Gov. Cuomo Calls For Tougher Laws For School Buses


The number is staggering: 150,000 motor vehicles illegally pass school buses in New York State EVERY YEAR, according to state law enforcement agencies’ estimates. That’s 150,000 drivers in 180 school days a year!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

To address that stunning statistic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed some important changes to make our streets and roads safer for schoolchildren getting on and off buses at all times of the day. And with a Democratic-controlled Legislature behind him, Cuomo’s proposal has a good chance of becoming law.

In his recent 2020 budget proposal, which is supposed to be approved by the Legislature by April 1, Cuomo called for authorizing school districts to install cameras in the stop-sign arms on buses to capture photos of vehicles and drivers that break the law.

He also wants to increase the fine for passing a stopped school bus, and here’s what could be the biggest change for New York State families and schools:

Cuomo wants to require all students to wear seat belts on school buses.

New York State’s school bus seat belt law requires all school buses manufactured after July 1, 1987, to be equipped with seat belts BUT the state does not currently mandate seat belt use on school buses, but rather, leaves the a decision to each school district.

Many of the local districts don’t require student seat belt use, according to transportation policies on their district websites.

The proposal, which has a good chance of becoming law, could lead to some short-term headaches for school districts and their bus drivers as they get students in the habit of buckling up.

“The safety of New York’s schoolchildren is our top priority and reckless drivers who put our kids in danger must be held accountable,” Gov. Cuomo said in announcing the proposal. “Motorists have a responsibility to pay attention and abide by the law, especially when driving in the vicinity of school buses, and these measures will ensure students make it to and from school safely and help prevent needless tragedies.”

downloadState Senator Tom O’Mara of the Southern Tier supports Cuomo’s proposal.

“The State Legislature has taken many actions to strengthen school bus safety and to continually try to encourage, enhance and enforce motorist safety,” he said in a prepared statement. “I believe it should be a fundamental priority and responsibility. The Governor has thrown his support behind commonsense actions this session, including the installation of stop-arm cameras on school buses, which the Senate unanimously approved last year. This action can make a difference and I strongly support its inclusion in this year’s budget.”

In New York, Cuomo said, 1.5 million students ride school buses to and from school every year.

The penalties in New York State and Pennsylvania for passing a stopped school bus are stiff and will likely get tougher soon in New York.

According to New York State’s Operation Safe Stop, the penalties for passing a stopped school bus now are:

First conviction, fines from $250 to $400 and up to 30 days in jail.

Second conviction, $600 to $750 in fines and up to 180 days in jail.

Third conviction, $750 to $1,000 in fines and up to 180 days in jail.

In Pennsylvania, drivers convicted could face a $250 fine and a possible 60-day suspension of their license.

What do you think of mandatory seat-belt use on school buses? Please add your comments below ….

If you want to learn more:

Cuomo announcement.

New York’s Operation Safe Stop.

PENNDOT school bus safety information.

U.S. Department of Transportation on School Bus Safety.

Thanks for reading,


Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 & 2019 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and




Beware of Insurance Adjusters! How to Navigate Your Insurance After a Car Crash


If you’ve ever been in a car crash, you’ve probably talked on the phone or in person shortly after the collision with an adjuster from your insurance company or the other vehicle’s insurance company. It’s a confusing time, often with police and ambulances and many other concerns in addition to your car insurance.

But if you have been in a crash, you’ll have to deal with insurance adjusters. They usually appear to be nice people, soothing and sympathetic. They are trying to make you think they are Here To Help You. They reassure you that they are recording your statement about the crash to get your version of events right away, and they’ll process your claim faster this way.

But before you get swept up in the frantic moments after a crash, remember this about insurance adjusters: They’re not your friends. They are doing their job, and that’s to save the insurance company as much money as possible on your crash.


Here are some great points to remember about insurance adjusters and recorded victim statements:

  • Most crash victims just want to do the right thing and honestly record what happened in their crash when meeting with an insurance adjuster. But when the recorder is running, many crash victims misstate the facts, ramble, and make incorrect assumptions that will hurt them in the long run.
  • They are recording your statement in hopes that once you get talking, you’ll make a mistake they can use later against you in a trial, deny your claim or pay you less money.
  • Most people are not prepared to be questioned by a trained investigator, so it’s best to decline the adjuster’s request for a recorded interview or statement. Once that red light is on on the recorder, you will forget things, or remember something incorrectly, or misspeak in some other way. It happens to everyone in a high-pressure situation. Of course, the adjuster will make it sound like a rejection makes you act like you have something to hide. Don’t fall for that line. Just politely decline and end the discussion. Get a lawyer and be prepared professionally for your statement.
  • If you want to talk to the adjuster, ask to schedule a follow-up call for the statement and take time to read the police report, revisit the crash scene, review the damage to your car, and read any medical records you can obtain. Call witnesses and review the evidence carefully. Finally, be sure to review your insurance policy.

