UPDATE: DOT Worker From Owego Who Was Hit By Trucker On Route 17 In Tioga County Dies

WENY-TV

WENY-TV

The New York State Department of Transportation worker who was seriously injured on March 13 when his truck was hit by a tractor-trailer on state Route 17 in Tioga County, NY, died Monday. Police said the driver of the tractor-trailer failed to obey the state’s Move Over Law.

The Tioga County, N.Y., Sheriff’s Office identified the DOT employee as 45-year-old Dennis Matthew Howe of Owego. He was airlifted on March 13 to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre, where he died Monday.

The Sheriff’s Office said a tractor-trailer driven by 37-year-old Lawrence Faucett of Ulster, PA, struck the state DOT truck in the westbound lane between Exit 63 (to Lounsberry) and Exit 62 (to Nichols). DOT employees were performing roadway maintenance when the truck was hit.

Faucett was ticketed for Moving from the Lane Unsafely and Failure to Obey the Move Over Law. The investigation continues.

A GoFundMe account has been established to help Howe’s family with medical expenses. As of the morning of March 20, it had raised more than $15,000.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff on all state government buildings in honor of Howe. Flags will be flown half-staff until Howe’s burial.

According to the governor’s office, Howe had been a DOT employee since 2006. Cuomo called Howe a “jack of all trades who was always eager to lend a hand to the team.”

Howe’s death is a tragic reminder of the dangers facing DOT workers face, Cuomo said.

“There is nothing routine about what our maintenance forces do to keep New York’s highways safe, and we have zero tolerance for anyone who flagrantly puts the lives and safety of our workers in jeopardy,” Cuomo said “This year, I called for stricter protections for transportation workers to send a clear message that New York stands with our workers.”

The NY Move Over Law requires cars to move over and slow down, if they can safely do so, for police, firefighters, ambulance workers, tow-truck drivers and other personnel as they work at crash scenes. Motorists are similarly required to move when construction and maintenance vehicles are stopped alongside roads – this includes New York State Department of Transportation vehicles who care for our highways.

The law, first enacted in 2011, was expanded in July 2016 to include volunteer firefighter and ambulance workers. In November 2016, sanitation vehicles, such as garbage and recycling trucks, were also added.

According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, more than 100,000 people have been ticketed for failing to move over since 2011, including more than 12,000 in 2018.

The penalty for violating the Move Over Law is a fine of up to $150, or jail time of up to 15 days, or both. It also counts for two points on a driver’s license. A second offense within 18 months of the first one could double the amount of the fine, pushing it up to $300. A third offense in 18 months could lead to a fine of up to $450.

There are also steep state surcharges on moving violations: $88 or $93 upon conviction for violating New York’s Move Over Law, and there’s an impact on vehicle insurance: Studies confirm that being convicted of a moving violation can result in a rate increase of up to 20 percent, sometimes more.

The Move Over Law is important – it protects vulnerable people who are forced to work at the edges of roadways where cars, trucks and tractor trailers are flying by mere feet away.  Because the protected people are busy doing their job, they can’t pay as much attention to traffic as they would like.  When people violate the move over law, the results can be tragic, and injuries are certain to be very serious because of the speed of the moving vehicles.

The Move Over Law is a common-sense solution to give the protected workers room to do their jobs, so move over, slow down, and make sure everyone goes home safe at the end of the day.

Thank you for reading,

Adam M. Gee
[email protected]
(607) 733-8866

 


DOT Worker Hurt By Trucker Who Is Accused Of Violating Move Over Law, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

WENY-TV

WENY-TV

A tractor-trailer driver is accused of violating New York State’s Move Over Law after police said his truck struck a New York State Department of Transportation vehicle, injuring a DOT employee, Wednesday morning in a work zone on State Route 17 in the town of Nichols in Tioga County, N.Y.

move-over-poster2News reports said the DOT employee, who police said was seriously injured, was airlifted to Robert Packer Hospital in Sayre. Police did not identify the DOT employee or release any other information about the extent of the DOT employee’s injuries.

The truck driver, Lawrence Faucett, 37, of Ulster, PA, was ticketed for Failure To Move Over and Moving From Lane Unsafely.

