On February 11, 2015, famed CBS News and “Sixty Minutes” correspondent Bob Simon, 73, (who won 27 Emmy Awards and reported on the Vietnam War, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the Gulf War) was killed in a car crash on the West Side Highway near 30th Street. Simon was riding in a Lincoln Town Car for hire at approximately 7:00 PM, when the 44 year old driver lost control of the vehicle, striking a Mercedes stopped at a red light, and then the median separating southbound traffic from northbound traffic. Mr. Simon was seated in the rear seat, and was not wearing a seatbelt. The vehicle was so mangled that emergency personnel were forced to use the “Jaws of Life” to extract Simon from the vehicle.
Mr. Simon never regained consciousness. He was taken to St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead of blunt force trauma injuries to his head, torso and extremities. Under the New York Vehicle & Traffic Law Section 1229 (c), rear seat adult passengers are not required to wear seat belts. Additionally, there is an exemption for livery vehicles by which the drivers of these vehicles, and any occupants, are not required to wear seat belts.
New York is one of twenty states which do not have a law mandating rear seat belt usage for adults. The other twenty eight states and the District of Columbia do require seat belts for rear seat passengers. For the most part, all states do require either seat belts or car seats for children and infants.
Back in 2012, the New York Daily News noted that passengers in taxicabs were not wearing their seatbelts and were ending up in New York City hospital emergency rooms with facial and other injuries from striking the glass partitions that separate drivers from passengers in livery vehicles. Dr. Lewis Goldfrank, the chairman of emergency medicine at Bellevue Hospital and the NYU Langone Medical Center, reported that he would see at least two passengers weekly from injuries suffered when they struck the safety partitions due to their failure to wear seat belts. Goldfrank called the problem a “New York tragedy and public health issue that has not changed in almost two decades.” In general, people seem to take their safety less seriously when they enter taxis, as if they believe that being in a taxi provides some additional level of protection.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission, which regulates taxis and livery vehicles, reports that in 2011, 65% of rear seat taxi passengers did not wear seat belts as compared to 11% of passengers in private vehicles. To combat this problem, the TLC began running advertisements with celebrities advocating seat belt usage on monitors in the vehicles. According to the Daily News, in 2009, 5,948 passengers were injured in 4,093 taxi accidents. In these car accidents, there were two fatalities, 99 severe injuries, 278 moderate injuries and 1,329 minor injuries. The New York State Department of Health Bureau of Injury Prevention reported in 2007 that in 12,071 passenger accidents they studied with one rear seat passenger 16 or older who died, these rear seat occupants could reduce their risk of death by 60% in a car if they wore a seat belt and lower fatality risk by 70% in a light truck.
The question of course, is whether in this case, Mr. Simon’s life could have been saved had he been wearing a seat belt. Due to the extent of the impact and the blunt force injuries to his head, apparent from photographs of the destroyed roof and twisted wreckage of the car, it is unclear that the outcome would have been any different had Mr. Simon been belted. Without any doubt, this is an issue which will be examined and contested in a battle of the experts, especially if a wrongful death lawsuit is commenced by Simon’s widow. Investigators did not find any evidence of alcohol involvement, although the speed of the Lincoln may turn out to be a factor in the accident, so there may be a reckless driving charge (reckless driving is a misdemeanor) against the driver of the Lincoln. There were no red light cameras at the intersection and thus far no video or cell phone footage of the accident has been discovered.
Contact the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at 888-761-7633 if you are injured in a car crash, motorcycle accident, truck accident, construction accident or are the victim of a defective product for a free consultation with an experienced and dedicated litigator to discuss your potential case in detail.