Articles Posted in Car Accidents in New York

In the wake of the horrific Westchester fatal car crash which killed 36 year old Diane Schuler, her 2 year old daughter, three young nieces, and three men on their way to a Sunday lunch with family, there is this question: Was this terrible tragedy avoidable? We have all heard the main facts by now–A 36 year old woman with her infant daughter, young son, and three young nieces in her minivan, on her way home from a weekend camping trip in Sullivan County, drives the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway for almost two miles, and collides head on with a Chevy Trailblazer occupied by Michael Bastardi, his son Guy Bastardi, and family friend Daniel Longo. All except Schuler’s five year old son Bryan were killed in the crash, and we now learn that at the time of the accident, Ms. Schuler had a blood alcohol content of .19, (which is almost triple the legal limit of .08), six grams of alcohol in her stomach, and high levels of THC from smoking marijuana within one hour of the Westchester County car crash.

There have been numerous accounts of other drivers seeing Ms. Schuler driving erratically on Routes 17 and 87, weaving in and out of lanes, tailgating and driving across grassy medians. There were several reports that once on the Taconic Parkway northbound (in what Schuler apparently believed was the right lane of the parkway southbound), drivers were beeping their horns, flashing their headlights, and calling 911, all to no avail. It is particularly tragic that with the usual police presence on each of these roadways, (especially on Route 17 and the Taconic), that Ms. Schuler was never stopped and arrested for DWI.

But there is another issue to address here for each of us. If confronted with a car proceeding toward you the wrong way on a high speed roadway, what would you do? Let’s start out with some basic estimates and facts. Assuming that the Schuler and Bastardi vehicles were each traveling at approximately 60 miles per hour, that means that the vehicles were moving toward each other at approximately 175 feet per second–120 m.p.h @1.467 feet per second. There is a wide variance in brake reaction time statistically, but generally speaking, the range is between 1.5 seconds and 3 seconds. Then there is what is known as brake engagement distance, (how long it takes the brakes to begin slowing the car once the foot depresses the pedal), which some studies have indicated is about 0.3 seconds. Adding on what is known as physical force distance– how far the vehicle would continue to travel before it stopped, at least another 150 feet would be needed for each vehicle to come to a stop.

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We all have witnessed drivers on the highway applying makeup, shaving, looking at maps or other reading materials, and focusing on everything but the road. But in an eye-opening series in the New York Times entitled “Driven to Distraction“, studies have apparently shown that drivers using cellphones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and their likelihood of causing a car crash is equal to that of someone who is intoxicated with a blood alcohol of .08! Worse yet, for those of us who feel that we’ve reduced the risk of distracted driving by using hands free devices, this can actually increase the risks by making us believe that the behavior is safe.

A 2003 study done at Harvard University estimated that distracted driving caused by cellphone usage resulted in an annual 2,600 fatalities and 330,000 accidents with moderate or severe injuries. A particularly compelling story mentioned in the series is that of Christopher Hill, a 20 year old Oklahoma resident, who was so involved in a call while driving that he ran a red light and broadsided a car driven by Linda Doyle, who died at the scene. When the investigating officer asked Mr. Hill what color the light was, he responded that he hadn’t even seen the traffic light at all. New York is one of only 5 states around the United States that ban hand-held cellphones while driving, but no state legislature has banned talking on a cellphone while driving. It is clear that the cellphone carriers, including Verizon Wireless, Sprint, AT & T and T-Mobile are a very strong lobby in Washington, and banning all cellphone usage in cars, even with hand-held devices, is a political “non-starter.”

According to a study by the Governors Highway Association, 8 states in the U.S. ban cellphone use for novice drivers and 4 states do so for bus drivers, with 13 states banning cellphones for novices and bus drivers. 14 states ban texting for all drivers and 9 ban texting for novices only. The New York Legislature has sent a bill to Governor Paterson to ban texting while driving, (we will write about this in a separate post) which he is expected to sign and would go into effect on November 1, 2009.

As part of Mr. Hill’s sentence for his Oklahoma misdemeanor conviction in the death of Linda Doyle, he must perform 240 hours of community service discussing the risks of distracted driving and speaking to classrooms of students about “talking on a cellphone and killing someone.” Cars over the last few years are often equipped with navigation systems with voice commands, which allow drivers to keep their focus on the road rather than viewing a screen. However, with the advance in technology giving us audio, video, GPS, the Internet and give and take with voice commands, it is clear that the safety issues of distracted driving are not going away any time soon.