Set some rules for yourself for the meeting with the adjuster:

  • Request that the adjuster take notes and not record your meeting, unless your insurance carrier required it in your contract.
  • Be honest but brief.
  • Focus on each question, briefly answer it, and don’t ramble.
  • Do not volunteer information.
  • Only explain when asked to do so, and do it briefly.
  • If you don’t understand a question, don’t answer it.
  • When it comes to distances and amounts and speeds and items like that, don’t guess or make assumptions.
  • You can’t remember everything. If you’re not sure about something, say you are unsure.
  • Don’t be bullied into answering questions.
  • No absolute words like “never” and “always”.
  • Speak slowly and clearly.
  • Never guess. If your answer is a guess, say you can’t answer the question.
  • Ask for a transcribed copy of your recorded statement and review it for accuracy.
  • Memories of collisions get jumbled. Don’t easily admit wrongdoing if you do not believe you were at fault.
  • Bring a witness when you speak to the adjuster.
  • Take notes of questions asked of you by the adjuster.
  • Do not sign anything unless an attorney on your behalf has reviewed it.

If you’re a crash victim and you’re concerned about dealing with insurance companies, contact the Ziff Law Firm to see how we can help you by calling (607) 733-8866 or emailing [email protected].

Be well and drive safely,


James Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and

Many thanks to the lawyers at the Hepworth Holzer law firm in Boise, Idaho, who contributed to these tips.

Doctors Struggle To Curb Patients Who Pose Serious Danger To Other Drivers On The Road, Says NY and PA Medical Malpractice Lawyer


Doctors face a daunting challenge when they are treating a patient who is impaired or has a disability that makes that patient an unsafe driver.

the-information-age-has-enabled-doctors-to-view-patient-data-on-laptops-_1508_608708_0_14091474_500Many doctors will want to get the patients’ keys away from them quickly and without incident, but they have to take great care not to breach that patient’s confidentiality.

Doctors shouldn’t notify the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles without talking with the patient, and with the patient’s permission, notify their family and the DMV, unless the patient has already done so.

Those are some of the key conclusions discussed in a story in the Spring 2016 Dateline newsletter published by the Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co.

According to Donnaline Richmond, counsel to the company, doctors need to document every step they take to protect themselves and their employer.

Doctors know patients will rarely do what’s required and report a disabling condition to the DMV, Richmond said. So doctors need to inform and warn patients of the risk of their medical condition – and fully document those warnings.

According to Richmond, among the steps doctors should document:

  • How medication or a medical condition make it unsafe for the patient to drive.
  • All attempts to communicate doctors’ concerns to the patients and their families, and their attempts to gain consent from patients.
  • All DMV paperwork completed for the patient, once the doctor has the patient’s written authorization.
  • All phone records from calls to patients and their family members regarding the patients’ inability to drive.
  • Patients’ written authorization to release medical information.
  • Reports to the Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped, if it applies.

Thanks for reading.

Christina Sonsire
[email protected]













Twin Tiers Drivers, Have You Heard Of The “Move Over” Law?


I recently received a message from a Twin Tiers resident after a friend of hers received a $300 ticket on a New York State highway for allegedly violating the state’s “Move Over” law.

The woman said her friend slowed down as she passed a police car, which was stopped with flashing lights. The officer was helping a motorist with a disabled vehicle.

Shortly after that, an officer pulled over her friend and informed her about the law and told her she always needs to slow down AND move to the passing lane. The woman who wrote the note to me said she had never heard of the law, and neither had any of her friends.

She suggested I warn our blog readers, and I thought that was a great idea!

I hope this story opens the eyes of many Twin Tiers drivers who were not aware of the law, and serves as a stark reminder to those who have heard of the law but did not know the specifics.

The Ambrose-Searles Move Over Law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2011, is named in honor of New York State Trooper Robert W. Ambrose and Onondaga County Deputy Sheriff Glenn Matthew Searles, who were killed by vehicles while helping motorists. The law is designed to protect law enforcement and emergency workers.

In 2012, the law was amended to include tow and service-vehicle operators.

When approaching these vehicles that are stopped, parked or standing on the shoulder, drivers are required to:

  • Reduce speed.

  • Move to an open lane (unless they cannot do so safely).

Read the full text of the law here.

The penalties are stiff:

It’s a moving violation and three points on your license. (It was two points in 2011, but increased to three points when the law was revised in 2012.)

The fine is $275 PLUS a state surcharge (tax).

