Articles Posted in Public Transportation Accidents

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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A new study by WalletHub, a financial advice and information website, ranked the hundred biggest cities in the United States according to 31 metrics of “driver-friendliness.” The study identified the best and worst cities to drive in according to “key indicators” like gas prices, hours of traffic congestion per auto commuter, number of auto repair shops, number of car washes, car theft rates, and days with precipitation. What the study ultimately found is that New York City is one of the worst cities to drive in a nation where “87 percent of daily trips take place in personal vehicles,” and during a pandemic in which people are increasingly wary of public transportation.

New York City came in 96th place in the study. The four cities worse for drivers were, in descending order: Detroit, Michigan; San Francisco, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Oakland, California. The top five cities identified by the study were, in descending order: Lincoln, Nebraska; Raleigh, North Carolina; Corpus Christi, Texas; Greensboro, North Carolina; and Boise, Idaho.

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A new analysis by City & State suggests that New York City might be at risk of “Carmageddon,” a phenomenon in which residents returning to work after the pandemic forsake public transportation for private cars, risking increased congestion, traffic deaths, and poor air quality in the city. According to the report, 80% of commutes into Manhattan were on public transportation, a figure that has fallen approximately 785 since the pandemic began. On the other hand, data show that vehicle ridership on bridges and tunnels has only fallen 18%, and “traffic in Manhattan below 60th Street is down just 15%.” The figures are not quite so rosy for the Long Island Rail, whose ridership is at 23% of its levels one year ago, and the Metro North system, which is at 16% of its levels one year ago. The report states that transit experts fear New Yorkers may suffer massively as a result of these factors.

According to those experts, “a modest change in the number of cars circulating around Manhattan makes a difference” that can ruin the entire transportation system. One metro planning think tank president said that if just 10,000 more vehicles are added to the system, “It’s actually the difference between the system functioning and completely crashing.” This may lead to the demise of New York City’s public transportation—due to budget cuts and decreased ridership—that adversely impacts working-class New York residents who have no other choice but to ride the subways and buses. Experts believe workers might not return to work in their offices in New York City en masse until the summer of 2020, long after there’s a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. This is because office buildings, with their ill-ventilated rooms and crowded elevators, may be a hotspot for COVID-19 outbreaks. In contrast, according to the report, public transportation poses less of a risk, so long as riders follow proper precautions. “ In New York City’s subways, filtered air circulating around a car is replaced with fresh air at least 18 times an hour, The New York Times reported,” the report states, whereas the “recommended rate of replacement” in offices is six to eight times per hour. “I definitely think that there’s the chance that a significant fraction of the workforce will not return until we have a vaccine in place,” one expert told City & State.

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New York lawmakers are revisiting the state’s century-old scaffolding law that requires construction companies to cover the full cost of all workplace injuries. According to The New York Daily News, the recent conversation about reforming New York’s construction safety laws comes at the behest of the Trump administration and the construction industry, which are looking for ways to reduce the price of construction projects in New York. As the only state in the country with the so-called “Scaffolding Law,” critics of the law say it increases the cost of construction and believe the time to reform the laws and join the rest of the country have arrived.

According to the construction industry owners, the scaffolding law significantly increases the cost of constructing a building in the state. In some circumstances, the law pushes costs so high that entire construction projects are canceled. As evidence of these claims, critics of the law point to a 2013 study from SUNY Rockefeller Institute which determined the law costs private businesses approximately $1.5 billion and taxpayers almost $800 million for public projects each year. The Trump administration told Gov. Cuomo in a recent meeting that the law would make the Gateway Project, a vital infrastructure project in the Northeast, almost $300 million more expensive. With the citywide building boom driving up wages for construction workers coupled with the increased price of construction materials caused by President Trump’s tariffs, the federal government is looking for ways to lower the price of the Gateway Project. Continue reading

Recent train and subway accidents have led to renewed attention to the 2013 Metro-North derailment that killed four and injured dozens. After an investigation by LoHud.com showed that the Metro-North Railroad still had not installed the required safety equipment to prevent another crash, Connecticut Senator Blumenthal and New York Senator Chuck Schumer called for the railroad to speed up its efforts.

derailment-300x225On December 1, 2013, a train on the Hudson Line of the Metro-North flew off the rails going 80 miles-per-hour on a turn with a speed limit of 30 mph. The engineer in control of the train, William Rockefeller, had apparently dozed off. In response to the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report pointing towards an absence of “Positive Train Control” as a contributing factor in the accident. Continue reading

The Metropolitan Transit Authority, responsible for running New York City’s subways and buses, is attempting to dodge responsibility and pin a $30-million award on a homeless man.

