Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accidents

New York’s roads might get a little bit safer this week—if state authorities let them. An executive order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 27, suspending the requirement for annual vehicle inspections, is set to expire on October 4th. If he restores the order, New Yorkers can continue to put off their annual inspections, as hundreds of thousands already have over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to the March 27 order, New York’s auto repair shots “performed 739,000 fewer inspections… compared to the average over the same period the prior five years,” according to a recent report by the Democrat & Chronicle. State data shows this is about an 11% drop in inspections. Despite the order, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles has urged drivers to get their cars inspected anyways, a spokesperson for the Department told the Democrat & Chronicle, “The DMV encourages New Yorkers to have their vehicles inspected if they are past due… The DMV is notifying customers who have an expired inspection or driver license that they are due for renewal and we are providing details on the ways in which they can renew.”

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A new post by the Emergency Safety Responder Institute details the under-appreciated danger of road debris, which studies found was “was a factor in a total of more than 200,000 police-reported crashes” between 2011 and 2014, “resulting in approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.” Road debris is defined as “any substance, material, or object that is foreign to the roadway environment,” and can be found in travel lanes as well as a road’s shoulder or median. While all roadway debris is dangerous, perhaps the most danger lies on highway debris, given that drivers traverse highways at higher speeds than on normal roads, giving them less time to react to foreign objects. Debris also poses a risk to roadway responders, the professionals and volunteers who remove debris from the roads.

According to the Emergency Safety Responder Institute, most debris-related roadway incidents are the fault of negligent drivers, though others are due to mechanical mishaps. The majority of such incidents are preventable, the post argues, citing AAA data showing that “two in three debris-related crashes result from items falling from a vehicle due to improper maintenance or an unsecured load.” Such items might include tires and wheels that come off the vehicle, cargo that becomes unsecured, and tow trailers that become detached and collide with other cars or trucks on the road, according to AAA’s research.

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Alcohol impaired driving accounted for 32.6% of driving fatalities in New York in 2018, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, and 28.8% of driving fatalities in the United States that same year. In an effort to combat alcohol-impaired driving, last year New York state legislators introduced bill #A07494A, which would amend state laws concerning the state’s ignition interlock program. Unfortunately, the bill has seen little progress, and today remains in committee.

Ignition interlock devices are basically in-car breathalyzers. Drivers must blow into a mouthpiece and register a compliant blood alcohol level before they can use their vehicle. The New York State Assembly bill “Describes the role of the ignition interlock monitor as well as requirements of people charged with violations that require the installation of an ignition interlock device to comply with court orders.” Among other things, it would require that people convicted of “misdemeanor-level DWI be prohibit- ed from operating any vehicle without a functioning ignition interlock device” for at least twelve months. It would require regular use of the device, offer a process for people who demonstrate good cause to not install the device, and clarify that failure to install such a device or tampering with a device would constitute a violation of an offender’s “condition of sentence, probation, or conditional charge,” among other provisions.

In New York, as LegalScoops pointed out in a recent post, ignition interlock technology goes back to Leandra’s Law, signed in 2009 by Governor David Peterson after an 11 year old child died in an alcohol-impaired driving accident. The law made alcohol-impaired driving driving with a person below 15 years of age a Class E felony, and provided, among other sentencing guidelines, for the mandatory use of an ignition interlock device for six months for any individual sentenced for Driving While Intoxicated. Eleven years later, as LegalScoops notes, alcohol-impaired driving remains a significant cause of death in New York and nationally. And as the Assembly’s “justification” section in the bill’s webpage explains, ignition interlock technology remains ill-used:

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio’s proposal to introduce regulations governing bicyclists has generated controversy among experts and cycling activists, according to a new report in Curbed. In a September press conference discussing the alleged murder of a cyclist by a SUV driver, De Blasio said his administration is considering regulations that will make helmets mandatory for Citi Bike riders, and requiring cyclists to apply for licenses from city authorities. “I’m someone who believes that more and more people riding bikes has been a good thing for this city,” he said at the press conference. “But we have to make sense of the safety realities.”

