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Fatal traffic accidents on the increase in NYC

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Car Accidents on Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Although the City of New York has made numerous traffic safety improvements, the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2011-2012 has increased, according to a report from city’s Department of Transportation. In the fiscal year that ended in July, there were 291 fatal traffic accidents, compared to the 2010-2011 fiscal year, when there were 236 traffic deaths. This represents a 23 percent increase in fatal traffic accidents.

The report breaks down the types of accidents: 115 fatalities involved motor vehicle drivers or passengers, while the other 176 involved bicyclists or pedestrians. The primary causes of fatal accidents were identified as speeding, drunk driving and running red lights and stop signs. These accounted for 54 percent of driver and passenger fatalities.

This happened during a year when the total number of traffic crashes, fatal and non-fatal, actually decreased. The 2011-2012 number was one percent less than the previous year – 176, 482 in 2011-2012, compared to 179, 112 in 2010-2011.

The decrease in overall traffic accidents reflected the efforts of the city to address traffic safety. The city installed 78 additional speed bumps near schools; 327 speed bumps have been installed in the past five years. Street design improvements near 35 schools have been implemented and 85 schools have begun the begun the street redesign process as part of the “Safe Routes to Schools”

The report notes that the most recent figures are an anomaly, and that traffic deaths have fallen in every year since 2003.

Source: Insurance Journal: “291 Died in NYC Traffic Accidents Last Fiscal Year: Mayor’s Report,” Sep. 27, 2012.

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Study: Teens more likely to be in pedestrian accident

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Personal Injury on Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

A new study from a child safety nonprofit organization says that teenagers became much more likely to get hit by a vehicle when crossing streets over the last five years. The study links this increased accident rate to cell phone-related distractions. So-called “distracted walking” is adding a new dimension to concerns about the rise in distracted driving accidents.

Between 2005 and 2010, rates of child pedestrian injuries dropped across all age groups except one: 16- to 19-year-olds. On the contrary, accidents in which cars struck older teenage pedestrians while crossing the street rose 25 percent. This new rate, combined with a decline in injuries to younger age groups, means that 16- to 19-year-olds were three times as likely to get hit by a car in 2010.

Unsurprisingly, the nonprofit group behind the study linked the sharp increase to the rise of phones. Dramatically more teenagers own cell phones now than ten years ago. While phones bring enormous social and convenience benefits, teenagers apparently need to put them down and focus on their surroundings when crossing streets.

With the growing ubiquity of phones and other portable electronic devices, phone-related distractions have become a source of serious concerns. Most states, for example, prohibit texting and other phone activities while driving a car. Distracted walking, especially among teenagers, may become an equally difficult safety problem.

Source: USA Today, “Report: ‘Distracted walking’ endangers teens,” Greg Toppo, Aug. 29, 2012

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Bicycle accidents not always the fault of motor vehicles

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Bicycle Accidents on Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Most accident stories involving bicycles in New York City feature motor vehicles as the cause of the crashes. But what about bicycles that cause accidents? A recent incident in Central Park shows just how dangerous a careless bike rider can be.

A bind man who trains for the New York City Marathon in the park was walking in the pedestrian lane when he was hit from behind by a bicycle. Police and other witnesses estimate that the cyclist was going at least 35 mph, 10 miles over the limit in the park.

The victim, 38-year-old Richard Bernstein, is an attorney, triathalete and a well-known advocate for the disabled. The accident occurred at about 10:00 AM above East 90th Street. The victim was wearing a bright yellow t-shirt and was carrying a reflective cane. He suffered significant injuries, including numerous lacerations, a broken pelvis and hip, and lost several teeth. He said that when the ambulance brought him to Mount Sinai Hospital, he learned that he was the second pedestrian that morning with injuries caused by a speeding bicycle.

The Daily News recently investigated the problem of speeding bicyclists in the park. Within 35 minutes, 16 bicycle riders were clocked at more than 35 mph, or ten mph over the usual speed limit.

