Articles Posted in Bodily Injury

Last week Construction Dive, a publication focused on the construction industry, rounded up a number of construction sites across the country that have experienced Covid-19 outbreaks since the pandemic began. As Construction Dive notes, there is no national body tracking outbreaks by industry, but local news sources have kept an eye on their communities, including construction workplaces.

In April, according to Construction Dive, there were at least two Covid-19 clusters centered in a construction site at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. The clusters affected seven workers, and the construction site “was shut down for disinfecting after each outbreak.” Continue reading

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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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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School zone cameras have returned to New York City schools. After the program lapsed over the summer, the school camera program is now planning to expand its operations. Under the law just signed by Gov. Cuomo, the number of cameras in school zones will sharply increase from 140 to 750 schools across the city. In all, approximately 2,250 speed cameras will be installed in school zones across the five boroughs. The Department of Transportation says the program will roll-out over a three-year period. The Democratic Governor says school zones with the worst traffic accidents will be given priority.

The expanded program will largely operate under the same parameters – any driver going more than 10 m.p.h. over the speed limit will receive a $50 summons. The bill did stipulate two small changes to the program. First, the school zone cameras will now be “active” all day – from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Previously, the school zone cameras only operated from one hour before school starts to one hour after school ends. Second, signage must be posted alerting the driver of the school zone and warning the driver of the traffic cameras.

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Physical barriers appear to provide the most safety benefits for bikers, according to a new study out of Australia. The study compared several stretches of bicycle lanes in Melbourne. The Australian researchers equipped bicyclists on each route with sonars and camera that could measure the distance and speed of each passing car. After gathering data over the course of a month, the academics analyzed the relationship between bike lane infrastructure and bike safety.

The results of the study showed that a physical barrier provided superior protection to bicyclists. On average, cars overtaking bicyclists left the shortest amount of distance between themselves in bicycle lanes marked solely by painted lines – a full 10 inches less than a bike lane with a physical barrier. Providing insightful analysis on the study, ArsTechnica interviewed the author of the study, Dr. Ben Beck, who said, “We know vehicles driving closely to cyclists increases how unsafe people feel when riding bikes and acts as a strong barrier to increasing cycling participation. Our results demonstrate that a single stripe of white paint does not provide a safe space for people who ride bikes.”

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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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