The Tioga County, N.Y., Sheriff’s Office was assisted by the Owego Fire Department, New York State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, New York State DOT, and Guthrie Air Medical.

The NY Move Over Law requires cars to move over and slow down, if they can safely do so, for police, firefighters, ambulance workers, tow-truck drivers and other personnel as they work at crash scenes. Motorists are similarly required to move when construction and maintenance vehicles are stopped alongside roads – this includes NYS Department of TRansportation Vehicles who care for our highways.

The law, first enacted in 2011, was expanded in July 2016 to include volunteer firefighter and ambulance workers. In November 2016, sanitation vehicles, such as garbage and recycling trucks, were also added.

According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, more than 100,000 people have been ticketed for failing to move over since 2011, including more than 12,000 in 2018.

The penalty for violating the Move Over Law is a fine of up to $150, or jail time of up to 15 days, or both. It also counts for two points on a driver’s license. A second offense within 18 months of the first one could double the amount of the fine, pushing it up to $300. A third offense in 18 months could lead to a fine of up to $450.

There are also steep state surcharges on moving violations: $88 or $93 upon conviction for violating New York’s Move Over Law, and there’s an impact on vehicle insurance: Studies confirm that being convicted of a moving violation can result in a rate increase of up to 20 percent, sometimes more.

The Move Over Law is important – it protects vulnerable people who are forced to work at the edges of roadways where cars, trucks and tractor trailers are flying by mere feet away.  Because the protected people are busy doing their job, they can’t pay as much attention to traffic as they would like.  When people violate the move over law, the results can be tragic, and injuries are certain to be very serious because of the speed of the moving vehicles.

The Move Over Law is a common sense solution to give the protected workers room to do their jobs, so move over, slow down, and make sure everyone goes home safe at the end of the day.

Thank you for reading,

Adam M. Gee
[email protected]
(607) 733-8866

 

 


For Pedestrians, All Crossings Are Danger Zones, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Attorney

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A new national study of pedestrian safety has reported just how unsafe it is to be a pedestrian in 2019.

According to “Dangerous By Design 2019,” published by Smart Growth America, the number of people struck and killed while walking has increased by 35 percent in the last decade.

I am handling many more pedestrian injury cases than ever, which I attribute to more people driving distracted. I often notice when I am stopped at red lights that drivers immediately grab their phones and are texting. They often start rolling forward as they are finishing texts and clearly aren’t paying attention to pedestrians who may still be crossing in front of them.

The report smart growrth coversays drivers struck and killed 49,340 people across the country who were walking on streets between 2008 and 2017. As the authors pointed out, that’s more than 13 people dying every day. One pedestrian dies every hour and 46 minutes every month.

“Dangerous by Design 2019” reports that overall fatal traffic crashes fell slightly in 2017, but 2016 and 2017, the last two years for which there are data, were the most deadly years for walkers killed by drivers since 1990.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that 5,977 pedestrians were killed nationwide in 2017. In 2016, there were 5,987 pedestrians killed in traffic crashes, a 9 percent increase from the 5,495 pedestrian fatalities in 2016. This is the highest number of pedestrians killed in one year since 1990.

Over a 10-year period starting in 2008, Florida appeared to be the most dangerous state for pedestrians, according to federal crash statistics. The Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford area was the most dangerous in the country, with 656 fatalities in 10 years. Florida had eight of the top 10 most dangerous regions.

In 2016, California led the nation in pedestrian fatalities with 867. Florida had the second-most with 652, while New York (304) and Pennsylvania (169) had far fewer fatalities.

Here are some chilling statistics from a 2016 study by the NHTSA, its most recent data:

  • In 2016, pedestrian deaths accounted for 16 percent of all traffic fatalities.
  • Twenty-six percent of pedestrian fatalities occurred from 6 to 8:59 p.m. in 2016.
  • In 2016, one-fifth (20 percent) of the children 14 and younger killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
  • More than two-thirds (70 percent) of the pedestrians killed in traffic crashes were men in 2016.
  • Alcohol involvement — for the driver and/or the pedestrian — was reported in 48 percent of all fatal pedestrian crashes in 2016.
  • In 2016, 90 percent of the pedestrians killed were killed in single-vehicle traffic crashes.
  • One in five pedestrians killed in 2016 were struck in crashes that involved hit-and-run drivers.

