Articles Posted in Traffic Accidents

Each year, an astonishing 1.3 million people die in car crashes, and a whopping 20-50 million are injured. Car accidents are the 9th leading cause of death among adults and the #1 cause of death among young people. These crashes cost U.S. citizens over $230.6 billion each year. The vast majority of these accidents are caused by negligent and reckless drivers.

fries.jpgIn fact, a new study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, described in the NY Daily News, has shown that 80% of car accidents in the U.S. are caused by distracted drivers who are eating while driving. While many drivers feel confident in their multitasking abilities, the facts show that eating while driving is dangerous. An alarming 70% of drivers eat while driving, and 83% drink beverages. Eating and drinking distracts drivers. Rather than focusing on the road, drivers are focused on rooting around in the bag for the last French fry and unwrapping a sandwich.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that burgers are the most commonly eaten food during food-related car accidents. Given the prevalence of fast food restaurants and the relative ease of grabbing a burger to-go from a drive thru, this is not surprising. What is surprising, though, are the other top contenders on the list. Soup, tacos, chili dogs, ribs, wings, fried chicken, jelly donuts, and chocolate are all top culprits. In addition, coffee and soda have been notorious for causing spills that distract drivers and cause 65% of near misses.

One of the main reasons why distractions such as food and drinks cause so many accidents annually is that reaction time is seriously hampered. If a driver cuts you off, there is an unexpected dip in the road, or debris is flying toward your car, you can’t react fast enough to swerve out of the way when you are focused on cleaning spilled coffee off of your jeans.

Despite its large population of 19.6 million residents, New York trends toward the bottom in a ranking of states by number of deaths per 100,000 drivers. Approximately 127,726,000 million miles are driven annually in New York, resulting in 1,199 deaths in 2013. If you are involved in a car accident in the state of New York, follow our tips for what to do post-crash to stay safe and build a case against the responsible party.
First, if someone hits your car, pull over into a safe location out of the way of oncoming traffic. Put your hazard lights on, and if available, place cones or hazard signs on the road behind your car. It is helpful to carry a car emergency kit in your trunk at all times that will include flares, a flashlight, hazard signs, and more.

After pulling over, call 911 to report the accident. New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law requires that any accident involving damage of $1,001 or more or injury or death must be reported to the police. In addition, the law requires that drivers exchange information regardless of the amount of damage. This information includes driver’s license number, insurance, and registration.

After dialing 911, make sure you and other passengers are not injured. If there are no injuries, survey the damage. Take photos with your cell phone of the damage to your car and the other car. If there are any witnesses, get their contact information. When the police arrive, try to have any witnesses give statements to the officer. Make sure to tell the officer everything you remember, including how fast you were driving, what the driving conditions were like, whether you saw the other party’s car, and any potential injuries. You can obtain a copy of the police report from the local police precinct or through the DMV.

If you are able to drive your car away from the crash site, call your insurance company when you get home to notify them of the accident. Then call the insurance company of the other driver. You will likely be asked to give a recorded statement of what happened.
If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident, contact the New York auto injury expert attorneys at Gallivan & Gallivan today to discuss your case.

For additional information, please see:

Annual Global Road Crash Statistics, Association for Safe International Road Travel;

General Statistics, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute;

Motor Accident Reports, New York Department of Motor Vehicles

The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a research note on the prevalence of drivers using hand held devices while driving. NHTSA is tasked with keeping the roads safe. It does so by conducting research on driver behavior and traffic safety, enforcing safety performance standards for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment and providing information to consumers and other road users.

The note is based on a survey by the National Center for Statistics and Analysis which along with NHTSA is part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The survey, the National Occupant Protection Use survey (NOPUS), is the only nation-wide probability based survey of device use conducted in the United States. The NOPUS is based on in-person observation taken by surveyors at intersections during daylight hours. The information is only recorded from stopped vehicles by trained volunteers and the data collected includes such information as age, gender, race and vehicle type (car or truck).