According to Curbed, however, increased regulation of bicyclists is likely to make New York City even more dangerous for them. An official at the organization Transportation Alternatives told Curbed that helmet requirements have demonstrably discouraged people from riding bicycles, and fewer cyclists on city streets leads to “higher rates of bicyclist crashes and injuries, in part because car and truck drivers become less accustomed to operating around bicyclists.” The official said further, “The safest cities for biking and walking in the world do not mandate bike helmets or licenses.”

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In 2019, New York state legislators passed a law that would allow New York City to use congestion pricing, in which cars driving into Manhattan’s Central Business District would receive a daily toll of approximately $11 to $14, per a recent report by City & State. The law is expected to bring in an addition $1 billion in revenue for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which will likely suffer a “$16 billion shortfall through 2024” in addition to other needs the congestion pricing revenue would fund. Congestion pricing already exists in cities like Stockholm and London, according to the report, where it has both “raised revenue and increased traffic.” In New York, however, the law’s implementation has been stalled by federal authorities, in what some experts and officials “believe is political punishment for a blue state from the Trump Administration.”

According to City & State, New York can implement congestion pricing as earlier as January 1, 2021. The state is currently eyeing a start in early 2022, however, due to the holdup. As the report explains, the law requires an environmental impact study of the program: “Because some of the roads that will be tolled have received federal funding, the Federal Highway Administration – a division of the federal Department of Transportation – can require an environmental review be conducted by the state before the policy can be implemented.” While the federal government is responsible for determining “what level of environmental review is necessary,” if any, it hasn’t provided any guidance to the state, “despite having the materials it requested” in January of this year. As the MTA chairman told city and state: “It’s paradoxical to me that congestion pricing, central business district tolling, which is a huge environmental, social good, reduces traffic/congestion, funds mass transit and reduces emissions is being held up… All we want from USDOT, and all we’ve ever wanted from the beginning, is for them to follow their own required process and tell us what the environmental process is so we can pursue it.”

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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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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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The deadliest industry in New York is becoming even more dangerous with injuries caused by construction accidents increasing a hefty 221 percent in the last five years. According to CBS New York, deaths in the construction industry alone increased by 33 percent in the same time period. Just last month, three New York construction workers died while on the job. In SoHo, a worker was crushed by a crane. The other two workers died from falling debris at their worksite.

According to the local news station, there are two primary causes of the increase in workplace injuries. First, New York City is experiencing a construction boom. Gary Labarbera, President of NYTC Building and Construction Trades Council, told CBS News that despite a “busy, robust construction market… there shouldn’t be anywhere near this many fatalities.” The second (and related) reason involves contractors who are “willing to underbid to the job” and then “cut corners everywhere they can find,” says bricklayer Jerry Gozdyra. Unfortunately, these contractors and construction companies often undercut the safety of their workers. “It’s always been a dangerous profession, but deadlines and pressure from when you [have to] get [the work] done sometimes cause you to take risks. If you’re given the time and proper equipment you have a better chance of working safely,” masonry restoration specialist Christine Azzoli told the local news channel.

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The number of pedestrians injured by bicyclists in New York City increased 12 this year, according to the NYPD. In a summer with bicycle accidents dominating headlines, public safety advocates are now sounding the alarm bells for pedestrians. In a recent opinion-editorial published by The New York Post, the author argues that the two problems are both related to each other and caused by, among other factors, a bicycle culture that disregards traffic laws and safety.

According to the newspaper, Mayor Bill de Blasio has built more than 100 miles of protected bicycle lanes since coming into office. Studies consistently show that bicycle lanes create safer conditions for travelers of all kinds – pedestrians, bicyclists and car drivers. In addition to the expansion of infrastructure dedicated to bicycles, the city has also retrofitted intersections and lowered speed limits as part of its ‘Vision Zero’ initiative. Given the safety improvements, bicycling should have become safer in the city. In the first few years data show a sharp drop in accidents but this year the NYPD reports 127 pedestrian injuries, up from 113 recorded this time last year. Continue reading

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