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The Attorneys at the Law Offices of Thomas L. Gallivan, PLLC provide effective, aggressive representation to individuals injured in the New York area. Our priority is to maximize the recovery of our clients injured due to the neglect of others.

New York City needs dedicated lanes for bicyclists and e-scooter riders, argues a new column in City Limits. According to the author, transportation researcher and advocate Rachel Weinberger, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed the urgent need for a renewed investment in protected infrastructure.

The city’s empty streets in the early days of the pandemic led to reckless driving and traffic deaths, the column notes, but the return to pre-pandemic traffic levels have seen gridlock, injuries, pedestrian deaths, and cyclist fatalities. “Instead of returning to what we had, we have a chance to do better,” Weinberger writes. “We can use this moment to position ourselves in ways that best serve New Yorkers—those who have stayed, those who will return, and the newcomers who will power New York’s next cycle of growth.”

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A recent study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that as roads across the country cleared during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, they did not get any safer. According to a report by Traffic Technology Today, the likelihood of fatal crashes actually increased.

Examining traffic in urban and rural parts of Texas, researchers found that “while there was a drop in the number of crashes in Texas of almost 50% during April, compared to previous years, the proportion of those crashes that were fatal rose by 50%.” What this means is that any single accident was “more likely to be fatal than it would have been” were traffic levels not interrupted by lockdowns. Researchers looked at single-vehicle and multiple-vehicle crashes in different areas of the state, grouping them into the following categories: “all single-vehicle, all multi-vehicle and urban multi-vehicle, urban single-vehicle, and rural single-vehicle and rural multi-vehicle.”

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A recent New York Times article described many of the safety features in modern cars which drivers may not be aware of. Noting that pedestrian deaths from automobiles rose from 4,109 in 2009 to 6,283 in 2018, the report cautioned that this rise was due in part to the popularity of SUVS and pickup trucks, whose higher hoods and bumpers pose an increased risk to pedestrians. Still, the same period has seen an increased usage by automakers in an array of safety technology. A few listed by the Times include:

-Automatic emergency braking that detects pedestrians and cyclists;

-Automatic high-beams, which increase pedestrian detection;

-A warning system that signals the driver when they are drifting into a new lane;

-Lane keeping assistance, which helps drivers center their vehicles in the lane;

-Blind spot warning systems;

-Rear cross-path detection systems, which detects traffic and pedestrians behind the vehicle.

The report also discusses technology that’s not available in the US, such as “adaptive headlights” used by vehicles in the EU. These are headlights with sensors that “detect oncoming traffic and shade those vehicles from the incredibly bright LED units while illuminating the road ahead at full power.” There’s also a class element to who gets to enjoy safety features first. As the Times observes, many safety features drivers enjoy today “trickle[d] down from luxury cars,” such as technology for avoiding T-bone collisions and sensors that allow for automatic braking to avoid collisions.

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The rise of bicycle trips in New York City, as well as a concurrent rise in cyclist fatalities, has placed an increase emphasis on bicycle safety in the city. According to a recent report by the New York Times, some advocates are proposing new technology to help cyclists and motorists safely coexist.

Bicycle fatalities were trending upwards before the coronavirus pandemic, with 10 fatalities in 2018 rising to 29 in 2019. So far in 2020, at least 14 bicyclists have been killed. Safety advocates argue that the most effective safety measures are dedicated and protected bike lines, which separate cars and bicycles altogether. Other researchers are examining the possibility of technological solutions.

One option examined by the Times is a 5G wireless program that enables communication between bicycles and nearby cars. The report describes a situation in Turin, Italy last fall, when “a wobbly cyclist skirted a line of parked cars on a jammed suburban street as a large sedan rapidly approached from behind.” The driver did not notice the cyclist until “a warning graphic flashed on a display above the dashboard, indicating that a bicyclist was directly ahead, and the driver slowed to give the rider more room.” The technology in question was a “cellular vehicle-to-everything” system created by the LINKS Foundation, which placed a “global navigation device” and a 5G transceiver on the bicycle, allowing it to send its location data to vehicles in its proximity. The Foundation and its backers argue that in the future, cities can make roads safer by placing similar technology on traffic lights and other infrastructure, allowing cars, bicycles, and the infrastructure to all “talk” to each other.

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According to roadway ombudsman StreetBlog NYC, a new report on e-scooter injuries demonstrates the need for separated lanes in New York City. The report in question was published by the car insurance industry-funded Insurance Institute, and found that e-scooter riders “are more likely to injure themselves by riding on the sidewalk than get injured by a car driver on the road.” StreetsBlog argues that whereas the report intends to suggest e-scooters are unsafe, it rather shows the need to reduce the number of cars on the road.