In 2012, Naeem Davis, described as “homeless” and “a drifter” by the New York Post, pushed Ki Suck Han in front of a subway train. Arguing that he was only defending himself, Davis was acquitted by a jury just last year. Notably, Davis was too poor to afford an attorney for the murder charge.

bus-300x175Still looking for justice, Ki Suck Han’s family then went after the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The family filed a “wrongful death” lawsuit against the state agency. In short, the family argued that the train operator should have stopped earlier, before Davis had the opportunity to push Han in front of the Q train. According to the family’s attorney, “Just because someone is on the tracks, you can’t run them over and kill them and say it’s not our fault. Davis pushed him, Transit killed him.” Continue reading

On March 24, a train accident occurred in Mentz, NY resulting in the death of a passenger in the vehicle. The accident occurred at the North Main Street railroad station when a work van drove around the flashing lights and horizontal bars that signaled a train coming; one person was ejected from the vehicle and died. The accident occurred at approximately 6:50 a.m., leaving one line open for the passing of freight trains with both lines being open by 12 noon; the two sets of tracks are major routes with 50-60 freight and Amtrak passenger trains passing through daily.

Rob Doolittle, communications director for the CSX railroad, stated that the Federal Railroad Administration estimates that every three hours a person or vehicle is struck by a train. In 2015, there were 31 incidents in New York where a train struck a vehicle at a railroad crossing.  These accidents resulted in eight deaths and 59 injuries. Doolittle said the deaths were unfortunate and that people should pay attention at all times. People who live near train tracks may think they know the train schedule; however, it is never a good idea to ignore the warning signs because trains today travel quickly and are much quieter.   In some instances, drivers may not realize that as one train passes another could be passing in the opposite direction.

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bus stop.jpgWilliam Pena, 49, a 17-year veteran of the MTA and a father of a 14-year-old daughter, was killed in February 2014 after a stolen box truck driven by Domonic Whilby, 22, crashed into the bus he was driving in Greenwich Village. According to police, Pena was thrown from the driver’s seat and landed under the bus; he was pronounced dead at the scene. Three of the bus’ passengers were treated for non-life threatening injuries. Whilby was taken to Bellvue Hospital, where he was treated for minor neck injuries and was tested for drugs and alcohol. Whilby faces ten charges, including manslaughter, grand larceny, criminal assault, criminal mischief and criminal trespass.

According to witnesses of the accident, which occurred at 5:30 a.m. at the intersection of West 14th Street and 7th Avenue, Whilby ran a red light and then hit the bus. Before coming to a final stop at the corner of the intersection, the truck and bus hit parked cars, a cab, sidewalk scaffolding, a subway entrance, and a person on a scooter.

Eddie Abdelmorty, the driver of the scooter, was uninjured. He said, “He [Whilby] didn’t even brake…He went right through the red light at the end of the block.”

On May 1st, the Second Department affirmed a summary judgment ruling in favor of a defendant NYC bus in a businterior.jpgpersonal injury case involving a fall. The plaintiff had sued for personal injury after falling inside the bus when the driver stopped short. The defendant, New York City Transit Authority, was granted summary judgment by the Supreme Court in Queens. The driver of the bus testified that a car had swerved in front of him while making an illegal lane change, which led to the sudden braking. It was the jolt from this short stop that caused the plaintiff’s fall and subsequent injury.

The appellate court, in affirming the order, cited the emergency doctrine, which states that an individual may not be held negligent for reasonable and prudent actions in the face of an emergency, if the emergency is sudden, unexpected, and not of the individual’s own making. Left with no time to reflect on a course of action, the individual avoids liability if his or her actions are reasonable within the context of the emergency. As the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact in response to the emergency doctrine presented by the defendant, the court granted summary judgment for the defendant, and now the Second Department has affirmed. To avoid a collision, and the risk of serious injury to the other driver and the other passengers on the bus, the driver acted reasonably and prudently in his sudden application of the brake. Thus, although one passenger was injured, the driver’s actions were protected by the emergency doctrine.

The full Order by the Appellate Court can be found here on the New York Official Reports website.

A Long Island bus crashed into a house Tuesday night after swerving to avoid a jay-walking pedestrian, the NY Daily News is reporting. The driver was able to divert the bus in time to avoid fatally injuring the pedestrian, however the accident killed a young boy inside the house. The boy’s brother was also injured in the accident, although not fatally. The pedestrian sustained multiple fractures of the upper body, including several ribs and his skull.

crosswalk.jpgNew York Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1152(a) states that “Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.” It appears from the story in the Daily News that the pedestrian in this case, because he was jaywalking, was in violation of this section of the VTL. The News claims that the pedestrian may face criminal charges, although these charges are not specified. Criminal charges, should they be levied against the jaywalker, could take several forms. Depending on the facts of the situation, the pedestrian’s conduct could be viewed on a scale from negligent to reckless, which would effect any potential charges that could be brought. Without this information (had the walker been drinking: was the bus driver speeding; etc), it is difficult to speculate on exactly what charges are being considered. It will be interesting to check back in and see both if charges are filed, and if so what these charges are.

The full tragic story can be found here in the New York Daily News.

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