Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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.

A new AAA study finds that Americans are starting to lose the fear of self-driving cars.  In a new survey, 63% of U.S. drivers say they are fearful of taking a ride in a self-driving vehicle.  A year ago, that figure was 78% which equals to 20 million more people are now more comfortable with self-driving cars.

In an article in the USA-Today, The Journal News by Chris Woodyard on January 28, 2018, “The decline is definitely noteworthy” said Grey Brannon, Director of Automobile Engineering for AAA-Orlando. The article points out the study comes as automakers and tech giants are rushing to develop self-driving cars which could go on sale within 5 years.  Brannon said motorists are more willing to trust self-driving cars when they see the benefits of new high tech safety gear systems which are precursors to fully autonomous vehicles. “there are many more vehicles on the road with advanced driver systems like automatic emergency braking or adoptive cruise control, people who have experience  with these technologies are 75% more like to trust them” said Brannon.  AAA’s findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,004 American adults in December.

AAA found that millennials – those in the most tech savvy generation, have the greatest faith in cars that drive themselves.  About half were hesitant about self-driving cars. Only 13% of drivers said they would feel safer sharing the road with self-driving cars. Some 46% said they would feel less safe. Brannon said he has no doubts about the benefit of self-driving cars.  The technologies hold the promise of reducing injuries and fatalities. Brannon said “one thing we know about self-driving cars is they are not going to become distracted or intoxicated.”

Congress passed a bill that mandated comprehensive under ride protection for tractor-trailers and single unit trucks.  Jayne Mansfield died when she drove underneath a tractor-trailer.  This past July, two cars skidded under a jackknifed milk tanker truck in northern New York killing four people. U.S. Senator, Charles Schumer called on Federal Regulators to order big trucks to be equipped with side guards that would prevent cars from sliding beneath them in a crash.  Senator Schumer stated “the devastation of crashes like these as a result of a gap in truck safety standard could be reduced”.

In an article entitled “deadly crashes spur calls for tractor-trailer side guards” by Mary Esch in The Journal News points out that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 301 of the 1542 car occupants killed in collision with a tractor-trailer in 2015 died when their vehicle struck the side of a tractor-trailers.  Another 292 died when their vehicle struck the rear.  The Institute’s researchers estimated that half of the fatal crashes between large trucks and passenger vehicles involve the under ride, which makes air bags and other crash protection ineffective because the top of the car is sheared off.  Side guards are not required by Federal Regulations but at least 3 cities – Boston, New York & Seattle mandate side guards on city owned trucks to eliminate deaths and injuries, particularly pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states side guards could prevent hundreds of deaths per year in the U.S.  The Institute crashed a car into a trailer equipped with a side guard called AngelWing, a steel rail covered with fiberglass.  The car’s front end crumpled but the test dummy was protected by airbags and seatbelts. Without the side guards, the passenger compartment was sheared off causing devastating head injuries to the dummy.  A couple who lost a 26 year old daughter in a side under ride crash in Indiana in 2004 have been working together to lobby Congress and The Department of Transportation for a side guard requirement as well as stronger rear guards.  The parents said Congress talked about under ride protection since 1969.

As a result of the snow storm/blizzard on January 4, 2018, and the freezing temperatures and wind child below zero for seven days, we are reporting our snow and ice checklist of March 16, 2017.

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;

Since July 31, 2015, we have been blogging about cyclists and bike lanes.  The July 31, 2015 blog gives you the rules of the road for “Cyclists & Cars”.  On September 28, 2015, we specifically blogged on bicycle lanes and various municipalities. On July 29, 2016, we blogged about bicycle safety.  On November 11, 2016, we blogged about bike lanes being delayed in New Rochelle.  Our last bog on bicycle lanes was on June 30, 2017 dealing with bike laws in the Town of Mamaroneck.

Today, we are going to blog on bike lanes on Route 9 and the cooperation of five villages in creating bike lanes along Route 9. Pedaling alongside cars and trucks along Broadway is unthinkable.    The car and truck lanes are full and without a bike lane, it is almost impossible to bike on Route 9.

According to an article on the front page of The Journal News on October 25, 2017 by Richard Liebson, a steering committee of five villages, consortium are working for the connection of a bike lane along Route 9.  The Route 9 active transportation conceptual design plan is bringing together residents, merchants and government officials from Hasting-on-Hudson, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington, Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow.  They are looking into ways to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety along Route 9.  One of the members of the steering committee is Daniel Convissor who said “there’s a lot of potential here but right now, it’s a system that was built for cars not people.  If we create a system that makes biking convenient and safe for cyclists, people will do it”.  Earlier this year the steering committee used a $150,000 grant from the State Bridge Community Benefits Program to hire traffic consultant, Nelson Nygaard who is developing a plan using research data from a series of committee meetings.  The result of their work will be available in the Spring, 2018. Their final report will be presented to the Villages along Route 9 which will decide how to proceed.

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.