Articles Posted in Car Accidents

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.

As of April 1, 2019, White Plains Lime which has a contract to operate the service with 300 bikes is introducing a pedal assist model. The “Lime-E” uses a lithium battery and torque sensor to give riders a boost. In an article in The Journal News on March 18, 201 by Richard Liebson, he quoted Lime Bike operations Manager Paul Holley. “We feel the bike share program has been successful in White Plains”. He told the common council during a work session “for riders huffing and puffing up hills or on long trips, the pedal assist model does a lot better than the other bike does”.

The new bikes known as “Lime-E” have been available in a number of other cities across the country since 2018. The Lime-E bikes are heavier and sturdier than the regular model with the mailbox sized battery mounted over the rear wheel. The decision to place them in part by the bike share programming success during the first year in White Plains since June 4, 2018.  More than 9000 different riders have tried the bikes using the Lime app on smart phones to unlock them and pay for the trip. 62% of riders who try the bikes take another ride within 30 days. The average rider took 3.9 trips per month averaging nine minutes per ride. More than 43,000 rides have been taken.

Lime said the White Plains Trans Center is by far the most common destination followed by White Plains Hospital and downtown Mamaroneck Avenue. The pedal-assist bikes will cost more than the regular bikes which rent for $1.00 per 30 minutes. Riders who want a boost will pay $1.00 to unlock the pedal assist models and 15 cents per minute to ride for a total cost of $5.50 for half an hour. The Lime-E relies on an internal torque sensor which detects when the bike is being pedaled and relays that to activate the battery. The power shuts down when the bike reaches a maximum speed of 14.8 mph.

Motor vehicle crashes are up by 6% in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington compared to neighboring states that have not legalized marijuana for recreational use. This has now become a critical issue for the opposition to New York’s marijuana legislation.

According to an article in The Journal News on February 26, 2019, by David Robison entitled “What to know about drugged driving”, the above confirmed states analysis of 6% increase in the above four states that legalized recreational marijuana from January, 2012 through October, 2017 should be considered in states like New York and the effect on highway driving.

The number of fatalities in Colorado where a driver tested positive for any cannabis increased to 139 from 55, including crashes that involved marijuana alone or its use with other drugs or alcohol. A percentage of all traffic fatalities are marijuana related. The death count nearly doubled to 21% between 2013 and 2018 according to Colorado Division of Criminal Justice. Experts noted that marijuana toxicology testing in Colorado and other states is inconclusive because THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis, stays in the body longer than it impairs driving.

After rising for several years, the percentage of commuters using bikes to go to work declined for the third straight year according to the US Census Bureau. Nationally, the percentage of people who say they use a bike to get to work fell by 3.2% from 2016 to 2017 to an average of 836,569 commuters according to the Bureau’s latest American Community Survey which asks a group of Americans about their habits. This number is down from a high of 904,463 in 2014 when it peaked after four years of increases. In some cities, the decline was more drastic. In Tampa Florida and Cleveland, cycling to work dropped by 50% and in some cities cycling to work was up dramatically.

According to an article in USA Today – The Journal News on January 3, 2019 by Chris Woodyard entitled “Fewer American use bike lanes to commute to work”. Decline in using bike lanes experts offered several explanations for the nationwide decrease even as cities spend millions trying to become friendlier. Lower gas prices and a strong economy contributed to strong auto sales and less interest in cheaper alternatives, such as mass transit and bikes. Also the rise of ride hailing services such as Uber & Lyft and electric scooters cut into bike commuting per Dave Snyder, Executive Director of the California Bicycle Coalition. Another bike advocacy group, League of American Bicyclists, found a mix in bike trends in the 70 largest cities. Bike commuting was up sharply from 2016 to 2017. In one of the large cities, Portland Oregon, 6.3% of commuter’s bike to work. It was also up in the second and third most popular biking cities, Washington and Minneapolis. It was down a whopping 19.9% in fourth place, San Francisco was down 11/4% in fifth place, New Orleans down 20.5% in sixth place and Seattle over the same time last year.

Federal highway spending on bike and pedestrian related improvements total $915.8 million in 2018. According to Ken McLeod, a Bike League’s Policy Director “It shows that while we have made investments over the last 20 years in bicycle infrastructure, we are still far from having safe and connected networks that make people feel safe biking to work”. City officials around the County said they try to support bike commuting by spending money on new bike lanes and trails and many cities including White Plains, New Rochelle & Yonkers added bike sharing programs which gave cyclists the ability to rent a bike to ride point to point or for the day.

All buses in New York are required to have seatbelts by State Law but it is up to the individual school district to decide whether to enforce their use. On May 17, 2018, a horrific crash in New Jersey when a school bus crashed into a dump truck in which a student and teacher died has parents worried about putting children onto buses. The Federal Government claims school buses are 70 times safer than a passenger car. School officials, experts and industry figures say school buses are designed to protect students in the event of a crash even without seatbelts. Even without seatbelts, he Assistant Director of Transportation at The Rockland County Board of Cooperative Educational Services claims “there are actually a lot of things that make the role of a school bus drivers much safer than a parent”.

According to an article in The Journal News entitled “Buckle up: Is it the law?” by Kimberly Redmond and Matt Coyne on May 19, 2018, school buses are safer because of their size and weight. The distinctive yellow color, the extra lights and retractable stop sign, the interior of a school bus is designed with safety in mind. The Assistant Director in Rockland County, Joann Thompson states “the design – the compartmentalization which is the higher backed seat in front and behind helps student from getting significantly hurt if we were involved in a crash”. “It gives an added level of safety that supersedes a parent transporting their kid in their own car”.