In New York State, from 2012 to 2016, pedestrian fatalities ranged from a high of 336 in 2013 to a low of 264 in 2014. In that same time period, injuries ranged from a high of 16,278 in 2013 to a low of 13,413 in 2015.

In Pennsylvania, from 2013 to 2017, pedestrian fatalities ranged from a high of 172 in 2016 to a low of 150 in 2017. In crashes involving pedestrians from 2013 to 2017, the high was 4,375 crashes in 2013 and the lows were 4,001 in 2014 and 2015.

My advice to drivers: Put the phone down, even at stop signs and red lights – it’s the law! Watch for pedestrians, runners, bicyclists, motorcyclists, skateboarders, and more. Pay attention to your surroundings at all times.
My advice to pedestrians: Assume a motorist does not see you until you at least make eye contact. If you’re not sure that a driver will wait for you even after eye contact, signal the driver to be sure it is safe to cross. Never assume just because they see you that they will wait. Also, don’t be a distracted or drunk walker. Those are mistakes that can get you killed.
.

Thanks for reading,

Adam

Adam M. Gee, Esq.
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 


To Keep Roads Safe, Clear Snow And Ice From Your Vehicles, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

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Many of our vehicles are covered with ice and snow from our recent winter storm, and we are about to get hit with more over the next two days.  If we don’t remove that snow and ice before hitting the road it will take to the air, often hitting other vehicles or pedestrians. It’s bad enough when it’s just snow, but given all of the ice we endured recently, it makes those flying snow piles even potentially deadlier weapons.

A Syracuse-area man driving on Interstate 690 said this week that snow and ice that flew off the top of a tractor-trailer smashed the passenger side of his windshield. He was able to pull over safely, but not everyone is that lucky.

“The only way I could describe it is when I saw it, it looked like a giant kite, and it kind of just hung there in the air,” Scott Johnson told the news media.

this-is-safest-way-remove-snow-car-503844496-ratmanerA body shop in Syracuse told the news media it had received at least 60 calls for broken windshields just in one day.

One good rule of thumb when traveling among trucks this time of year: slow down and give them a lot of room, because you never know when snow and ice will be sent flying, especially as the weather warms up.

Also, check your insurance policy and be sure it covers repairs for a shattered windshield.

“What happens quite often is that you’re not aware of who the other person is, whether they’re passing you, you’re passing them, and again, that person may not know that ice came from their vehicle,” said Trooper Jack Keller of the New York State Police.

To protect other motorists – and spare yourself a possible lawsuit if snow and ice off your vehicle causes a crash or damage – consider buying a push broom or snow rake for the top of your vehicle.

In addition to the threat of shattering another driver’s windshield, snow and ice flying off your vehicle can  reduce visibility for other drivers and lead to a crash.

According to AAA, in a 2009 survey, 54 percent of motorists said they never or rarely remove accumulated snow and ice from their vehicles.

New York and Pennsylvania both have laws regarding the removal of snow and ice from vehicles.

In New York, drivers with more than three inches of snow on their roof or cargo area more than three hours after a storm could face $150 to $850 in fines.

In Pennsylvania, the law states: “When snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian, causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of the vehicle from which the snow or ice is dislodged or falls shall be subject to a fine of not less than $200 nor more than $1,000 for each offense.”

No matter where you are, if snow and ice from your vehicle flies off and causes a crash, you could be held responsible for it.

Be a responsible and safe motorist and be sure to remove the snow and ice on your vehicle before turning the key.