Perhaps counterintuitively, the NOPUS found no statistically relevant increase in the use of drivers text messaging or visibly manipulating electronic devices with the rate increasing only marginally from 1.3 percent in 2011 to 1.5 percent in 2012. Driver’s hand-held cell phone use remained steady at 5 percent. The rate of drivers holding a phone directly to their ear while driving also stayed at 5 percent. This figure translates into 66,000 drivers driving while holding a phone to their ear at any given daytime moment during 2012. The statistics also mean that at any given daytime moment in 2012 9 percent of drivers were using some type of device.

distracted driver.jpgThe NOPUS also took into account the demographics of drivers. It found that there was a significant difference depending on gender with female drivers being more likely to be using a cell phone while driving. 6 percent of female drivers held a phone to their ear while driving while only 4 percent of male drivers were observed to be holding a phone to their head while driving. It also found that cell phone use while driving was also higher among younger drivers. Drivers 16-24 years old were most likely to be using a cell phone while driving while those 70 years or older were the least likely to be using a cell phone while driving. Six percent of drivers 16-24 admitted to holding a phone to their ear while driving while only one percent of drivers 70 or older were seen doing the same thing making the age gap significantly wider than the gender gap when it comes to predicting who is talking and driving.

The age gap however was much more apparent when looking at drivers who were visibly manipulating an electronic device while driving, the category that includes text messaging. There was a sharp drop off in drivers who admitted to visibly manipulating a phone while driving based on age, with 3 percent of drivers aged 16-24 doing so, 1.4 percent of drivers 24-69 and only 0.2 percent aged 70 and older. This gap did not occur when looking at drivers speaking with a visible headset where the percentages were very close between the different age groups, a small gap only occurring between the 24-69 and the 70 plus groups.

As of August, 2013 no state had banned all cell phone use by drivers, however eleven states, including New York, had banned the use of cell phones without some kind of hands free device. A driver can be pulled over solely for using a phone without a hand held device, without there being any other traffic violation. A total of forty one states, including New York, and the District of Columbia ban text messaging while driving. In New York the fine for texting or using a cell phone without a hands free device ranges from 50 to 150 dollars for a first offence plus points added to the drivers license.

Distracted driving can lead to a number of dangerous situations, including motor vehicle accidents, pedestrian collisions, even death resulting from a serious accident during which the driver was using a mobile device. Although not all states have implemented tougher distracted driving laws, maintaining focus while behind the wheel is in the best interests of all those sharing the road.

The NHTSA study can be found here.

The parents of Even Lieberman, a 19-year-old college student killed in a 2011 car accident, are calling upon lawmakers to toughen distracted driving laws in New York. In response to their son’s death, which was caused in part by distracted driving, parents Ben and Debbie Lieberman formed the organization DORCs–Distracted Operators Risk Casualties. The organization seeks to inform the public about the dangers of distracted driving and calls upon state legislators to treat distracted driving as seriously as drunk driving.

While Plains resident Jacy Good, an advocate for DORCs, lost both of her parents and suffered a life-long injury as a result of being in a distracted driving car accident. Highlighting the dangers of distracted driving, Good stated, “It is critically important that distracted driving laws are as strictly enforced as drunk driving laws have become. We know that the simple act of having a conversation on a cell phone delays our reaction time and causes cognitive impairment resulting in attention blindness that leaves a driver with the same or worse driving ability as a driver with a .08 percent blood-alcohol content–the legal threshold for driving drunk.”

car phone.jpgAs detailed in a USA Today story, on the early morning of June 16, 2011, 19-year-old Michael Fiddle was driving Evan Lieberman and two other friends to their summer job on Long Island. Fiddle got into a head-on collision that killed Lieberman and injured the two other passengers. Fiddle claimed that he fell asleep at the wheel. He never faced any criminal charges as a result of the fatal accident. However, as a result of a civil lawsuit filed against Fiddle by Lieberman’s parents, investigators were able to subpoena Fiddle’s cell phone records at the time of the crash. Administrative Law Judge Donna Marinacci ruled that the records showed that Fiddle was texting at the time of the accident which “constituted gross negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle” and showed a “reckless disregard for life.” Fiddle’s license was suspended for one year as a result of the ruling.

Mount Pleasant Police Chief Lous Alagno stated that distracted driving accidents can be difficult to prove. He remarked, “Without a witness, we usually have no way of telling. We would have to subpoena records, which can take time. Right now, it’s difficult to prove.”

