlights.  On May 26, 2017, an article in USA-Today The Journal News by Nathan Bomey entitled “Vehicle headlights are stuck in tech’s dark ages”.  According to the article, 250 pedestrians are killed at night every year crossing the road and many cases it is because drivers can’t see them because their headlights don’t shine bright enough.  These findings are backed by headlight expert Michael Flanagan at The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded last year that two-thirds of lighting packages available on 21 small SUV models including Jeep Wrangler, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport and the Nissan Rogue deliver poor performance.  Ten midsized car headlights systems were poor including Buick Verano, Hyundai Sonata and the Mercedes Benz C Class. The headlights of seven pickup trucks were rated poor including the Ford F-150, the GMC Canyon and the Toyota Tundra.

The cause of these poor headlights is outdated federal rules that have blocked automakers from introducing head lamps that automatically adjust to oncoming traffic to reduce glare even though the technology is available in Europe and Japan.  According to AAA “there’s technology available today that could potentially reduce some fatalities and it would be simply a matter of regulation change to allow that in the U.S.”

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.

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.

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.

Our last blog on the defective airbags manufactured by Takata, a Japanese company was February 22, 2016.  As of May, 2016, 25 million vehicles over the past 8 years have been recalled.  In May, 2016, Federal Regulators announced an expansion of the recalls to at least another 35 million vehicle with airbags that come out with such power that it shoots out metal shrapnel into the person in front of the airbag (driver’s and passengers’ sides).  At least 11 global deaths and approximately 100 injuries are attributed to the faulty airbags.

25 million airbags under recall is the largest consumers’ product recall in U.S. History.   Now with an additional 35 million added to the recall list, a new largest recall has been instituted.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that the cars covered by the existing recall would not be fixed until 2019. So far, according to an article by Peter Bigelow at autoblog.com, a million airbags have been repaired with doubling the recall of airbag by Takata.  The time line for fixing the airbags will extend into the future and millions of motorists will drive around with ticking time bombs in their cars.  Meanwhile, Takata spokesman states “Takata is working with regulators and automakers to develop long term orderly solutions to handle the millions of airbags recalled”.  Investigators state the defect drew worse with age.

On October 10, 2016, it was reported in USA Today – The Journal News that Takata Corp.’s defective airbag has been attributed to at least 14 deaths and more than 100 injuries.  Unfortunately, Takata Corp. is considering a U.S. bankruptcy to deal with the costs involved in the recall of its product.  The Wall Street Journal reported the companies consideration, Takata Corp. declined to comment.  Takata is still trying to find a private equity investor or an auto parts maker to consider a deal that would result in more cash for the company to deal with their recalls.  Takata’s Steering Committee confirmed this year that it was working with restructuring firm Lazard to seek new investments.  If this fails, Takata will go bankrupt and then who replaces the defective airbags?

On July 31, 2015, September 28, 2015 and July 29, 2016, we blogged on cyclists and cars, bicycle lanes and bicycle safety.  Our blog on September 28, 2015 discussed bicycle laws and how Rockland County is increasing bike lanes as well as The City of White Plains.  All agree that bike laws make it safer for cyclists and cars.  Designating a lane for bicycles separate cyclists from cars and result in less accidents.

In an article in The Journal News on October 17, 2016, by Dan Reiner entitled “New Rochelle delay bike share launch”, New Rochelle City officials anticipated a fall launch for New Rochelle.  Bike Share, a program that would allow residents and visitors to rent bicycles from locations around the City just like New York City’s Citi Bike System.  Major Noam Bramson says delays and dropping temperatures have pushed back the project to Spring, 2017.

Chris Hall from Marketing and Social Media Coordinator at the development company that heads the project said the setback in building the bike lanes is largely due to the lack of funding.  The company is seeking local businesses to sponsor the privately financed project.  At present, funding is about half way to the needed total to build the bike lanes.