The Insurance Institute’s research showed that 58% of e-scooter riders suffered injuries while riding on sidewalks. Its researchers interviewing “more than 100 e-scooter riders whose injuries brought them to the emergency room at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., between March and November 2019,” according to IIHS. In one study, researchers looked at the correlation between the severity of riders’ injuries and the location where they were injured. Another study “compared the rider demographics, usage patterns and injuries to those of 377 bicyclists who were interviewed as part of an earlier study.” What the researchers ultimately found was that e-scooter riders sustained injuries more frequently than bicyclists, although cyclists “were 3 times as likely as scooter riders to be hit by motor vehicles,” while scooter riders “were twice as likely as bicyclists” to suffer infrastructure-related injuries, such as those caused by potholes or curbs.

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Research undertaken by Virginia Tech and Rutgers University has found that compared to four similar nations in the European Union, the United States has fallen short in its efforts to reduce pedestrian and cyclist deaths. According to a report on the research by StreetsBlog, the researchers propose that the US adopt the same fatality-mitigation policies as those countries: Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

The study showed that all four of those countries, which are similar to the US in terms of national travel surveys and affluence, “reduced per capita pedestrian fatalities by at least 61 percent over the course of the study period — and standout Denmark did so by a whopping 69 percent — but the U.S. reduced ours by just 36 percent.” StreetsBlog notes that in US pedestrian deaths in fact rose substantially between 2010 and 2018, with none of the peer countries experiencing a comparable increase during the same period.

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Even as overall traffic levels fell over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of crashes and fatalities at work zones has risen, according to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Workers patching potholes, striping roads, directing traffic or building highways are more at risk than ever,” it states, “as drivers zoom through work zones or are preoccupied chatting or texting on their phones.”

These trend in spite of a steep reduction in vehicle miles traveled: 40% in April 2020 (compared to April 2019) and 26% in May, per federal data. The report goes on to state that work zone crews continue to deal with reckless motorists even as traffic volume resumes. It cites a series of instances in Michigan, in which “vehicles struck three county employees in a state contractor” over the course of a single week, killing two of those victims. Pew stresses that motorists and passengers also suffer the consequences of reckless driving, noting that of the 672 fatal work zone crashes with 755 deaths in 2018, only 124 of those deaths were among the work zone crews. Of the 123,000 work zone crashes in 2018, it said, 45,000 people suffered injuries.

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A recent study by KPMG has concluded that the Covid-19 pandemic may permanently change driving habits in the United States, even after a vaccine is distributed and life otherwise returns to the way it was before the pandemic. According to a report on StreetsBlog, the study suggests that “traffic volumes probably aren’t going to climb much higher than the benchmark they’ve reached to date: just 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels.” In the long term, this might result in as many as “270 billion fewer miles driven on our roadways each year,” and as many as 14 million cars permanently off the roads.

According to the KPMG study, the reduction in vehicle miles traveled would largely be due to overall shifts to remote work by people living in “corridors that were formerly travelled by wealthier, predominantly white white collar workers.” The study found that about 37% of jobs in the US “could be done remotely,” specifically identifying the following percentages of the following sectors that fall into that category: 100% of “computer and mathematical” jobs; 98% of “Education, training, and library” jobs; 97% of legal jobs; 88% of “business & financial ops” jobs; 87% of “Management” jobs; 76% of arts, entertainment, and media jobs; 65% of office and administrative support positions; 61% of architecture and engineering jobs; 54% of “life, physical, and social sciences” jobs; 37% of “community and social service” jobs; 25% of “personal care and service” jobs; 6% of “protective service” jobs; and 5% of healthcare practitioners.” The study goes on to note research showing that Chief Financial Officers at companies across the country might be planning to keep 10-15% of their workforces working remotely.

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Data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this month show an increase in unsafe driving by young men. The data specifically shows an uptick in reckless behavior by motorists in rural areas of the country, as well as increased use of drugs and alcohol, after the Covid-19 pandemic began. These trends are part of a broader spike in motorist fatalities, even as there were fewer cars on the road amidst lockdowns and other travel restrictions.

According to a recent analysis by Car and Driver, the NHTSA began studying the role of drugs and alcohol in motorist fatalities in the fall of 2019, testing blood drawn in morgues or emergency rooms for alcohol and various narcotics. Over the course of the pandemic, the NHTSA determined that “the number of people who died who tested positive for alcohol went from 21.3 percent before March 16 to 26.9” by mid-July. Cannabinoids rose 21.4% to 31.2%, and opioids 7.6% to 12.9%. The data reveals that 64.7 percent of fatally injured motorists tested positive “for at least one active drug compared to 50. percent before the public health emergency began.” Men were found to be more likely to test positive than women, according to Car and Driver, and there were higher rates of positivity during the week than on weekends.

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New York City traffic has returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to a recent report by NY1. The report notes that “traffic jams are a familiar sight again in the city,” and cites one traffic engineer’s estimation that “85 to 95 percent of car traffic has returned, and truck traffic is completely back to pre-COVID-19 levels.”

According to the traffic expert, Sam Schwartz, “There are long backups on the FDR Drive, the Long Island expressway. The BQE looks as bad as ever.” NY1 suggests this is an especially noteworthy figure given that a mere 15% of workers in the Manhattan have retured to their offices. Schwartz also notes that despite the return of drivers to the roads, many city residents “are not yet comfortable riding buses, the subways, and commuter railroads.”

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