Under current New York State law, driving while using a portable electronic device, such as a cell phone, is illegal. Such use of a device includes talking on a hand-held phone, texting, emailing or playing video games. Drivers can talk on a hands-free device or use their phone to call 911 in an emergency. Currently, drivers caught using an electronic portable device may receive five points on their license and receive a fine. First time offenders will receive a fine ranging from $50 to $100, plus a $93 surcharge.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota called upon Albany lawmakers in June 2014 to toughen the penalties for hit-and-run drivers. Spota stated that many drivers who are drunk or impaired by drugs often flee the scene of accidents because they know that hit-and-run penalties are not as severe as sentences for DWI charges. Spota remarked, “A drunk or drug impaired driver who kills someone may face up to 25 years in prison. But fleeing the accident scene allows the wrongdoer a chance to sober up, and under the current law, any driver guilty of a hit-and-run faces a maximum prison sentence of seven years–even when someone dies or even if the defendant has a prior felony record.”

gavel2.jpgSpota’s remarks came the day before an Eastport man, Peter Torrillo, a married 48-year-old man with four children, received a sentence of 28 months to seven years after leaving the scene of an accident that killed a young mother and seriously injured her passenger. On November 2, 2013, Torrillo was driving on Montauk Highway in Eastport when he hit Erika Strebel, 27, and Edward Barton, 26. Strebel and Burton were pulled over on the side of the road to fill up their jeep which had run out of gas. Strebel, a mother of a 5-year-old boy, was rushed to Peconic Bay Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead a short time later. Burton was airlifted to another hospital for sustaining serious injuries that have left him in a wheelchair.

According to prosecutors, Torrillo, who was convicted of driving while ability impaired in 2012, knowingly fled the scene of the fatal accident. When Torrillo got home, he showered, shaved and headed back out to a local bar. While driving to the bar, Torrillo passed the scene of the accident. The next day, he took his car to a repair shop in Queens in an attempt to cover up the crime. Relying on a witness who saw Torrillo flee the scene, investigators were able to match paint chips left at the accident with paint on Torrillo’s repaired car. Three weeks after the accident, he was arrested and charged with a fatal hit-and-run.

Assistant District Attorney Carl Borelli stated that police investigators believe that Torrillo was impaired at the time of the accident and fled the scene in order to avoid harsher penalties. Borelli stated, “It is that belief that someone takes off essentially because they are drunk or high. Just like this–you know, this guy had a prior impaired conviction for driving while impaired by drugs.”

While reading a victim impact statement at Torrillo’s sentencing, Tammy Barton, Edward Barton’s sister-in-law, stated that Strebel’s death has had a profound impact on Strebel’s young son Ayden. On Mother’s Day, she brought the boy to visit his mother’s grave. The boy laid down at the foot of his mother’s tombstone and began talking to her. Barton looked over at Turrillo and remarked, “Picture this, Peter, okay? I hope you have this image in your head, because it’s burned into mine.”

Website Resource: L.I. Man Sentenced For Hit-And-Run Crash That Killed Young Mother, CBS News
Maximum Sentence For Driver In Fatal Eastport Hit-And-Run Accident, The Southampton Press, Kyle Campbell, June 10, 2014

According to a study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, if all passenger vehicles were equipped with front crash prevention, lane departure warning, blind spot detection and adaptive headlight systems, one in three fatal crashes could be avoided and one in five crashes resulting in an injury could be prevented or mitigated. While it is probably unrealistic to expect all vehicles to have all of these crash avoidance technologies, the study underscores the fact that such technology can help to prevent crashes or reduce their potential for causing serious injuries.

mangled.jpgCrash avoidance technologies help drivers to operate a vehicle safely. They monitor a vehicle’s environment through sensors and other devices and warn drivers of potential accidents by sounding a warning or even reducing a vehicle’s speed by automatically applying the brakes. For instance, front crash prevention systems utilize sensors, cameras, radar or light detection and ranging (LIDAR) to detect if a car is too close to the vehicle in front of it. If sensors detect an impending crash, the system may trigger an audible warning or brake the vehicle automatically. Some front crash prevention systems even recognize pedestrians.