Thank you for reading,

Adam M. Gee
[email protected]
(607) 733-8866


Limo Companies, As Expected, Challenge Proposed Stretch Limo Crackdown, But Cuomo Plan Makes Sense

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed ban on remanufactured limousines – like the one in October’s fatal crash in Schoharie County that killed 20 people – would be a good step toward ensuring safer limo experiences across New York State. Many Twin Tiers residents use them for weddings, proms, and Wine Country tours, among other occasions, so it’s time to stop their use for now and consider if we they can be made safer.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Of course, in Albany, the lobbyists – limo industry trade groups – are putting pressure on state lawmakers to oppose the ban, which claims it is already struggling with high taxes and competition from ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft.

Cuomo is proposing a good look at the limo industry, but there are plenty of other limo and bus choices beyond the remanufactured or stretch limos. Many of the stretch limos are remanufactured professionally and safer than the ones remade inexpensively at the garage down the street.

The limo involved in the deadly Oct. 6 crash is accused of circumventing state Department of Transportation inspections and oversight.

When limo company owners stretch the body, do they take into account the other systems, like the brakes, that likely need to be enhanced for the heavier load?

One of the most important parts of Cuomo’s proposal is ending the seat-belt exception for limos, buses, taxis, and other multi-person vehicles, including school buses. I wouldn’t get into a stretch limo with 15 other people unless we all had seat belts available.

According to news reports, in addition to an outright ban on stretched limousines, Cuomo’s proposals would:

  • Make it a felony for any owner/operator to tamper with a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard tag or vehicle inspection sticker, or remove an “out of service” sticker placed by a DOT inspector from a vehicle without having the vehicle re-inspected and cleared by DOT to return to service.
  • Create new criminal penalties for any DMV-regulated inspection station that illegally issues an inspection sticker.
  • Require mandatory reporting by inspection stations to DMV if a vehicle attempts an unauthorized inspection.
  • Increase the civil penalty to a maximum fine of $25,000 per violation for any person found operating with suspended DOT “operating authority” or operating a vehicle without such authority.
  • Prohibit U-turns for larger vehicles on all roads within the state.
  • Establish stronger registration suspension and vehicle impoundment powers, including “an explicit process for immediate suspension of operating authority by the DOT Commissioner in circumstances that endanger the health, safety, and welfare of the public.”
  • Subject multiple violators to the potential for civil forfeiture of vehicle.

Cuomo also wants to require drivers to hold a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) with a special passenger endorsement to operate a for-hire vehicle with eight or more passengers so the drivers would hopefully receive more training and would be more closely regulated.

Some limo company owners are urging state lawmakers to better enforce the existing laws and not ban stretch limos.

“The industry is dead if you ban all (stretch) limos,” Fred Visconti, owner of Visconti Limousines in Newburgh, told the news media. “The answer is to better enforce the regulations we already have, and make companies follow the engineering standards we already have.”

Other limo company owners have said bad owners are dragging down the owners who obey the state laws already in place. Some support monthly inspections and tighter regulations, but not an outright ban.

The president of the Limousine, Bus, Taxi Operators of Upstate New York, Kevin Barwell, said he’s not sure a ban will resolve the problems with stretch limos.

“I think personally the state has a tendency to overreact,” Barwell, the owner of Giorgio’s Limousine Service in Buffalo, told the news media. “Obviously, our members are very upset. This is their livelihood.”

Barwell also has proposed a compromise that would not ban stretch limos outright but limit their size to double the original seating capacity or limit ownership to just 10 years. He said the October crash was not related to how the vehicle was re-manufactured. “This is an unfair action.”

Cuomo, however, said the deadly October crash was a shock to the state and it needs to act.

“We are advancing reforms that will give aggressive new powers that will allow authorities to take dangerous vehicles off the roads without delay, hold unscrupulous businesses accountable, and increase public safety in every corner of New York.”

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 


Gov. Cuomo Calls For Tougher Laws For School Buses

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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

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: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 

 


What Twin Tiers Drivers Need To Know About Roundabout Safety

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Roundabouts have arrived in the Twin Tiers, and the circular intersections have confused many drivers.

Most drivers who rarely see roundabouts have had to learn to (1) slow down as they approach and be ready to yield, and (2), yield to traffic already in the roundabout as they prepare enter.

radialMotorists will find roundabouts on state Route 13 in Horseheads, at Franklin Street and Old Ithaca Road, and a new one in Newfield on Route 13. Many Chemung County-to-Ithaca commuters have learned to navigate roundabouts because they are a daily fact of life.

