Hybrids Found Safer for Drivers, More Hazardous for Pedestrians

According to a recent study from the Highway Loss Data Institute, hybrid drivers experience fewer injuries in collisions than those who drive traditional cars. Although this seems surprising, the reason is that hybrid car designs call for extra weight, making them more stable when involved in car accidents – which is especially important in a high-traffic area such as New York City.

Hybrids Safer in Car Accidents Than Previous Thought

“Hybrids on average are 10 percent heavier than their standard counterparts,” states Matt Moore, president of HLDI. “This extra mass gives them an advantage in crashes.” In the event of a collision, the vehicle with more weight has a tendency to thrust the other backwards, applying more force on the lighter car. Heavier automobiles are also better at absorbing impact from a crash.

One example is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which weighs 4,500 pounds, around 330 pounds more than its traditional counterpart. The Honda Accord hybrid can outweigh its gasoline equivalent by 480 pounds. Components like the battery pack often explain the extra weight.

However, some automakers claim that driver conduct may play a larger role in accidents and injuries. According to David Lee, a Toyota representative with expertise in Prius models, many hybrid drivers tend to be not as aggressive.

Increased Risk of Injury for Pedestrians

However, the same study found that the silent electric motors produce more accidents for pedestrians, who can’t hear the vehicles approach. Specifically, when hybrids are running in electric-only mode, they are often inaudible for those on the sidewalks. HLDI dis covered that hybrids can be up to 20 percent more likely to cause pedestrian related accidents.

Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is attempting to create a noise producer that would be put in hybrids so pedestrians could hear them.

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Distracted Truck Drivers Pose Big Dangers on the Road

Two tragedies earlier this summer highlight the extreme dangers posed to motorists by distracted truck drivers. In Illinois, a distracted trucker triggered a nine-vehicle crash that killed three people; in Missouri an inattentive truck driver killed two people when he rear-ended their vehicles.

Deadly Inattentiveness

St. Louis’s KSDK TV spoke with a police officer on the scene of the fatal Missouri crash involving a big rig who said motorists can get killed and injured by truck drivers who are “inattentive, and traveling with an 80,000 pound vehicle….”

The driver in that truck accident told police that he had taken his eyes off of the road. When he looked back, traffic in front of his tractor-trailer had come to a stop, making it impossible for him to slow his truck in time.

Research shows that just a few seconds of distraction can prove deadly, especially when the distracted driver is behind the wheel of a large truck.

Texting While Driving a Large Truck

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute studied truckers who text while driving and found that those drivers were 23 times more likely to have a crash or near-crash than those who didn’t text while behind the wheel. Researchers found that the truckers took their eyes off of the road for just five seconds – but that this was enough time to travel more than the length of a football field.

That study showed that truck drivers raise risks of crashes when performing complex tasks while driving. Interacting with a dispatching device raises the risks by a factor of nine; looking at a map raises the crash and near-crash risk seven times; reaching for an electronic device makes a crash or near-crash nine times more likely.

Because 18-wheelers are more difficult to maneuver and take longer to stop than cars, those five seconds of inattention are especially dangerous to other motorists and their passengers.

The Dangers of Drowsiness

Sleepiness is another factor that too often contributes to hazardous operation of large trucks. Because truck drivers are typically under pressure to deliver their loads in the shortest amount of time possible, many skip needed sleep while on long hauls.

A 2000 study of sleep-related problems among truck drivers showed that 40 percent of long-haul drivers reported difficulties in staying alert on at least one-fifth of their trips. More than 20 percent of the long-haulers also reported having dozed off while behind the wheel.

The problem with inattentive or sleepy truck drivers is enhanced by the size of vehicles weighing up to 80,000 pounds.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, large trucks constitute only four percent of all vehicles, yet account for 11 percent of all crash fatalities. In 2004, more than 5,000 people died in crashes involving big rigs; three-quarters of the deaths were occupants of the other vehicles in the collisions.

When the Numbers Hit Home

While the statistics on distracted, sleepy and inattentive truck drivers can be shocking, they are much more than numbers. They tell just a small part of the story of a tragic death or painful injury.

If you or your family has been hurt by a distracted truck driver, speak with a New York personal injury attorney who understands the law and knows how to fight successfully for full and fair compensation for medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering. Contact a personal injury lawyer for an assessment of the facts in your case.