Another crash avoidance technology, lane departure warning and prevention, utilizes cameras to track a vehicle’s position within a lane. If the system detects that a car is drifting from a lane, it will alert the driver by either vibrating the seat or steering wheel, or by sounding an alarm. Blind spot detection systems contain sensors on the side of the car that detect vehicles in blind spot areas. The system provides a warning to the driver on or near the sideview mirrors. If the driver starts to make a lane change while a vehicle is in a blind spot, the system will sound an audible warning.

A curve speed warning system also aids in preventing automobile crashes. Curve speed warning utilizes GPS and digital maps to detect dangerous bends in the road. This technology will alert the driver if he or she is approaching a curve too quickly. Fatigue warning systems monitor a driver’s steering as well as his or her eye movements. If the system detects that a driver’s eyes are beginning to close, it will sound an alarm. Finally, adaptive headlights help drivers to navigate dark, curved roads. Based upon the speed of the vehicle and movement of the steering wheel, adaptive headlights turn in the direction of the moving vehicle to illuminate the road.

While there are many other forms of crash avoidance technologies, some of which are still being tested, such systems are proving to be effective ways to reduce accidents or at least minimize their impact. In many cases, however, drivers must interact effectively with the technology in order for it to work. For instance, if a driver disables or ignores a system because he or she finds its alerts to be annoying, then the technology won’t help to reduce crashes.

Many years ago, safety features such as seat belts were introduced into new vehicles at the time to made driving safer. In the future, certain crash avoidance systems will likely became standard features in new vehicles in order to reduce fatalities and injuries on the road.

More information on crash avoidance technology can be found here, on the Institute for Highway Safety website.

Gallivan & Gallivan is a law firm that focuses on protecting the rights of personal injury victims in New York State. Contact us now to discuss your case.

According to figures recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,328 people were killed in 2012 as the result of distracted driving crashes. In the same time period, 421,000 people were injured as the result of distracted drivers. To combat the ever-increasing problem of cell phone use and texting and driving, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the start of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April 2014. The program will combine a nationwide advertisement campaign as well as a high-visibility law enforcement crackdown on distracted driving.

cell driver.jpgThe $8.5 million advertising campaign will be on television, radio and the Internet and will be conducted in both English and Spanish. The ads will contain the catch phrase U Drive. U Text. U Pay. Discussing the new ads, Secretary Foxx remarked, “This campaign puts distracted driving on par with our efforts to fight drunk driving or to encourage seatbelt use. Across the country, we’re putting distracted drivers on notice: If you’re caught texting while driving, the message you receive won’t be from your cell phone, but from law enforcement–U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” The advertising campaign will also be combined with a nationwide, high-visibility law enforcement crackdown on texting and driving from April 10 to April 15, 2014. During this time, thousands of law enforcement personnel will use traditional and innovative techniques to catch distracted drivers. Currently, 43 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have laws banning texting and driving for all ages; twelve states, D.C. Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban cell phone use among drivers of all ages; thirty-seven states and D.C. prohibit cell phone use among new drivers.

Before launching the nationwide campaign, the federal government tested the program in California and Delaware. The program, which used the phrase Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other, proved to be effective. In California, police issued 10,700 tickets for distracted driving. In Delaware, police issued 6,200 tickets to drivers who were on the phone or texing. In addition, observed hand-held cell phone use dropped by 33 percent in each area. In California, such use dropped from 4.1 percent to 2.7 percent; in Delaware, observed cell phone use dropped from 4.5 percent to 3 percent.

NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman stated that the national program should be just as effective as the test campaigns in California and Delaware. He remarked, “National campaigns like Click It or Ticket and local efforts like Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other. show that combining good laws with effective enforcement and strong public education campaigns can–and do–change driving behaviors. We will continue to work with our federal, state, and local partners to urge drivers to put down electronic devices and focus on the task of driving.”

More about the campaign can be found here at the NHTSA website.

Talking to an elderly grandparent or parent about not driving before they are no longer able to drive is key for seniors who want to make a smooth transition from being a driver to being dependent on others for transportation.