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When you have been injured in a New York car crash, you will be contacted by two insurance companies–your own, and the carrier for the car that hit you. As will be described below, the simple rule is: cooperate with your insurance company, and hang up on the other driver’s representative. In New York, your medical, hospital, and miscellaneous bills and expenses are paid through your own No-Fault insurance coverage. Therefore, you must cooperate in every way with your own insurance company to ensure that your bills are paid, lost wages compensated, and other expenses such as property damage are paid for.

However, soon after the New York car accident, you will invariably hear from the other driver’s insurance representative. Under the guise of simply “wanting to know how you are doing”, this insurance representative will request that you provide a written or recorded statement regarding the accident, and what measures you took to avoid the accident. YOU MUST NOT COOPERATE. Remember that these insurance adjusters are trained to ask you leading, misleading or confusing questions with the goal of attributing some or all of the fault of the accident to you. Their hope is to obtain a damaging statement from you before you have had the opportunity to speak with a lawyer who would obviously advise you against providing the other driver’s insurance company with anything. Sometimes, these adjusters will attempt to visit you with a release and small settlement check in hand, to try to get a settlement before you have met with a lawyer. Bottom line–when the other company calls, tell them you are meeting with your attorney, and hang up the phone. Don’t say anything, don’t write anything, and whatever you do, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING.

If you or a loved one is injured in a car accident, or any other type of accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at The Law Office Of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at 888-761-7633 for a free consultation with an experienced, aggressive and knowledgeable advocate who will fight to obtain the maximum possible compensation for your injuries.

In a national written driving test sponsored by GMAC Insurance, New York drivers scored lower than any other state in the nation this year, according to the company. New Jersey drivers scored the lowest last year. The test consists of 20 questions about driving rules that are uniform across the U.S. New York drivers averaged 70.5%, passing the test, but barely. Conversely, Idaho and Wisconsin drivers tied for first place with average scores of 80.6%.

However, a spokesman for the Department of Motor Vehicles, NYDMV noted that there are substantially fewer fatal car accidents in New York per capita than in Idaho or Wisconsin, where drivers scored the best on the written driving tests. The New York DMV suggests that drivers go to the DMV website for information on defensive driving classes which can reduce points on your license and lower insurance payments.

To try out the written test yourself, go to the GMAC test page. For the record, I took the test and got an 80%, meaning that I missed 4 questions out of the 20. I must say that I was surprised to learn that you are permitted to pass on the right (obviously, everybody does it but I did not know it was legal) when traveling on a multi-lane highway carrying two or more lanes of traffic in the same direction–just shows that you can always learn something new!

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According to a study by the Network of Employers For Traffic Safety, distracted driving is a factor in 25% to 30% of all car accidents, or 4,000 car crashes every day. As hard as it is to believe, drivers make an average of 200 decisions for every mile traveled, making it all the more critical that your attention is on the road, not on that important meeting you are heading to or a cell phone call you need to make in the car. The same study found that distracted drivers fail to recognize potential safety hazards on the road and react more slowly to traffic conditions, decreasing their margin of safety.

To know if you are driving distracted, take the following test: Have you ever slammed on your brakes because you didn’t see the car in front of you stop? Run a stop sign unintentionally? Forgot entirely that you drove from one place to another? If so, you have been “driving while distracted.”

The study identified the percentages of distracting activities that drivers engage in: 96% talk to their passengers; 89% adjust vehicle climate and radio controls; 74% eat a meal or snack; 51% use a cell phone; 41% tend to children; 34% read a map; and 19% groom themselves for work.

It is certainly a given that you will be speaking with your children in the car, but I have seen people shaving, putting on makeup, reading a map, making a cell phone call with no hands on the wheel, adjusting their radio, and turning around to speak with their passengers on many occasions, and have had to avert numerous wayward drivers due to these activities.

The best advice is to eat that snack, make that call, comb your hair and get your directions before getting in the car, so we can all be safer on the roads!