If you have two violations of this law in an 18-month period, the state DMV slaps you with a Driver Assessment Fee, which STARTS at $300 and could go up from there.

So the next time you approach an emergency vehicle or service vehicles helping motorists, SLOW DOWN AND TRY TO GET OVER INTO THE NEXT LANE.

If it’s not possible to get over, give them as much room as you can and go slowly.


Thanks for reading, and take it slow out there!



James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and



NY and PA Accident Lawyer: Do You Have Enough Car Insurance?

Be sure to check your car insurance policy to be sure you have enough coverage in case you have an accident.

The recent fight between Progressive Insurance and the family of a Progressive customer who was killed in a car accident has drivers everywhere dusting off their insurance policies, wondering whether they have enough insurance.  It is a great question to ask yourself and I generally recommend that most people carry at least $250,000 of both liability AND SUM (under-insured) coverage.

In a recent New York Times Your Money column,“How To Know If You Have Enough Car Insurance,” columnist Ron Lieber looked at drivers’ options from a financial vs. safety standpoint. His question to readers: Do you want to gamble on an inexpensive policy and leave yourself open to staggering bills from a car accident?

To refresh your memory, Matt Fisher, whose sister Katie was killed in a car accident, wrote in a blog post that Katie’s insurance company (Progressive) was defending the other driver in court in hopes of not having to pay a settlement to Katie’s family. The blog post went viral. We wrote about the Fishers’ story here.

Progressive tried to convince a jury that Katie Fisher caused the accident, but it lost and will now have to pay the claim and a settlement.

According to a new report in the Insurance Journal, consumers’ perception of Progressive is at its lowest point in four years after getting rightly trounced in the news media and court of public opinion.

In the Times article, the columnist challenged under-insured drivers to weigh the cost of buying better coverage vs. gambling that they will never have an accident. That’s a dangerous gamble.

Here is how the columnist laid out the options:

“It’s worth looking at a couple of areas where vulnerability can be particularly high: liability insurance (in case you hurt or kill someone else) and the uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage that was at stake in the Fisher case. Then, we can see what our odds are of needing to make a claim and how comfortable we are making bets accordingly.”

He continues:

“The odds of running into people with no insurance at all to pay for your claims against them are probably higher than you think. The Insurance Research Council’s most recent estimate, from 2009, is that 13.8 percent of all United States drivers have no insurance at all.

“ISO, an insurance risk information service, estimates that about 20 percent of people who do have insurance purchase just the minimum liability coverage in case they hurt someone else. Their policies may pay out as little as $25,000 in many states.”

I know we have written about the need for SUM (Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists) coverage MANY times but I keep beating the drum about the need for EVERYONE to check their car insurance policy to have this very important coverage because every day I continue to encounter folks who don’t have this coverage.

Just last week I met with a very nice and very bright local businessman who had $500,000 of liability coverage to protect others should he have an accident, but only $25,000 to protect himself or his family in that very same accident. Needless to say, he was shocked to learn that his insurance coverage was so deficient but happy to learn that he could buy the SUM coverage he needed for less than $10 a month.

So PLEASE dig out your insurance policy and check your coverage.  If you are unsure if you have the proper types of coverage and the right amounts of coverage, feel free to email me the declaration pages listing your coverages and I will be happy to let you know what I think.  You many email me at [email protected]  Of course there is no fee for this review– I just want to make sure folks get the coverage they need.

If you find you don’t have enough coverage, contact your insurance company and invest more in your future, if necessary, to protect you and your family in the event of an accident.

For drivers in Elmira, Corning and the Twin Tiers — thanks for reading, and stay safe!

Thanks, Jim

James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and

States Wisely Setting Tougher Limits On Teen Drivers, Says NY and PA Accident Lawyer

New curfews and practice requirements are among the changes facing teenage drivers in many states.

A recent New York Times article pointed out that more and more states are putting tough new limits on teenage drivers. The states are trying to cut down of the opportunities for teenagers to pile a bunch of their friends in a car and go for a ride that could end tragically.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers. Two-thirds of those deaths are in a car driven by another teenager, the Times reports.

Pennsylvania and New York State have been among the states setting tough limits on teen drivers, limiting teenage passengers and setting strict curfews for the young drivers. In Pennsylvania, there is a limit of one teenage passenger per teen driver and the state has the toughest requirement for practice driving in the nation, 65 hours, according to the Times. In New York, teenagers have to have 50 hours of supervised driving before they can take their road test, and 16-year-olds must wait a minimum of six months after they get their permit to take the road test. They can only have one non-family member under 21 as a passenger.

As the father of three kids (two in their twenties and a 17-year-old) and a lawyer who has handled countless car crash lawsuits, I am nervous every time one of my kids drives down the driveway. I know all too well the dangers of teen driving. To my kids, I have always preached safe driving and insisted on safe cars with airbags and good tires. 