There are also two small roundabouts on Maple Avenue on Elmira’s Southside, and soon, the city of Elmira will have a high-profile roundabout on North Main Street just south of Elmira College, one of the high traffic areas in the city. The city is still lining up funding for construction of that roundabout after initial bids came in too high.

In this era of aggressive driving, it’s hard to get motorists to slow down and yield, so as we see more roundabouts, we could see more crashes.

The biggest lesson for Twin Tiers drivers? As you approach a roundabout, be prepared to yield to vehicles already in the roundabout when you arrive.

Many motorists shake their heads and argue that roundabouts aren’t needed, that traffic lights and stop signs work just fine, but transportation and highway safety officials say they are safer. Especially for left-turning traffic.

Andy Avery (WETM)

Andy Avery (WETM)

Andy Avery, the commissioner of public works for Chemung County, knows why roundabouts make sense for the Twin Tiers. Roundabouts, for one, have fewer conflict points in comparison with conventional intersections, he said.

“The potential for hazardous conflicts, such as right-angle and left-turn head-on crashes, is eliminated with roundabout use,” he said. “Additionally, roundabouts eliminate the vast majority of 90-degree and head-on crashes. Crashes are low speed and at an angle, generally reducing severity and damage.  Roundabouts eliminate most stopping situations for vehicles, increasing efficiency of the intersection, and reducing pollution caused by vehicle idling.”

Roundabouts are a relatively new way of designing intersections in our area, Avery said, so confusion and frustration are common reactions for motorists new to roundabouts.

“Drivers unfamiliar with roundabouts should take the time to read the signage and slow down,” he said. “The biggest challenge for drivers has been the realization that the perceived main route doesn’t always have the right of way.”

So, for example, if you are approaching a roundabout on Route 13, that doesn’t mean you have the right of way. If someone is in the roundabout as you approach, you must yield to them.

The roundabout is the best option for the North Main Street project in Elmira, Avery said.

“The roundabout will solve an oversized, multi-approach intersection (with a crash history) by creating a logical and safer progression through the intersection,” he said “It will reduce 90-degree crashes, lower speeds, and provide for easier access from the side streets.”

According to statistics reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in the U.S. Department of Transportation, roundabouts result in:

  • More than 90 percent reduction in fatalities.
  • 76 percent reduction in injuries.
  • 35 percent reduction in all crashes.
  • Safer intersections for pedestrians because of the slower traffic.

Also from the FHWA:

“Roundabouts can provide lasting benefits and value in many ways. They are often safer, more efficient, less costly and more aesthetically appealing than conventional intersection designs. … The FHWA Office of Safety identified roundabouts as a Proven Safety Countermeasure because of their ability to substantially reduce the types of crashes that result in injury or loss of life. Roundabouts are designed to improve safety for all users, including pedestrians and bicycles.

“Most significantly, roundabouts REDUCE the types of crashes where people are seriously hurt or killed by 78 percent to 82 percent when compared with conventional stop-controlled and signalized intersections.”

Learn more about roundabouts from the FHWA, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (includes a great Q&A).

Also download this PDF from FHWA: Safety Aspects of Roundabouts.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 


New Year, Many New NY and PA Laws For Twin Tiers Residents

Home_Sold

Twin Tiers residents face some new state laws that could impact their lives in 2019.

In New York and Pennsylvania, some of the new laws established in 2017 and 2018 take effect in 2019. In NY, state lawmakers in Albany debated and approved minimum wage increases, more paid family leave, and much more. In PA, state lawmakers in Harrisburg toughened penalties for DUIs and domestic violence and closed a gun show loophole among a group of new laws.

The New York State Legislature begins meeting Jan. 9 and the Democrats have a lot on their plate because they control the state Assembly and Senate, and are led by a Democrat, newly re-elected Gov. Andrew Cuomo. A big topic of debate in 2019 will be the possible legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.

The Pennsylvania Legislature returned Jan. 7 with the Republicans still having the majorities in both chambers. There are a record number of female lawmakers who will join the fight in tackling redistricting, education, and pension reform, among many other issues, and will be expected to better address the opioid crisis.