From his hospital bed, Bernstein said, “It was a direct hit. I was just walking. And then I was on the ground, my face in the asphalt.”

Source: Daily News, “After Daily News exposes Central Park bike chaos, blind marathon runner Richard Bernstein is struck by speeding cyclist,” by Larry McShane and Kerry Burke, Aug. 16, 2012.

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Rapid changes to New York streets pose challenges to the visually impaired

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Car Accidents on Thursday, August 16th, 2012

As every New Yorker knows, the streets of the city are constantly changing. However, recent changes are catching even seasoned residents of the city off-guard, and no group faces more challenges in light of recent street re-design than the blind.

Blind people navigate New York by mentally recording the streetscape – every bump, planter, light pole and grate. But the advent of massive construction projects, pedestrian plazas and bike lanes have been game-changers for many blind people who once found New York to be an accessible city and who suffered few injuries as a result of pedestrian accidents.

The navigation signs, such as poles and sidewalk cuts, are not the only clues that are changing. Audible signals, something blind people especially rely on, are changing as well. Hybrid cars and bicycles make little noise, making it very difficult for someone who cannot see to know whether traffic is coming.

Blind New Yorkers acknowledge that change is inevitable, and they are willing to live with that. However, the recent pace of change has been such that previously mobile blind people are becoming reluctant to leave the safety of their homes. City Council member and transportation committee chair James Vacca acknowledged that the special needs of blind people were not always considered when implementing the many construction projects that are currently underway in the city.

Advocacy groups like Lighthouse International and the PASS Coalition have lobbied for increased audible pedestrian signals and more detectable warning strips as counter measures that can help blind pedestrians continue to navigate despite new obstacles. The city has begun both, but the pace is slow. For example, they city’s plan calls for the replacement of 25 current traffic signals with audible signals each year. Given the number of traffic lights in New York City, some feel this is a token gesture.

Some blind people are concerned about the soon-to-be-implemented bike share program. They fear that the number of silent vehicles will increase the hazards they face as they venture outside.

Source: New York Times, “With Changes in New York’s Streets, More Hurdles for the City’s Blind Pedestrian,” by Matt Flegenheimer, July 29, 2012.


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Bike riders and walkers may get a break on the Brooklyn Bridge

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Bicycle Accidents on Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Tensions between bike riders and pedestrians on the Brooklyn Bridge may lessen if some City Council members have their way. Brad Lander (Brooklyn), Margaret Chin (Manhattan) and Steve Levin (Brooklyn) have called for a safer pedestrian crossing to protect both cyclists and walkers from accidents.

Congestion on the bridge is intensified by the many tourists who walk onto the iconic structure to snap pictures of the city skyline. Because they are usually standing still while taking photos, they often create serious hazards for other users of bridge deck.

On a typical day, 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bicyclists use the bridge – a number that rises significantly in the summer. Although there are designated lanes for walkers and bikers, visitors to the city are often unaware of the importance of staying in their lanes.

Bikers and other walkers try to go around pedestrians who have halted to take a picture, and bikers may zip into the walking lane to try to avoid tourists who have drifted into the bike lane. Walking or riding across the Brooklyn Bridge is not a simple proposition.

Currently, the bike lane varies from eight to sixteen feet. The council members would like to increase the lane to 32 feet in most part of the span. This would require extending the overhang over the vehicle deck. It may also require the bridge to be reinforced to carry the extra weight from both the larger non-vehicle lanes and the larger number of people and bikes that would use the larger lanes.

The proponents of the plan would also like to see cyclists and walkers separated by a permanent structure – something that would also add weight to the bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge is currently under a two-year renovation. However, the current project does not include plans to expand the space available to pedestrians and bike riders. Additionally, neither the City Council members nor the city’s traffic department can say how much extending the walking and biking lanes would cost the city.

Source: New York Daily News, “City Councilmembers call for widening of pedestrian lane on Brooklyn Bridge in effort to avoid dangerous collisions with cyclists,” by Erin Durkin, Aug. 7, 2012.

