Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Furthering Safety: Banning Hand-Held Cell Phones in Semis

Solely based on their size, semitrucks pose a risk to all other vehicles on the road. Therefore, it is important for truckers to keep their attention focused on the road, minimizing distractions.

To help truckers minimize distraction, the government has banned interstate truckers from texting while driving and has proposed a ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while trucks are in operation.

Distracted Driving Statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that approximately 5,500 people were killed and another 500,000 injured in accidents involving distracted drivers in 2009. Further, the NHTSA says that 16 percent of all 2009 traffic deaths were caused by distracted driving.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, citing the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, reports that approximately 10 percent of accidents involving large trucks occurred because of driver distraction. The LTCCS notes that eight percent of the driver distraction was external, while two percent of distraction was internal.

Types of Distractions
The NHTSA defines distracted driving as any nondriving activity that takes a driver’s attention from the task at hand — driving.

According to the NHTSA, drivers face three main types of distraction:

1. Visual — distractions that avert the driver’s eyes from the road

2. Manual — distractions that remove the driver’s hands from the steering wheel or stick shift

3. Cognitive — distractions that take the driver’s mind away from what they are doing, driving

Fitting into these three distraction types are a whole host of activities, including:

  • Texting while driving

  • Reaching for, dialing or talking on a cell phone

  • Talking with passengers

  • Using a computer or watching a DVD

  • Talking on the CB

  • Eating

  • Grooming

  • Reading a map or using other navigation system

  • Changing the radio station or CD

  • Daydreaming

  • Smoking

What makes some activities more dangerous than others is when they involve more than one type of distraction. This is why texting while driving is seen as extremely dangerous — it involves all three types of distraction!

Interstate Truckers Banned From Texting While Driving
Understanding the dangers of distracted driving, specifically those caused by sending or reading text messages, prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation to ban interstate truckers and bus drivers from sending texts while driving. Truckers found to be in violation of the rule are subject to civil and criminal fines of up to $2,750.

Truckers who send or read text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident or near miss, according to research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Research cited by the DOT shows that texting removes drivers’ eyes from the road for approximately five seconds; a vehicle traveling at highway speeds can cover the length of a football field in about five seconds, according to the New York Times.

Truckers Banned From Talking on Cell Phones?
To further fight distracted driving, the DOT proposed a law in mid-December 2010 that would completely ban truck drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. The rule would prohibit interstate truckers from reaching for, holding or dialing cell phones during semitruck operation.

Drivers found to be in violation of the proposed rule would face fines up to $2,750 for each offense. For multiple violations, drivers would face the possibility of losing their commercial driver’s licenses. Motor carriers would face a maximum penalty of $11,000 for allowing drivers to use hand-held phones.

While the safety aspects of the proposed law are understood, not everyone supports the proposed rule. Omaha.com reports that some truckers look at cell phones as being a necessary part of their jobs, allowing them check in with clients, and to stay in touch with friends and family while away from home.

Omaha.com also describes the comments of industry groups such as the American Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association on the proposed rule. The ATA supports a ban on hand-held cell phones, but would not support a ban on hands-free technology. OOID suggests that there are already enough restrictions on cell-phone use, and other safety issues deserve more focus.

Injured in an Accident Involving a Trucker?
Truckers and motor carriers are subject to many rules that other drivers are not, including restrictions on hours of service, requirements concerning accurate work-hour logging and restrictions on weight. These rules make lawsuits seeking compensation for injuries after accidents difficult. It is extremely important that your attorney understands these intricate rules and how their violation may impact your case.

Speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer if you have been injured in an accident involving a semitrailer. You may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages and vehicle repairs.

Staying Aware During the Winter Driving Season

Accidents can occur on the roads and highways regardless of the time of year or road conditions. The winter months, however, increase conditions that promote serious accidents and injuries. According to a study by the University of California Berkley, adverse weather conditions result in 7,000 fatalities, 800,000 injuries and more than 1.5 million car crashes nationally each year.
The report, as cited in Forbes Magazine, also found that the most dangerous day of the year to drive is the day after the first snowstorm of the season. During this time, people are unprepared to drive in winter conditions and do not adopt safer driving habits until later in the season.