Here is a summary of what you need to know:

New York

■ Good news for many New York homeowners: Property tax rebate checks will increase an average of $530 this year for STAR-eligible homeowners earning $275,000 or less a year in property tax-compliant school districts.

Dollars■ The minimum wage upstate increased to $11.10 an hour, up from $10.40 an hour, on Dec. 31. It was the third straight year that the wage was increased and is part of a phased-in increase that will continue through 2021.

In New York City, small employers with no more than 10 employees will pay $13.50, up from $12. Large employers, with 11 or more employees, saw the increase jump from $13 to $15 an hour. In Long Island and Westchester County, the wage increased from $11 to $12.

As usual when there is a rate hike, some business owners said they will pass the increased labor costs on to their customers, or their business may close. Worker advocates say the increases are good for all minimum-wage employees.

Eligible employees denied the wage increase can call a state hotline to report noncompliant employers: 1-888-4-NYSDOL.

Vounteer-FD■ Volunteer firefighters diagnosed with certain forms of cancer after Jan. 1 will be eligible for state disability coverage. The firefighters must have served at least five years to get access to the tax-free disability and death benefits.

To learn more about which forms of cancer are included, contact your state lawmakers or read the state’s frequently-asked questions document about the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Gap Coverage Cancer Disabilities Benefits Act, which was approved in October 2017.

■ The state has increased paid family leave from eight weeks to 10 weeks. Eligible employees can take that time off for a new child, a sick family member or to help a family member when another member of the family is deployed on active military service. The number of weeks will continue to increase for the next two years, to 12 weeks in 2021. Learn more here.

■ Drugstores and mail-order pharmacies required to give consumers the ability to return unused prescription drugs through free drop boxes, prepaid envelopes or other secure avenues. The Drug Take Back Act is trying to discourage the flushing of unused drugs into sewers.

■ Health insurers are now required to provide prostate cancer screenings to men free of co-pays or deductibles. Health insurers are also required to let consumers know about the feature.

■ A new law that takes effect on Jan. 30 will allow state correction officials to screen inmates for homemade weapons using body scanners. The weapons, often ceramic craft blades found in cutting tools but not detected by metal detectors, have been used to injure correction officers, state officials said.

■ Diaper-changing tables are now required in new or renovated public men’s and women’s restrooms.

Pennsylvania

police-lights■ First felony DUI law: Those convicted of repeatedly driving under the influence face the state’s first felony for DUI, which went into effect on Dec. 23. A driver could face the felony charge when they have been arrested for a third offense in a decade with at least twice the legal limit for alcohol (legal limit is .08 percent), or if they are a fourth-time offender. All previous DUI offenses were misdemeanors.

Longer jail sentences are also likely for those who unintentionally cause someone’s death because of their repeated DUI violations.

■ Domestic violence: Abusers facing final Protection From Abuse orders are required to surrender their firearms to police and not family members or friends.

A new law also lets judges use risk assessment tools to determine if an abuser continues to be a threat to victims, and the same tools can be used to determine bail amounts.

■ Firearms: The law was changed to close the “gun show loophole” that let guns be sold without a state police background check.

■ School bus cameras: A new law helps schools buy external cameras to catch images of anyone driving around a stopped bus.

December 1986 Miami, Florida, USA

■ Saving animals: Law enforcement officers can now remove pets from motor vehicles without being liable for damage. It’s called the Motor Vehicle Extreme Heat Protection Act.

■ Hazing: A new law toughens penalties for hazing and makes sure colleges and universities set up anti-hazing safeguards to protect students.

■ Opioid crisis: With the drug problem in mind, lawmakers grant grandparents guardianship rights for grandchildren for 90 days to one year if parents are unable to care for the children.

■ Sentencing change: Drivers’ licenses can no longer be suspended for non-driving infractions.

■ Criminal appeals: The state extended the filing period for post-conviction relief appeals – when people argue their defense lawyer was ineffective in cases that ended in criminal convictions – from 60 days to one year.

