Articles Posted in Bodily Injury

The de Blasio administration continued implementing the Mayor’s “Vision Zero” program last week with a slew of initiatives meant to reduce the likelihood of pedestrian accidents in New York City. According to ABC 7 New York, the Mayor’s plan, which aims to reduce the number of pedestrian deaths to zero each year, has been fairly successful. The number of pedestrian accidents in the city is the lowest ever recorded, according to The New York Times. The city has seen its rate of pedestrian accidents decline each year of Vision Zero’s implementation, which initially focused on installing more bike lanes, reducing speed limits, and creating more pedestrian plazas.

Now that those policies have been fully implemented, Mayor de Blasio’s administration is moving forward with a different set of policy initiatives meant to lower the pedestrian accident rate even lower. According to ABC News, these new initiatives will include:

  • Congestion Pricing. New York became the first city in the United States to pass congestion pricing this year. Beginning in 2020, drivers entering Manhattan’s congested areas will be subjected to a hefty fee – which has not been disclosed but is expected to settle between $15 and $20. The Mayor expects congestion pricing to substantially reduce the congestion in the city and, consequently, reduce the number of car accidents. Judging by the success of congestion pricing in other cities across the world, the Mayor’s prediction appears likely to come true.

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Pedestrian deaths are set to hit a 30-year high in America and government regulators are blaming SUVs and distracted driving for the record-setting number. According to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of pedestrian deaths in 2018 increased by 250 people – bringing the total to a tragic 6,227 pedestrian deaths in America last year. According to the federal agency, the number of pedestrian deaths increased a whopping 51.5 percent since 2009. Less than a decade ago, America’s pedestrian death rate hit an all-time low of 4,109 following decades of declining pedestrian deaths caused by increases in safety technology and stricter enforcement of traffic safety laws.

Despite the continued innovations of safety technology, America’s pedestrian death rate has increased every year in the last decade. Traffic safety experts say that SUVs are a large part of the problem, noting that SUVs, which have outsold passenger cars since 2014, are more likely to kill pedestrians because of their larger size. A report by The Free Detroit Press bears out this theory finding that passenger deaths caused by passenger vehicles have increased only 30 percent since 2013, while deaths caused by SUVs have increased 50 percent during the same time period. Like other parts of American life, cell phones have also changed America’s driving habits and, unsurprisingly, contributed to more pedestrian deaths. According to AAA, wireless data usage increased by 4,000 percent between 2010 and 2017. The same report found that 49 percent of Americans talk on the phone while driving and 35 percent say they send emails and text. The final contributing factor, according to traffic safety experts, involves the higher percentage of Americans walking to work.

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Traffic accidents and fatalities caused by distracted driving continue to increase every year, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Distracted driving is a catch-all term for activities which divert the driver’s attention from the roadway and can include a wide range of activities from changing the vehicle’s music to eating. The most notorious culprit – and the primary cause of the country’s increased accidents – however, is texting while driving. In a report by The New York Daily News, 71 percent of Americans admit to using their smartphone while driving.

According to the NHTSA, the risk of a car crash doubles whenever a driver takes his eyes off the road for just two seconds. With the proliferation of smartphones, drivers no longer stop at texting while driving. In a report by News 12, a full eight percent of drivers admit to watching videos on YouTube while driving. Perhaps even more worrisome, distracted driving is no longer a dangerous activity just for young drivers – 73 percent of parents admit to using their smartphone while their child is in the car. These drivers also appear well aware of the risks, with 55 percent describing distracted driving as the top safety threat on the road. Only one-third said drunk driving constituted their biggest safety concern on America’s roadways.

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A Brooklyn jury returned a $15 million verdict in a lawsuit against a Brooklyn hospital after the patient’s doctor at the hospital failed to diagnose glaucoma on several different occasions, according to the Associated Press.  After complaining of blurred vision and pressure around her eyes, both symptoms of the degenerative disease, Amanda Velasquez set up an appointment with her obstetrician. Dr. Reginald Ruiz, at Woodhull Medical Center. Dr. Ruiz told Velasquez, who was seven months pregnant at the time of the appointment, that her eye problems were related to her pregnancy and she should not be concerned.

With her vision continuing to decline, Velasquez complained about her vision and the pressure around her eyes at six different appointments with Dr. Ruiz over the following two months. According to her testimony before the New York Supreme Court, the lowest court in the state, Velasquez knew something was seriously wrong after she gave birth and could not see the child on her lap. She immediately made an appointment at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary, where she was diagnosed with glaucoma. By the time Velasquez could undergo surgery, she was already 90 percent blind and the damage to her vision was irreversible.

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Concerned over the growing rate of construction accidents, Mayor de Blasio and City Hall passed a new set of safety regulations on the construction industry last year. However, according to a news report this law is being ignored by the construction industry. As the rate of accidents and deaths in the construction industry reach a record high this year, safety advocates hope that the government steps up enforcement of the law or pursues further legislation to protect construction workers.