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According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in which NHTSA reported on motor vehicle deaths from 2001 through 2006, there are five holidays that drivers should try to steer clear of, if at all possible. The fifth most dangerous holiday is New Year’s Day, (which surprised this writer–I would have thought it would be the most dangerous with the amount of alcohol consumed and volume of drivers on the roadways) with an average of 421 vehicular deaths. The fourth most dangerous holiday is Labor Day weekend, especially as a result of overcrowded roads and out of town travel. There was an average of 488 deaths for the 6 year period of the study. Number 3, with an average of 493 deaths, is Memorial Day Weekend, with coastal roads overcrowded with 38 million people on the roads, according to AAA statistics.

The second most lethal holiday for drivers is Independence Day, with average motorist deaths at 505. It is estimated that 53% of July 4th crashes involve at least one drunk driver. The most dangerous holiday of all? That would be Thanksgiving, with too much wine at dinner, perhaps, and possibly extra exhaustion from an over indulgence in rich foods–this holiday averaged 573 vehicular deaths over the last 6 years, and in 2006, there were 623 traffic fatalities. So please be extra careful this Thanksgiving!

If you, a family member or relative are injured in a car accident or any other type of accident, contact The Law Office Of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at 888-761-7633 for a free consultation with an experienced, aggressive attorney who will fight to get you the maximum compensation for your pain and suffering, lost earnings and loss of quality of life.

New York City Councilman David Weprin has introduced a bill which would ban the sending or reading of text messages while driving within New York City. As the Queens Democrat stated: You’re not looking at the road and you don’t have both hands on the wheel when driving while text messaging… the probability for auto accidents is too high to ignore.” The bill will be modeled after New York State’s ban on the use of cellphones while driving, which imposes a $100.00 fine for this violation of the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law.

The proposal was prompted by the tragic fatal car crash in New York’s Finger Lakes region last summer when 5 teenage girls riding in an SUV died. The accident investigation revealed that the driver was sending a text message when she swerved into oncoming traffic and the vehicle collided with a tractor-trailer.

There are only four states that currently ban texting while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association–Alaska, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington. Legislation to do the same is under consideration in 16 other states, according to Mr. Weprin’s staff. Based on a 2006 study by Nationwide Insurance, 19% of drivers text message at the wheel, including a whopping 37% of drivers between the ages of 18 and 27.

The Journal Archives of Surgery published a study on March 17th which found that a year after an injury in a car accident, slip and fall or other types of accidents, 63 percent reported that they still had substantial pain related to the injury. The over 3,000 patients studied were 18 to 84 years of age, who had survived a traumatic injury.

The people in the study suffered head injuries, broken limbs, chest or abdominal trauma and other injuries in motor vehicle crashes, slip/trip and fall accidents and other circumstances. The most common areas of pain were in the joints and limbs (44 %), the back (26 %), the head (12 %), and the neck (7 %).

The American Pain Foundation, a Baltimore-based advocacy group, said the financial cost of chronic pain in the United States, including lost income, health care expenses and lost productivity in the workplace, is estimated to be $100 billion per year. According to this foundation, back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old.

Florence Cioffi, a woman who survived 9/11 and was just days from her 60th birthday, was killed in a New York City car accident on January 24 when she was run over by a vehicle driven by computer software executive George Anderson just before 11:00 PM on Water Street in Manhattan. Mr. Anderson kept driving, but returned to the scene a short time later, where he was observed by police officers to have bloodshot eyes, smell of alcohol, and have slurred speech. Mr. Anderson refused a police request to take a breathalyzer test. Police immediately administered a blood alcohol test; the results have not been announced yet.

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Global positoning devices (GPS), although a lifesaver to some, have been blamed for numerous New York car accidents over the last few years. Most recently, earlier this month, a driver from California caused a fiery car accident when he turned on to railroad tracks in Bedford Hills and his vehicle was struck by an oncoming train when the car became stuck on the tracks.

The driver, a 32 year old who works for a SIlicon Valley tech company, claims that the GPS device in his vehicle instructed him to turn right onto the train tracks leading to the January 4 New York motor vehicle accident with the oncoming train. The driver exited the vehicle before the accident and was not injured.

Since 2005, according to Dan Brucker of Metro-North railroad, a growing number of out of state drivers have informed police that they were following GPS devices instead of paying attention to signs at parkway entrances. A spokeman for Garmin, the largest GPS seller in North America, indicated that 15% of cars are now equipped with the GPS devices.