Steps to Protect Yourself
While there may be inherent dangers in winter driving, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances that you will be involved in an auto accident. The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYS DMV) recommends that drivers prepare their vehicles before the season approaches, making sure that their vehicle is ready for winter weather and dangerous conditions, both inside and out.
Speed is a contributing factor in many auto accidents. According to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a driver traveling “too fast for conditions” was a factor in 8.4 percent of all accidents. With slippery roads, snow and the potential for ice, drivers need to stay aware of road conditions and adjust their speeds accordingly. Drivers are also urged to drive defensively and expect other vehicles to have difficulty in slippery conditions.

Tires are one of the most important, yet often overlooked, components of the vehicle. The NYS DMV recommends drivers put snow tires, preferably, or all-weather tires on their vehicles during the winter months. It is also critical that the tires be properly inflated and have adequate amount of tread.

The winter months offer fewer hours of daylight and the weather conditions can often decrease visibility. It is important to make sure that windshield wipers, headlights and brake lights are in good working condition. But perhaps the best thing you can do, according to the NYS DMV, is to pay attention to the weather conditions. If they are too bad, or expected to get worse, avoid driving until the conditions improve.

Whatever precautions you take this winter season, accidents can and will happen. If you have been injured in any sort of traffic accident, it is important to discuss your options with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Study on New York Traffic Accidents Released by DOT

Recently, the New York City Department of Transportation released the Pedestrian Study & Action Plan, a comprehensive look at traffic safety patterns in the city.

According to the report, New York City had 3.49 fatalities per every 100,000 residents in 2008. Putting this number in perspective, Atlanta and Detroit both experienced over 10 fatalities for every 100,000 residents in the same time period. New York City was on par with some of the most pedestrian friendly cities in the world, including London and Paris, making it one of the safer U.S. cities for those on foot.

The report also found some surprising trends. People who jaywalk were involved in fewer accidents than those who followed the signal, though jaywalkers were involved in more serious accidents. Senior citizens are particularly overrepresented in the traffic fatality numbers; accounting for 12 percent of the population, they represent 38 percent of all pedestrian fatalities. Alcohol was a factor in 8 percent of pedestrian injury accidents, compared with 13 percent nationwide.

DOT Announces New Initiatives
The report highlights the aggressive approach that the Bloomberg administration and the Department of Transportation are taking in reducing traffic and pedestrian fatalities. The goal of the DOT is to reduce the number of traffic fatalities annually by 50 percent, from over 270 deaths down to 130 by 2030. The report notes that doing so would save over 1,600 lives in the next two decades.

Through the report, the DOT announced several traffic safety initiatives that will help reduce the number of injuries and deaths. Over 1,500 pedestrian countdown signals will be installed by the end of 2011, giving priority to those intersections with a high volume of pedestrian traffic.

An additional 75 slow speed zones will be in force throughout the city. Though the slow speed zones will be centered around schools, the DOT is also piloting a neighborhood 20 mile per hour zone that, rather than focusing on an individual street, would target an entire geographic area.

The DOT will also be piloting a “daylighting” program on a Manhattan avenue. Daylighting involves removing parking spaces at the approach of an intersection, allowing drivers and pedestrians crossing the street greater visibility. The program will focus on intersections that have a high rate of left turn accidents involving pedestrians.

Working With an Experienced Attorney
Despite the cities effort to reduce pedestrian accidents, they still occur with alarming frequency. If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident, it is important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. You only have a limited amount of time to recover for your injuries.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Out of State Automobile Accident Negates Requirement of Proving Serious Injury

The case of Ofori v. Green, 2010 N.Y. Slip Op. 04841 (1st Dept. June 8, 2010), involves a personal injury action arising out of a 2006 automobile accident in New Jersey. It was undisputed that the parties were residents of New York, where their vehicles were registered. The defendants moved for summary judgment to dismiss the case on the grounds that the plaintiff did not sustain a serious injury. The lower court denied defendants’ motion and the Appellate Division unanimously affirmed.

