Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

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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In response to a tragic limousine accident that left 20 dead in October, the legislature is proposing a slew of measures meant to regulate the industry and protect New Yorkers. According to The New York Post, the state Senate passed several proposals in the hopes of preventing another fatal limo accident in the state. As previously reported, federal regulations barely touch on the limousine industry – despite its heavy hand in the broader automobile industry. Therefore, according to New York Democrats in Albany, the burden falls on the state to prevent the kinds of tragedies that occurred in October.

Last October, a stretch limo with faulty brakes ran through several red lights and stop signs before eventually hitting a parked vehicle. All 18 passengers in the limo, all family members, and two pedestrians were killed. Just two weeks prior, the limo was taken off the roads for safety violations. Despite being “cleared” to operate again, the limo was clearly still unsafe.

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In 2012, a Long Island man, Daniel Sajewski, rammed his father’s red Mercedes-Benz through a Huntington house, narrowly missing the two elderly sisters that lived in the residence. Sajewski was, perhaps predictably, intoxicated – blowing an off-the-chart 0.30 on a breathalyzer, far exceeding New York’s 0.08 limit. In addition to losing their belongings (including a wedding band that could not be located in the rubble), the car accident left the two 90-year-old sisters homeless for several months. In 2013, the judge sentenced Sajewski to one-and-a-half years to three years in prison.

More recently, State Farm, who insured the house that was destroyed, has decided to pursue legal action against Sajewski’s father, the owner of the vehicle. State Farm is seeking $180,000 from the father to reimburse it for the money spent on repairing the home. State Farm is able to pursue this claim because, under New York law, the owner of a vehicle is liable for the damages caused by its drivers – so long as the driver has the owner’s permission to operate the vehicle.  According to the statute, the permission can be expressly stated or implied.

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As the legislative session draws to a close, politicians are making last-minute efforts to pass their bills into law. One bill introduced by Rep. Kathleen Rice would create a new criminal law for intoxicated drivers who get behind the wheel with a child in their vehicle. The Prevent Impaired Driving Child Endangerment Act would nationalize ‘Leandra’s Law’ which made driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol a felony crime punishable by four years in prison. Drivers convicted under Leandra’s Law must also attend substance abuse treatment and install an ignition interlock system in their vehicle. If passed into law, states would be required to enact Leandra’s Law or lose federal highway funding beginning in 2021. New York already passed a version of Leandra’s Law.

Rep. Rice also introduced a second piece of legislation aimed at automobile safety. Introduced last month by the New York Democrat, The End Drunk Driving Act would require automobile manufacturers to introduce technology that could detect if a driver is impaired or under the influence. Newsday said that two technologies have emerged that could detect an impaired driver and disable their ability to start a vehicle. One system uses an infrared fingerprint scanner to measure a driver’s blood alcohol content before allowing the vehicle to start. The other system passively measures the breath of the person in the driver’s seat. Traffic safety advocates say the fingerprint method is more precise but the air monitoring system is less intrusive and could monitor the driver’s impairment level during the drive. Unfortunately, the technology is currently inaccurate and prone to misjudgments. Perhaps more problematic, neither option can determine whether the driver is impaired from any other substance. With rates of opioid and marijuana use rising across the country, testing exclusively for alcohol-impaired drivers seems shortsighted.

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Almost 15 million Americans admit they drive while under the influence of marijuana, according to a new study by AAA. The alarming news does not end with the sky-high number of impaired drivers, either. Millennials (25 to 39 years old) were most likely to get high before driving, followed closely by Generation Z (under 24 years old). While unsurprising given their age, AAA correctly notes that the majority of stoned drivers are also the most inexperienced – a dangerous combination. The survey also showed that drug-impaired drivers appear unconvinced of its danger and unconcerned with its harsh legal consequences. In fact, Americans surveyed by AAA said that texting and driving posed a greater hazard on the road than pot-impaired drivers.