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Study tests whether hormonal treatments can help brain injuries

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Traumatic Brain Injury on Friday, June 29th, 2012

The New York Times recently ran an article about a new study that is investigating whether the hormone progesterone could help treat brain injuries. One of the study participants highlighted in the article suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was hit by a car last December. The 18-year-old college student was struck by the car while crossing the street and flew 30 feet away.

Doctors told her parents that they were not sure if she would ever recover and felt her best hope was to be enrolled in the study on hormonal treatments. The progesterone must be administered within four hours of the traumatic brain injury. Earlier studies have shown that progesterone helps to improve the chance of surviving a brain injury.

Once a person survives, they still face a tough and extended recovery period — sometimes the rest of their life. Doctors involved in the study hope that progesterone helps to reduce the amount of disability following the brain injury. So far, the young woman highlighted in the story has learned to walk again and is hopeful she will return to college.

It is not known yet whether any of her recovery could be due to progesterone because doctors won’t know until the study is completed whether she received the hormone or a placebo.

The idea for using progesterone to treat brain injuries came about because one of the doctors in the study noticed that female rats remembered things better than male rats, especially if they were pregnant and had high levels of progesterone in their systems. Even if the rats had brain injuries, the females did better than the males with memory tasks.

About 1.7 million people in the U.S. suffer a traumatic brain injury every year and 50,000 die. Better treatments are needed for brain injuries to minimize damage to the organ and prevent or reduce future disability. It will be interesting to see the results of this new study.

Source: The New York Times, “Study Tests if Progesterone Can Save Lives After Brain Injury,” David Tuller, June 18, 2012

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Even Fatal Pedestrian Accidents Often Result in No Charges in NYC

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Car Accidents on Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Hitting a pedestrian with a car is apparently not a crime in New York City. This fact was highlighted in a recent accident that left actor Michael McKean and two other pedestrians injured. The crash that involved two vehicles that collided and lost control occurred at Broadway and 86th Street on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

McKeen was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital in critical condition, bleeding from the head. He was subsequently diagnosed with a broken leg and upgraded to stable condition.

A nearby doorman was heard to say, “That’s a horrible corner, a very dangerous corner.” He added that drivers run red lights all the time at this intersection. Despite the injuries, the Daily News reported that no criminality was suspected. This is typical; drivers are rarely charged after causing accidents that kill or injured pedestrians.

In 2011, for example, 241 people riding bicycles or walking were killed by motor vehicles, but only 17 drivers were charged with criminal offenses. No drivers were charged last year after causing accidents that resulted in injuries.

The New York City Council conducted hearings to determine why drivers are seldom if ever charged in pedestrian accidents, asking why accident-causing drivers don’t even receive traffic summonses for running red lights, failing to yield, or speeding? The answer apparently is that the city does not have the resources. Only 23 officers are assigned to the city’s Accident Investigation Squad, and they don’t have time to do much more than investigate the worst fatal accidents.

Pedestrians have been second-class citizens in New York City for some time. For example, the concept of “jaywalking,” introduced in the 1920s, suggests that pedestrians, rather than drivers, are the law-breakers.

Source: New York Magazine, “Hitting Pedestrians With a Car Still Not Criminal in New York City,” by Joe Coscareli, May 23, 2012.

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Megabus gets free ride amid street safety concerns

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Premises Liability on Saturday, April 28th, 2012

If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to travel, consider Megabus. You can go from Minneapolis to Chicago or New York to Baltimore for around $20 dollars if you buy your ticket on the correct day. It’s a service favored by college students and others who are short on cash and willing to be flexible about where the bus drops them off. The buses usually stops near a city center, but not in a bus terminal. Rather, passengers are loaded and unloaded on the sidewalk – no ticket counter, no restrooms, no snacks.