Elin Schold Davis, a coordinator of the Older Driver Initiate at the American Occupational Therapy Association, says, “We talk about finances; we talk about housing; we have to talk about transportation.”

While many senior drivers stop driving on their own, Schold Davis points out that giving up driving can be emotional and create a loss of independence. However, at-risk seniors who give up driving are protecting others as well as themselves. Being in a car crash could render elderly drivers totally dependent on others for care. “That senior is much more vulnerable to have fractured ribs, fractured bones and to have their health status markedly diminished following that low speed crash,” Schold Davis says.

To ensure seniors’ safety on the road, several states have implemented new licensing requirements for elderly drivers. In Washington, D.C., for example, drivers over the age of 70 must appear in person, take an eye test, and get a doctor’s exam to renew their licenses.

“It’s not ageism,” Schold Davis says, “It is looking at who demonstrates functional impairment when they come in for their license renewal.”

Website Resource: As baby boomers age, driving becomes a concern, Paula Wilson, December 5, 2013

According to the latest studies, driving while hung-over is just as dangerous as driving drunk.

hangover.jpgIn research conducted by Utrecht University in the Netherlands, study participants had 10 drinks at night. The next morning, when their blood alcohol contents were zero, they took a one hour driving test. The participants had difficulty concentrating and driving in a straight line.

In a similar study performed by the University of the West of England in the United Kingdom, hung-over participants took a 20 minute driving test simulating rural and urban conditions. The participants increased their speeds and showed delayed reaction times.

University of the West of England Associate Professor Chris Alford remarked, “This simulation represented a situation many people can relate to. They may already be aware of not driving home after a night out drinking, but we also need to advise them to plan for the next day so they won’t be driving to work impaired.”

Hang-over symptoms include headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and thirst.

Website Resource: Study: Driving With A Hangover Just As Bad As Driving Drunk

Hangover impairs driving ability

According to a report released in April 2013 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 1.18 million American drivers–9%–are using some type of hand-held electronic device at any given daylight moment. The same study also revealed that 660,000 drivers–5%–are using cell phones during a typical daylight moment.

The report states that using a mobile device while driving can distract a driver in three ways. First, using a hand-held device can take a driver’s eyes off the road. Second, activities such as texting can lead a driver to take his or her hands off the wheel. Third, using electronic devices can take a driver’s mind off the road.

cellphone sign.jpgDistracted driving has consequences. In 2011, 7% of fatal crashes involved distracted drivers, and of these drivers, 12% of them were using cell phones. About 17% of injury crashes–387,000–were the result of distracted driving. Of this number, 21,000 injuries were the result of cell phone use.

The NHTSA research also revealed the following statistics:
• One in two drivers answer phone calls.
• One in four drivers placed phone calls.
• Three in five young drivers answer calls.
• Two in five young drivers were observed using a hand-held electronic device.

According to the study, drivers should turn off all electronic devices before hitting the road. In addition, passengers should speak up if their driving is texting or on the phone. Passengers can even offer to text or place the call for the driver to help prevent an accident.

Website Resource: Using electronic devices while driving is a serious safety problem

The NY Daily News reports that a cab struck a female tourist in midtown Tuesday, severing her foot in the process. A cyclist and another pedestrian were injured in the New York City car accident, which occurred near Rockefeller Center. The cyclist was flipped onto the hood of the taxi and carried for several yards. Police were still investigating at the time of the Daily News story, but the News said that the cyclist may have contributed to the accident.

Based on the comments of several eyewitnesses, it appeared that the woman went into shock immediately after the collision. Fortunately, several onlookers, including television’s Dr. Oz, rushed to her aid. Oz and a fellow good Samaritan used a belt to apply a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. The woman’s foot was recovered from the scene, and surgeons at Bellevue were in the process of attempting to reattach it.

As many details have not yet emerged, it is difficult to ascertain who was at fault in the accident. Certainly at first glance it would appear that the cab driver may have been driving either negligently or recklessly. According to the News, the cyclist may or may not have played a role in the accident as well. One would assume that the tourist will file a lawsuit at some point, but if and when she does, who will be named in that suit is yet to be determined.

Additional details, as well as some fairly graphic photographs, can be found on the Daily News website.