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Distracted Driving in NY Takes Deadly Bite out of The Big Apple

By now, most of us realize that texting and driving do not mix. Yet, drivers who are distracted by various tech-toys remain a constant source of danger for commuters and pedestrians alike.

In September, four people were killed and 24 injured when a New York bus driver crashed into a railroad overpass. The driver later admitted that he was distracted by his personal GPS device. This is just one tragic example of the distracted driving accidents that plague our states’ roads.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 crashes involving a distracted driver, and over half a million were injured. While lawmakers and police are working to lower these numbers, distracted driving remains a serious concern for anyone on the road.

The Scope of Distracted Driving

Distractions while driving can come from many sources, not all of them related to technology. The following behaviors are just a few of the activities that fall within the scope of distracted driving:

  • Using a cell phone (to talk or text)
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading (including maps)
  • Using a navigation system (GPS)
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting an audio system.

Cell Phones and Technology Use are Especially Dangerous

There is special concern over tech-related distracted driving. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to result in injury. One reason texting and related activity is so dangerous is that it involves all three main types of distraction:

  • Visual (looking away from the road)
  • Manual (removing your hands from the wheel)
  • Cognitive (taking your mind off what you are doing).

A study from the University of Utah even found that any kind of cell phone use while driving, including hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood-alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.

The Big Apple’s Big Problem

In New York City, a recent study by NYC transportation planners looked at more 7,000 car accidents in the city between 2002 and 2006, and the study’s authors noted that since that time, “electronic distracted driving has become more pressing as cell phones, computers and other portable devices further distract the driver.” The results were startling: the most common reason listed for a crash was driver inattention, which was a factor in 36 percent of accidents in which a pedestrian was killed or seriously injured. Furthermore, distracted driving accidents were found to be more than twice as deadly as those resulting from other causes.

Does NYC Have a Solution?

Lawmakers have been attuned to the unique problems posed by tech-related distracted driving for some time. The New York Distracted Driving, Talking and Texting law was first passed in December of 2001, and received updates in 2009.

The law levies fines against any driver who uses a portable electronic device while driving. The 2009 update banned hand-held mobile telephone use as well (although drivers are still legally allowed to use a hands-free phone). Police enforce the law rigorously: in 2009, the NYPD issued an average of 617 summonses a day to drivers using hand-held cell phones, and specially planned crackdowns net even more citations. On July 22, 2009, police handed out more than 6,000 tickets during one such initiative.

It appears these efforts are helping: while inattentive driving remains a significant problem, distracted driving fatalities have declined markedly in the last two years.

Victims of Distracted Driving

If you or someone you know has been injured by a distracted driver, it is important to remember that even if distracting behavior behind the wheel is not illegal, those who drive distracted in any capacityare legally responsible for harm caused to victims.

Distracted drivers can be held liable for medical expenses, property damage, wages lost due to injury, and pain and suffering. For fatal crashes, compensation can include all the extensive economic costs associated with the death and damages for loss of income.

If you or someone you love has been injured by a distracted driver, it is critical to contact an experienced New York personal injury attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can not only assure that you receive the full amount of monetary compensation you deserve, but can help you make the roads safer for everyone by sending a strong message against distracted driving.

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Dangers Posed to Cyclist in NYC Does not Justify Riding on Sidewalk

Areas surrounding New York City are some of the deadliest in the nation when it comes to cyclist safety. For example, Long Island alone has had at least 64 cyclist deaths since 2005.

According to Newsday, Long Island’s bicycle crash death rate greatly exceeds that of nearby New Jersey, Connecticut and even New York City. Suffolk County is especially treacherous, with 43 deaths since 2005 and an average of 4.6 cyclists’ deaths per million people – which is more than double the average of New York State. By comparison, the average death rate for bicycle accidents in New York City is 0.4 per million people.

Three-Foot Rule

Fatal bicycle accidents can be attributed to a variety of factors, such as drunken and inattentive drivers or cyclists who fail to adhere to traffic laws. One of the most common causes of bicycle accidents is that drivers simply do not see bicycles until it is too late to avoid the accident.

Cyclist safety has become such an issue in New York that the State Legislature has even proposed a three-foot rule. The three-foot rule is exactly what it sounds like; it requires drivers to remain at least three feet away from cyclists on the road. This required safety buffer will mandate that drivers provide the distance necessary to avoid accidents in case a cyclist suddenly needs to change course.