However, in New York City, the drop-off and pick-up spots for Megabus are right outside the Port Authority bus terminal, on West 41st Street, between 8th and 9th avenues. This has several groups up in arms. Other bus companies are protesting bitterly, saying that they are paying millions for the use of the terminal, while Megabus gets a free ride. Neighborhood groups, such as the Clinton Hell’s Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety, have raised concerns about traffic and pedestrian accidents.

A group of bus companies that include Greyhound Lines, Peter Pan and Adirondack Trailways, sued the city, charging that the city’s action in allowing Megabus to conduct business right outside of Port Authority gave it an unfair advantage. However, a judge recently dismissed the lawsuit, saying that the plaintiffs did not show how they would be harmed by having Megabus park on West 41st Street.

The neighborhood around West 41st Street is also concerned. Last month, police cited a Megabus vehicle for being 5,000 overweight in the Lincoln Tunnel. The double-decker buses used by the low-cost carrier are typically bigger and heavier than most intercity buses and thus harder to stop and turn. Moreover, the increased traffic – both vehicular and pedestrian – has raised additional concerns.

Megabus formerly operated at 33rd Street and 9th Avenue. The Department of Transportation said that it moved the stopping point for the carrier because of property development taking place near the former location. It has not said why it chose 41st Street.

The coalition of bus companies reports that it collectively pays $6 million annually to the right to use Port Authority bus terminal. Megabus pays nothing to stop right outside.

Source:Crainsnewyorkbusiness.com. “Bus battle hits the streets,” by Daniel massey, Apr. 22, 2012.

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Unsafe Intersections See Two Fatal Bus Accidents

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Personal Injury on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

According to the website crashstat.com, the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Union Street is the fifth most dangerous intersection in the city of New York for senior pedestrians and bicyclists. This was recently reinforced by the death of a young woman who was hit by an out of service Q44 bus at this intersection, making hers the second pedestrian death within 24 hours.

The bus apparently made a wide right turn onto Northern Boulevard. The pedestrian, Meilan Jin, was pronounced dead at the scene. This intersection has seen at least 23 other pedestrian accidents between 1995 and 2009. The second pedestrian death occurred in Manhattan at the corner of 125th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. An M60 bus travelling west on 125th Street hit Willie Gomez, who died at St. Luke’s hospital.

Authorities at the New York City Department of Transportation say that the accident rate at the Northern Boulevard crash site has declined and that the last fatality was in 2008. They point to countdown signals and the reduction in the distance pedestrians must walk to cross the street successfully. The St. Nicholas and 125th Street accident has been the scene of 52 pedestrian and bicycle accidents since 1995, none of them fatal.

Source: New York Times, “Two Pedestrians Are Fatally Struck by City Buses,” by Andy Newman, Feb. 23, 2012.

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Recent Projects Improve Pedestrian Safety on New York City Streets

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On behalf of of Kahn Gordon Timko & Rodriques P.C. posted in Personal Injury on Thursday, February 9th, 2012

New York’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Kahn, said recently that recent declines in traffic- related deaths are attributable in part to the city’s aggressive campaign to improve street safety. Some of these projects and changes include:

•· Pedestrian plazas in the middle of intersections

•· Better marking of crosswalks

•· Bike lanes

•· Timed traffic signals, often called countdown signals, at pedestrian crossings

•· More aggressive enforcement of traffic laws

•· Poetic reminders and safety messages posted a high-accident locations near schools and cultural institutions

•· Slow traffic zones around schools

•· Closing streets permanently or temporarily

Despite improvements such as these, drivers still ignore stop signs and violate speed limits routinely. Ms. Sadik-Kahn said that they represent only the beginning of a long-term campaign to improve street safety in New York. Many of the improvements listed above resulted from a detailed statistical survey of traffic accidents that was released in 2010. The traffic commissioner, who was appointed by Mayor Bloomberg in 2007, has set ambitious goals for reducing traffic fatalities.

Source: New York Times, “Personal Health: Giving City Streets Built-In Safety Features,” by Jane Brody, Feb. 6. 2012.

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