Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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 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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A new law signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo requires all motor vehicle passengers older than 16 to wear a seat belt. It replaces previous legislation that only mandated seatbelts for people aged 16 and up when they were in the vehicle’s front passenger seat.

In a statement released about the legislation, Governor Cuomo said: “We’ve known for decades that seat belts save lives and with this measure we are further strengthening our laws and helping to prevent needless tragedies… It was under my father’s leadership that New York became the first state in the country to pass a seat belt law, and the nation followed his lead. Now we are building upon this legacy and helping to create a safer and stronger Empire State for all.”

A press release by the Cuomo Administration states that New York was “the first state to pass a mandatory seat belt law” in 1984, under the administration of Cuomo’s father, Governor Mario Cuomo. In that same year, according to the press release, roughly 16% of people in the state wore seatbelts, a number that rose to 98% by 2008. The state’s Traffic Safety Committee estimated that 30% of highway fatalities in the state were not wearing seatbelts. According to the release, experts think that increased use of backseat backseat seatbelts may mitigate more than 66% of vehicular fatalities and other injuries.

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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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A recent report by Niagara Frontier Publications says that data collected by the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College shows that “as of Aug. 15, deaths from motorcycle crashes are up more than 17% compared to the same period in 2019.” As a result of the increase in motorcycle deaths New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced increased enforcement of impaired driving laws over Labor Day weekend earlier this month. “Danger does not take a holiday and, with increased traffic on the road this Labor Day weekend, we all have a responsibility to exercise good judgment and caution,” he said in early September. “New York state will continue to crack down on dangerous driving behavior because the safety of all drivers and passengers will always be a top priority for us.”

Figures released by the University of Albany show a stark increase in motorcycle crash-involved fatalities over the last year. In April 2019 there were six crashes compared to 14 in April 2020; in June 2019 there were 20 compared to 24 in June 2020; and overall there were 73 fatalities in 2019 compared to 86 in 2020.

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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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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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An estimated 161,000 Americans die each year because of preventable medical errors, according to a new study by Johns Hopkins University. The study, which was published by Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit which ranks hospital safety, shows that fatalities by preventable medical errors are trending downward. Three years ago, the number of preventable deaths stood at 206,000.

“We are cautiously optimistic we are going to see real change and that is good news from this report,” Leah Binder, President and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, told Modern Healthcare. “But 161,000 is still a lot of people it’s a terrible problem. We have a long way to go.” Binder continued to explain that the number of preventable deaths is likely an underestimate since the study only looked at 16 safety categories and the “subset of each safety issue” in each category. According to Leapfrog Group, 15 of the 16 measures used to judge patient safety are the same used by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) to judge nursing home quality.

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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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