The sole issue on appeal was whether the fortuitous circumstance that the accident happened in New Jersey should negate the requirement of plaintiff having to prove a “serious injury” under Insurance Law § 5102(d). The court determined that it does, emphasizing that New York’s no-fault law applies only to “injuries arising out of negligence in the use or operation of a motor vehicle in this state ” (Insurance Law § 5104[a] [emphasis added]). In this regard, the court stated that it has consistently been held that the statute is not to be given extraterritorial effect.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Passenger Who Grabs Steering Wheel Not an “Insured Person” Under Policy

In Progressive Halycon Ins. Co. v. Giacometti, 71 A.D.3d 1503 (4th Dept. 2010), the court determined that a passenger who grabbed the steering wheel and pulled the vehicle to the right after the driver steered to the left was not an insured person within the meaning of the automobile policy. In this case, the driver/insured leased the vehicle with a policy that limited an insured person to those who used the vehicle with the insured’s express or implied permission. The court determined that Progressive met its burden in establishing that the driver, who grabbed the steering wheel, had neither the express or implied permission of the driver/insured to use the vehicle and therefore was excluded under the policy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Upstate New York Accident Applies Law of Ontario, Canada Concerning Noneconomic Damages

The case of Butler v. Stagecoach Group, PLC, 2010 N.Y. Slip Op. 03615 (4th Dept. April 30, 2010) involves a collision in Upstate New York, between a chartered bus transporting a young woman’s hockey team from Ontario, Canada and a tractor-trailer parked on the side of the road. This case involves 12 consolidated appeals concerning four separate but related actions seeking damages for injuries and/or wrongful death resulting from this collision.

As part of the appeal, plaintiffs contend that the court erred in determining that the law of Ontario, Canada concerning noneconomic damages be applied. However, the Appellate Division concluded that the court did not abuse its discretion in applying Ontario law regarding noneconomic damages. The court went on to state that the measure of damages is an issue of substantive law, therefore a conflict of laws analysis was required to determine whether New York or Ontario law applied. The Court used the Neumeir rule to resolve the choice of law issue and ultimately determined that although the parties were domiciled in different Countries, the application of Ontario law did not violate the public policy of New York.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jury Verdict in Favor of Plaintiff Injured in Automobile Accident Affirmed

In Garrison v. Lapine, 2010 N.Y. Slip. Op. 03515 (3d Dept. April 29, 2010), the Appellate Division, Third Department, affirmed the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to set aside the verdict. This case was commenced by plaintiff and her husband, derivatively, to recover damages resulting from injuries sustained by plaintiff in an automobile accident. Defendants conceded liability but a jury trial was held to determine, among other things, causation and damages. After a finding that the plaintiff had suffered a significant limitation of the use of a body function or system, as well as a permanent consequential limitation of the use of a body organ or member, the jury awarded plaintiff $500,000 for past pain and suffering and $2 million for future pain and suffering for a period of 31 years. In addition, the jury awarded plaintiff’s husband $400,000 for loss of consortium.

Defendants moved to set aside the verdict, asserting that the damage award deviated materially from what would be reasonable compensation. However, the lower court denied this motion and the appellate court affirmed. The Appellate Court reiterated the rule that to successfully challenge a determination as to the amount of damages to be awarded, the records evidence must preponderate in favor of the moving party to such a degree that the verdict could not have been reached on any fair interpretation of the evidence. The Court held that defendant did not meet this burden, and in view of the evidence on the record concluded that the jury’s verdict was amply supported by a fair interpretation of the evidence and the damages awarded were well within the range of reasonable compensation.