One important thing I have learned from accident reconstruction experts in my cases is that one of the greatest factors influencing fatal teen crashes is the number of kids in the car. More kids in the car GREATLY enhances the likelihood of a fatal car crash. This makes sense — teens are pack animals and pack mentality encourages idiotic, risk-taking behavior. We all know the power of peer pressure, and peer pressure in a car is a recipe for disaster.

So, as a Dad and as a lawyer representing car crash victims, I am 100 percent in support of laws that limit the number of passengers accompanying teen drivers.

I hope all parents of teenagers in Elmira, Corning and the Twin Tiers are preaching safety to their young drivers! Parents, what are you doing to make your young driver safer? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Thanks, Jim

James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and


UPDATE: More Elmira Pedestrian Accidents …. It’s Time for Drivers to Wake Up and Watch Out for Walkers and Bicyclists

Two accidents involving pedestrians in the last 24 hours in Elmira serve as a stark reminder of the dangers facing pedestrians from inattentive or distracted drivers!

First, a mother and her 1-year-old child were injured, then a 17-year-old girl was struck 45 minutes later!

In the Elmira/Corning area where I live, there seems to be a growing trend of cars and trucks hitting pedestrians and bicyclists. I think this is a combination of more walkers/bikers and more cars/trucks sharing the roads together with a huge increase in the number of distracted drivers on the road.

These drivers are distracted by phones, radios, texting — or they are simply not paying attention.

In both Elmira pedestrian injury cases, the pedestrians were crossing the four-lane Clemens Center Parkway, which is a nightmare for pedestrians because they have to move quickly to get across safely before the light changes.

How many times have we seen pedestrians stranded unsafely in the middle of an intersection, waiting for the light to change again? This problem is especially obvious on a road like the Clemens Center Parkway, where the road is four lanes wide and there is a higher speed limit.

BUT REMEMBER:  NY LAW REQUIRES A MOTOR VEHICLE TO YIELD TO A PEDESTRIAN!  So regardless of the color of the light, if you see a pedestrian on the road, follow the law and give them a safe distance.

In one of the accidents, a mother and her 1-year-old child in a stroller were struck. They suffered minor injuries, police said.

According to news reports, the first accident occurred at about 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Clemens Center Parkway and East Fifth Street, Elmira, NY. The mother and child were transported to Arnot Ogden Medical Center and the driver of the pickup truck accused of striking them, Clayton Stevens of Lowman, was charged with Failing to Yield and Driving with a Suspended License.

A 17-year-old girl was hospitalized with internal injuries and possible broken bones after a second accident 45 minutes later involving a pedestrian at the Clemens Center Parkway and South Avenue on Elmira’s Southside. She is being treated at Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre. Police said the investigation continues.

See the news reports from WETM-TV and the Star-Gazette.

Remember the 17-year-old girl, and the mother and her 1-year-old child, the next time you’re driving on Clemens Center Parkway and SLOW DOWN. As you approach intersections, even if you have a green light, scan both sides of the road for pedestrians. Remember there may be people still trying to cross the road!

Finally, FOCUS ON THE ROAD — not your text messages or your missed phone calls or talk radio or talking with your passengers.

Someone else’s life may depend on you paying attention to the road!

Thanks for reading.

Thanks, Jim


James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Mailto: [email protected]
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and


Easy Way To Save 10% On Your Car Insurance, Says NY Accident Attorney

An online driving course in New York State offers motorists many benefits.

Online driving courses make sense for all motorists. Successfully completing a course (on your schedule) in New York State will lower your insurance premiums a minimum of 10 percent for three years, may reduce four points on your license (if you have violations) and will refresh your skills.

Like most people, I took the online course to lower my insurance premiums, but I found the course very informative and educational. says that if you’re between 16 and 25, you can save about 15 percent each year on your auto insurance for taking a defensive driving class, and those over the age of 55 can get a discount of 5 percent.

According to the blog Lifehacker, online courses are about $35, depending on the type of class you have to take, and they usually take four to eight hours. They often give you several weeks to finish the course. Each time you sign in, you’re returned to where you last worked.

The New York Department of Motor Vehicles has a great website about its Point & Insurance Reduction Program. Please check it out.

Also check out the state’s list of approved courses.

Drivers in Elmira, Corning and the Twin Tiers can save some money – and make our roads safer for everyone – by taking an online course. It’s that easy. Save money and save lives. That’s a great combination!

Have you taken an online driving course? What tips do you have for my readers? Did you find the course challenging? Please share your thoughts with your neighbors!

Thanks for reading.


James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Mailto: [email protected]
Office: (607) 733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and