Despite evidence to the contrary, stoned drivers say that pot does not lead to unsafe driving. The study also reported that a full 13 percent of stoned drivers describe their illegal habit as only ‘slightly dangerous’ or ‘not dangerous’ at all. Despite the perception of their cognitive abilities, evidenced-backed research shows significant impairments in a driver’s ability while under the influence of cannabis. Marijuana impairs motor coordination, reaction time, and personal judgment. Unsurprisingly, an impaired driver is a dangerous one. Stoned drivers are almost twice as likely to be in a car accident than their sober counterparts.

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An astonishing one-third of New York City bicyclists text while commuting around the city, according to a recent study by Hunter College. To perform the study, the local college observed 46 intersections in the busier parts of Manhattan (between 14th Street and 86th Street) this April. Researchers gathered observational data on cell phone use, helmets, and traffic safety. When it comes to cell phone use, Manhattan bikers appear unconcerned with the distraction – 30.2 percent of cyclists used their cell phones, according to researcher’s observations. This number is significantly higher compared to six years when Hunter College conducted the same study. In 2013, researchers observed only 10 percent of bicyclists using their phones.

According to the study’s researchers, the increase in “texting while cycling” could be caused by increased safety initiatives taken by the city, which include dedicated bike plans. On the whole, researchers say it is most likely just part of a larger trend. Peter Tuckel, Hunter sociologist and author of the study, told The New York Post, “There’s been an enormous upsurge in the number of people in general who use electronic devices – whether it be pedestrians, drivers, or cyclists.”

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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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New York City speed cameras are proving to be a lucrative source of income for city coffers. According to Staten Island Live, the expansion of speed cameras around the City is now generating $455 every minute in revenue. While the fines are only $50 per violation, the massive increase in cameras over the summer has already issued more than 500,000 violations to speeding motorists. The tickets are automatically sent to the owner of any vehicle going more than 10 miles per hour above the speed limit.

The speed cameras are clustered around school zones, according to city officials. After a successful trial showed that the cameras changed drivers behavior over time, politicians in Albany expanded the program over the summer. Beginning on July 11, 2019, the number of school zones with cameras increased substantially from 140 to 750. Overall, this amounts to almost 290,000 cameras installed around school zones in the five boroughs. Further, the cameras started issuing tickets all day – from 6 a.m to 10 p.m. on weekdays. Previously, the cameras only operated only during the time period when school began and ended.

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New York police went undercover this month to catch speeding drivers in Westchester by posing as highway construction workers. According to CT Post, the police officers disguised themselves and then staked out work zones on I-684 in what they named “Operation Hard Hat.” The ‘operation’ was apparently successful, with almost 50 tickets issued to drivers in just a couple days. The police say the tickets issued to motorists included traffic violations from talking on the phone while driving to speeding. However, the most common citation involved a violation of New York’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to either move out of the lane closest to construction workers or, if that is not possible, slow their vehicle down to a crawl while passing through the work zone.
Under New York law, fines are doubled for motorists when their violation occurs in a work zone. The “work zone trap” set up by New York police in disguise is an increasingly popular way of responding to the increase in car accidents occurring in work zones. Last year, more than 700 crashes in New York occurred in a work zone. These crashes led to 329 injuries and 13 fatalities, according to CT Post. The New York Transportation Commissioner applauded the efforts by Westchester police, saying “The Success of Operation Hard Hat is imperative – it protects our transportation workers and raises awareness to the serious issue of work zone safety.”

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A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University found that “driver-assistance” technology provides substantial and widespread benefits. The study, published in Accident Analysis and Prevention, studied the effect of vehicles with three types of safety technology – blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning, and forward-collision warning. Vehicles with these safety options are typically equipped with cameras or radars, which can alert drivers to dangerous conditions.

After extrapolating the data on the effect of these advanced safety technologies, the researchers concluded that if every vehicle in the United States came with these safety features installed then the effects would be enormous. There would be 1.6 million fewer crashes each year and 7,200 fewer fatalities caused by car accidents. The boost in safety is not the only benefit, though. Fewer accidents would lead to less money spent on repairing vehicles and healing injuries, saving drivers money. The study estimated that American drivers would save $20 billion each year if every vehicle on the road were equipped with these safety features.

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