Bicycle Sidewalk Laws in New York City

Dangers posed to cyclists today make it even more important to follow existing laws. Not adhering to laws may not only increase the chance of cyclist injury but also increases the chance of injuring others, and may even expose the bicyclist to civil liability for injuries caused.

In New York City, cyclists seeking refuge from the potentially dangerous streets may attempt to stay safe by riding on sidewalks; however in NYC this is expressly prohibited. The New York City Administrative Code states:

No person shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk unless permitted by an official sign. A person who violates this subdivision may be issued a notice of violation and shall be liable for a civil penalty of not more than one hundred dollars.

In addition, a person that violates this law in a way that endangers any other person or property can be found guilty of a misdemeanor, and incur a possible fine of up to $300.

Additional Liability for Riding Bicycles on the Sidewalk

Bicycling on sidewalks is not only dangerous for cyclists, but also the pedestrians who may be injured by the faster moving bikes. Pedestrians already have to deal with poorly maintained sidewalks when walking in NYC – the last thing they need is to have to dodge cyclists careening down the sidewalks as well.

Unfortunately, accidents do happen, and when they do, cyclists may be liable for the damages caused. Under New York state law, every person riding a bicycle is subject to the same duties applicable to drivers of vehicles. Just as a motorist may be liable for negligent operation of an automobile, a cyclist may also be liable for negligent operation of a bicycle.

In the case of bicycling on sidewalks, simply the act of riding on the sidewalk may be proof enough that the cyclist was negligent. In New York, if a person violates an ordinance or local law – in this case, the NYC law against bicycles on sidewalks -the violation may be used to prove negligence under certain circumstances. The rationale of using violation of a law to prove negligence is the idea that a reasonable person will obey the law, and that failure to follow the law is considered the behavior of an unreasonable person.

Riding a bicycle in NYC can be a risky proposition – not only is there the risk of being in injured while riding on the streets, you may be held liable for damages if you choose to ride on the sidewalk. If you have been injured while riding your bicycle, or been injured by someone else riding their bicycle, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to be advised of your rights and options.

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What if the Car Causing Your Accident has Little or No Insurance?

When is the last time you took a good look at your auto insurance policy? Are you aware that you might be at risk of devastating medical expenses if you are seriously injured by a driver with little or no insurance?

Recently, the New York State legislature sought to remedy this problem by passing the supplementary uninsured/underinsured motorist (SUM) bill. The legislation is currently under review by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. The bill is supported by many legal organizations. The insurance industry vigorously opposes it.

Uninsured Motorist Claims

In 1939, New York became one of the first states to enact coverage that shields New York motorists against uninsured or underinsured drivers. The purpose was to protect New York residents against car accidents caused by uninsured vehicles registered within or outside of New York State as well as vehicles that are stolen, unregistered, or that have left the scene of the accident.

Under the existing law, insurance companies charge every New York driver for uninsured motorist coverage in the amount of $25,000/$50,000. Insurers have no obligation to offer any coverage over the mandatory minimum. It is up to the individual driver to request a higher level of protection, and many are unaware that they have the option of improved coverage.

About The New Legislation

Under the new legislation, drivers will automatically be charged for SUM coverage in the same amount as the policy’s liability coverage. For example, if you are carrying a $100,000 liability policy, your SUM coverage will automatically match it. If you want your SUM coverage to be lower than your liability, you must specifically choose to decline the higher rate of protection.

Supporters of the legislation argue that it preserves consumer choice, protects motorists and saves taxpayer money that might otherwise be spent on Medicaid or other public benefits when accident victims are hurt by uninsured and underinsured drivers. Opponents of the bill, most notably in the insurance industry, say that it interferes with consumer choice, forcing motorists to opt out of unwanted coverage rather than opting into a higher level of protection if they want it. Insurers predict that companies will be obligated to raise insurance rates because of the additional liability and that consumers will end up paying a lot more for their auto policies.

There are convincing arguments on both sides of the issue. But consider this statistic: as many as 8 percent of New York State drivers are uninsured. This poses a serious risk to all insured motorists, especially in light of the assumption that a driver who is uninsured is far less likely to respect the safety of other people on the road.

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