Elmsford students from kindergarten to sixth grade have to use seatbelts and the district has monitors on buses to make sure. Briarcliff Manor requires seatbelts for elementary school students on field trips. White Plains encourages the use of seatbelts at transportation orientation for parent and students every year but does not mandate it. In the New Jersey school bus accident on May 17, 2018, students were reportedly wear seatbelts and when the crash happened, students were screaming and hanging from their seatbelts as the bus went on its side and escaped through windows and emergency exits. Al Roney from New York School Bus Contractors Associates states seatbelts can help in situations like crashes but when a young student has to evacuate, the seatbelts can slow things down. He states “we’re all about student safety first. If there is a mandate that all students have to wear a seatbelt, too, we’re going to go with that and whatever the state decides”.

Route 119 is a major east-west road with constant traffic. There is very little room for sidewalk or bicycle lanes. According to an article published in The Journal News on Sunday, June 10, 2018 by Matt Coyne states “for Westchester bike commuters, plus anyone who walks or takes a bus, there’s hope in a plan to open one of the major east-west thoroughfare to more than just cars”.

There is in existence “the Route 119 Complete Streets Plan”. This plan includes local transportation activists and local, county and state officials on the Steering Committee and funding from the Thruway Authority who wants to make the state road that runs from Tarrytown to White Plains more bike and pedestrian friendly. This Committee hopes to add bike lanes, add or enlarge sidewalks and make bus tops more accessible.

Route 119 runs through Tarrytown where there exists office buildings, hotels and apartments with wider lanes of traffic. However, on Main Street in Elmsford, they have many small businesses such as deli’s, barber shops and bars with narrow roads that require parking on Route 119. Thereafter, Route 119 gives way to car dealerships and strip malls before you get to the Westchester County Center. The physical geography changes vastly along Route 119. The roads goes from raised meadows with three lanes to tight lanes next to curb parking to 10 lanes by the County Center and The Bronx River Parkway.

Pedestrian deaths in the USA have skyrocketed 46% since 2009 according to an article in USA Today – The Journal News published on May 8, 2018 entitled “Perils of walking in USA increase” by Eric D. Lawrence, Chris Woodyard, Zlati Meyer and Kristi Tanner. The increase far outpaced other traffic related death according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Almost 6,000 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles on American roads in 2016, the latest year for which numbers are available.  That’s almost twice the number of death tied directly to the September 11 terrorist attacks and more Americans have died as they walked than died in combat in Iraq each year since 2003.

There are many causes for the increase in pedestrian deaths. Distraction behind the wheel, texting while driving and while walking and marijuana legalization have been cited as potential culprits.

A study released in May by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety suggests at least part of the blame rests with Americans increase use of SUV’S. The study shows 81% increase in the number of SUV’S involved in single vehicle pedestrian fatalities from 2009-2016. The Insurance Institute President said one reason SUV’s have a greater impact on pedestrian fatalities has to do with their design. SUV’s have higher front end and the design is more vertical than passenger cars. The vehicles are playing some role. Pedestrian fatalities reached 5,987 in 2016, the highest since H.W. Bush was President.  Nationally, more pedestrians die in collision when they are crossing at points other than intersections along busy roads. More of the fatalities occur at night and involve males and alcohol. In 2016, pedestrians accounted for 16% of traffic deaths; in 2008 that figure was 11% according to NHTSA. The crisis fell mostly in American cities such as St. Louis and Newark but also in Sun Belt cities such as Phoenix, Baton Rouge and Miami. Detroit Michigan had the highest role among larger cities, nearly a quarter of the 118 people who died in traffic crashes in 2016 were pedestrians. Despite its first place ranking in the city, they saw improvements in its fatality numbers in 2016 which dropped after 65,000 street lights were installed over a three year period. The City intends to replace 125,000 sidewalk slabs to keep more pedestrians out of the street.

Recently there was a tragic accident involving a self-driving Uber vehicle that struck and killed a pedestrian near Phoenix. A Tesla Model X was on autopilot and crashed in March, 2018 in Mountain View, California killing the driver. More people are starting to think about setting realistic expectations for self-driving cars.  The essential question being whether they can be expected to completely avoid fatalities or whether it’s good enough that they reduce them.

According to an article in USA Today – The Journal News on April 8, 2018 by Bob O’Donnell, the ethical implications are far reaching.  What makes the question troublesome is that it ties together computing technology with life and death consequences. The technology built into self-driving cars such as the ones involved in the aforementioned accident generate significant amount of data that are already making the process of determining the course must faster and more definitive than traditional investigative processes.  From a technical perspective, many of the questions about safety have to do with sensors that collect all the data. Most self-driving cars have a collection of traditional cameras, radar and liDAR (a type of sensor that bounces laser light off nearby objects) built into them.  In theory, these components work together to provide the car with all the information it needs to make real-time driving decisions. Radar and liDAR have the ability to essentially see through objects allowing them to provide views and perspectives that cannot be seen by humans.

In the Phoenix Uber accident, the technology should have been able to see that there was a pedestrian on the side of the road even if she was hidden from human view by cars or other objects and slam on the brakes.  These vehicles are supposed to see things that people can’t and read in ways that are faster and better than the human ever could.

The City of New Rochelle has become the first municipality in the lower Hudson Valley to offer bike sharing.  Mayor Bramson said 50 bikes have been rolled out for a soft opening.  According to an article entitled “County embraces new bike sharing program” by Richard Liebson and Nicholas Tantillo on the front page of The Journal News on March 23, 2018.  By the end of April, 100 bikes will be available at 11 locations in New Rochelle.

The article points out that White Plains adopted a bike sharing law in March.  White Plains expects to hire an operator for a one year pilot program.  Yonkers Mayor, Mike Spano announced that Yonkers had an agreement with Spin & Lime Bike to start a bike sharing program. Mount Vernon

Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas stated they had explored talks with companies and are open to bringing bike sharing to Mount Vernon.