Under the safety legislation passed by the city, construction workers must undergo additional training – a 10-hour class should have been completed by March 1 of this year, with an additional 30-hours of safety training required by December 1. Upon completion of the training, construction workers will receive a “Site Safety Training” card that must be brought with them to their construction site each day. However, despite the city’s noble efforts to address a real problem in New York, injuries and deaths in the construction industry have only grown this year.

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As America blazes its path towards marijuana legalization, federal agencies and traffic safety experts are worried that the full ramifications of legalizing the once-illicit drug remain unknown. The latest smoke signal that states should study the matter further came out last week when the federal government reported a 6 percent increase in highway crashes across states that legalized the drug. The previous study, which focused on the first three states to legalize the drug for recreational purposes, found a 5.2 percent increase in highway crashes.

Unlike alcohol, where a breathalyzer can easily and objectively determine whether a person is too intoxicated to drive, the push for an objective sobriety measurement for cannabis remains elusive. Currently, the police are able to perform a blood test and locate THC in the blood of the driver, however, because THC can stay in a person’s system for days or even weeks, the test lacks the ability to measure whether the driver was intoxicated while behind the wheel.

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After a tragic limo crash killed 20 in upstate New York, Senator Chuck Schumer is renewing his call for stronger government regulations and oversight. Similar to other limousine offerings across the country, the Ford Expedition involved in the accident was modified into a limousine by cutting the SUV into two parts and then extended. Safety advocates have long warned that this process requires removing necessary safety features from the vehicle, including airbags and side rollover pillars, and imperils limo passengers. Now the cause of the deadliest traffic accident in a decade, according to The New York Times, transportation safety advocates and politicians are hoping their pleas for oversight will no longer remain unanswered.

According to New York politicians, the stretched Ford Expedition should not have been used on the night of the crash. The limo had repeatedly failed state inspections, including one just last month. The numerous violations included a faulty braking system, which had taken the twenty-passenger Ford Expedition off the road twice. Further, the driver of the limousine, Scott Lisinicchia, did not possess a valid license to operate the limo. Lisinicchia also died in the crash, which killed all seventeen passengers and two individuals parked on the side of the road. Authorities have charged the owner of the limo business with negligent homicide. The business owner pled not guilty and said the DOT deemed the limo roadworthy only a week before the crash and described the Lisinicchia as a “reliable employee” to CNN.

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Over the past decade, automakers have rapidly introduced new safety technology into their fleet of vehicles. The technology available only on high-end vehicles just five years ago – such as blind-spot monitoring, emergency braking, and lane-departure warning – is now becoming standard on new vehicles. These life-saving technologies, however, do have limits and, according to a new report by AAA, most drivers do not seem aware of these limits.

One example cited by the association is blind-spot monitoring. According to the report, a full 80 percent of drivers mistakenly believe that blind-spot monitoring systems detect cyclists, pedestrians, and fast-approaching vehicles better than current technology allows. Because of this mistaken belief, one-fourth drivers with blind-spot monitoring do not check their blind spot before changing lanes.

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Westchester County agreed to pay over $3 million in a lawsuit over the 2015 death of a local bicyclist. The bicyclist, Robert Small, an orthopedic surgeon at White Plains Hospital, died after an accident on the North County Trailway. Small, an avid and competitive bicyclist, according to LoHud.com, lost consciousness after biking into a marked pothole. The Briarcliff Manor resident did not regain consciousness and died four days later.

Small’s wife sued Westchester County, alleging that by failing to fill the pothole in the bicycle trail Westchester County acted negligently and caused the death of her husband. Steve Schirm, a surgeon who did not previously know Small, rode his bicycle in front of Small on the day of the accident. In a deposition taking during the trial process, Schirm recalled hearing the doctor yell and turned around to see Small flip over the handlebars of his bike. With one leg still attached to the bike clips, Small then landed head-first onto the ground. Though he was wearing a helmet, Small landed on his forehead.

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New York City became the first city in America to put a cap on the number of vehicles used by ride-hailing services last month. The move by City Council is part of a broader regulatory scheme meant to address a range of issues concerning ride-hailing services including their effect on medallion prices, driver wages and benefits, and limited access for New Yorkers with disabilities. Uber, Lyft, and Via – the three most prominent ride-hailing services in the five boroughs – decried the regulation and said that their services offered a pivotal service to low-income New Yorkers without access to taxis or the subway, in addition to jobs with flexible schedules.

In addition to capping the number of vehicles used by ride-hailing services at their current level of 100,00, the bill also allows for New York to set a minimum hourly rate for Uber and Lyft drivers. Previously, these drivers were considered independent contractors under the law – not employees – and therefore were not subject to minimum wage laws, among other protections given to employees. According to the City Council and Mayor de Blasio, the new law will put a “pause” on the industry for twelve months while it commissions a study on the effect of ride-hailing services on congestion which the Mayor said contributed to the “congestion grinding our streets to a halt” without citing any evidence.

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