Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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  However, all cars have outdated 20th century technology for headlights.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The cause of these poor headlights is outdated federal rules that have blocked automakers from introducing head lamps that automatically adjust to oncoming traffic to reduce glare even though the technology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.

Everyone is talking about and expecting self-driving cars to be on the road by 2019.  One of the side effects of self-driving cars should be less accidents.  According to a study done by the accounting firm of KPMG, the coming technology of autonomous cars could bring an 80% reduction in accident frequency by 2040.

The accounting firms states this reduction in auto accidents will result in a potentially drastic reduction in loss costs and premiums.  However, accident expense could go from $14,000 per accident to $35,000 as the self-driving cars have more expensive technology that can be damaged in accidents.  They claim the normal insurance company business model will be flipped upside down.  Autonomous cars under Google logo crossed the million-mile logged mark.  In January, 2016, Apple registered the domain name Apple.Car.com.  Apple expects to turn out cars by 2019.  Apple has hired more engineers from 600 to 1800 for jobs related to the autonomous auto.

94% of industry survey respondents say actual policy coverage will change 52% saying property coverage will change and 71% expecting coverage to change reflecting costlier vehicle part replacement.  KPMG among the same data found competition for insurance policies will “rev up”.  Niche insurance companies will handle 42% of the market.  New providers falling to 39% of the market and consolidation in store for 29% of the providers.

The number of texting tickets in New York continue to increase in 2015.  According to an article in The Journal News on April 11, 2016 by Joseph Spector, state and local police issued 84,720 tickets for texting while driving in 2015, an 11% increase from 2014.  Distracted driving tickets and talking on a cellphone while driving were down 10% in 2015.  The number of cellphone tickets fell 20% to 132,000 in 2015.

Since taking office in 2011, Governor Cuomo and New York legislators have increased fines for texting and penalties and made cell and texting use a primary offense.  The state last year increased the penalty for texting and cellphone use from 3 points on your license to 5 points and increased the fines to $200 on the first offense.  Drivers under 21 with junior licenses can get their license suspended for a first offense.  These changes and increased law enforcement has led to a surge in tickets.  The article points out that in 2013, the State issued 56,000 texting tickets, a 52% increase.  In Westchester, the tickets issued for texting increased by 14%.  In Putnam County, the tickets issued increased from 319 to 368.

We previously blogged on two prior occasions on April 21, 2015 and December 24, 2014 about texting and cellphone use.  In an article published in The Journal News on September 4, 2016 by Denise Lavoie discusses phone use in the U.S.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates nearly 3500 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers, up from 3200 in 2014.  The number of deaths from cellphone distraction rose from 406 in 2014 to 476 in 2015.  The article points out that accidents, as a result of cellphone use, are vastly under reported.

We previously blogged about bicycle lanes on September 28, 2015 and the errors both drivers of cars and cyclists make.  A recent article in The Sunday Journal News on July 24, 2016, was published and written by David McKay Wilson revisits bicycle accident and fatalities.  It was announced that officials in Rockland County were moving forward with construction of a quarter mile bypass along Route 303 to keep cyclists off the narrow four lane road.  This is at a spot that Robert Carl Pinchert died when a truck hit his bicycle.  The author of the article visited sites of cycling deaths throughout the lower Hudson Valley.  He wanted to see whether road conditions had improved by the death sites.  He also wanted to see about bike safety as cycling remains a popular recreation pursuit.

Rockland County is a known area that is a growing mecca for many New York City cyclists.  Commuters are also using bikes to get to work or to get to the train station.  Many Latinos use bikes to get to work in Rockland County or a sole means of transportation.  According to the League of American Bicyclists, the number of bicycle commuters in the US grew 62% from 2000 – 2013.

The author got involved in bike advocacy for a dozen years while on the Westchester Cycle Club.  He also led the Bike Walk Alliance of Westchester & Putnam Counties from 2008 – 2012.  His group installed ghost bike memorials at Route 119 & Aqueduct Road in memory of Merrill Cassell, 66 of Greenburgh.  She was sideswiped by a Westchester County Bee Line bus.  These bike memorials are painted white and serve as a reminder about the dangers of bike riding and signify places that cyclists died.