■ Clean Slate Law: The new law lets people with 10-year-old criminal records ask to get those records sealed if their crime was a nonviolent misdemeanor and included a sentence of one or more years in prison. The person must also not have any new convictions in the 10-year period.

The law also authorizes the automatic sealing of second- and third-degree misdemeanor convictions that ended in sentences of less than two years – also if there are no new convictions in the last 10 years.

■ Skimmers: A new law criminalizes the card readers that illegally gather data from credit and debit cards.

■ Drones:  The penalties have become tougher for those who use a drone to stalk or monitor another person outside of the scope of law enforcement.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 

 


Ziff Law’s Jim Reed Named Lawyer Of The Year For Southern Tier Region In 2019

Jim Reed, Ziff Law Firm

Jim Reed of the Ziff Law Firm has been named the 2019 Plaintiffs’ Lawyer of the Year among personal injury lawyers in the Southern New York Region, which encompasses a region from Binghamton to Corning and Elmira to Ithaca.

Jim, the managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm, will again be included in the Best Lawyers directory, a nationally recognized resource used to locate the best-qualified attorneys by region. Jim was also named Lawyer of the Year in 2015 and 2017.

According to the Best Lawyers directory, one lawyer in each practice area and designated metropolitan area is honored as a Lawyer of the Year, making it a significant achievement for Jim.

Attorneys are selected based on peer reviews and the recognition reflects the high level of respect a lawyer has earned among other leading lawyers in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism, and their integrity.

Jim’s clients weren’t consulted, but many agree with Best Lawyers’ designation.

  • Thomas of Amherst, NY: “After a traumatic bike crash, I was thankful I was able to lean on Jim’s experience and expertise. He was upfront with me from the beginning and went the extra mile at the end and was able to get a higher settlement than what was originally expected from the insurance company. I am very appreciative.”
  • John and Sylvia of Horseheads: “John was in a severe rear-ending collision and Jim was always there to help no matter when we needed him. Jim and the Ziff Law Firm handled everything. After Jim acquired a sizable settlement, Ziff Law took care of paying our debtors and made sure we had a good investment for our future. Jim is a hard-working, concerned, passionate, and dedicated attorney.”
  • Terri of Big Flats: “After being involved in a motor vehicle crash, we hired Jim and his team and it was the best decision we could have made. Jim is a fantastic attorney. Just as important, he is a fantastic person. Jim never promised us the moon. He was careful to advise us of the good and the bad that could happen. Many places will tell you anything to get you as a client; this was not the case with Jim. His approach was full of professionalism, kindness and compassion, integrity, and patience.”

Congratulations, Jim!

 


Danger Zones: Our Unsafe Roads and What You Can Do To Be Safer

car-accidents-on-the-rise-nationwide_0The latest motor-vehicle crash statistics from around the world down to the counties in the Twin Tiers remain grim, but there are a few bright spots in New York and Pennsylvania.

The number of traffic-related deaths worldwide reached a high of 1.35 million in 2016, according to news reports about the World Health Organization’s 2018 Global Status Report on Road Safety.

Capture1Although the report points out that progress has been made in certain areas, such as legislation, it has not happened quickly enough to meet the UN’s goals to halve road traffic deaths between 2016 and 2020.

Closer to home, New York and Pennsylvania roadway statistics continue to show how dangerous our roads are. And with the winter months ahead of us, dangers grow on our roads.

The numbers are eye-opening.

From the latest New York State report,
for the years 2012-2014:

On average there were 1,098 deaths each year due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries, killing 5.6 of every 100,000 New Yorkers. The rates were highest for males and New Yorkers ages 65 and older followed by those 20 to 24 years old.

The rate of deaths due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries decreased from a high of 8.4 per 100,000 residents in 2001 to a low of 4.9 in 2014.

On average, there were 12,093 hospitalizations each year due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries, hospitalizing 61.5 of every 100,000 New Yorkers. The rates were highest for males and New Yorkers ages 20 to 24 years old, followed by those 65 and older.

41LFZQwEf1LThe rate of hospitalizations due to motor vehicle traffic-related injuries has decreased from a high of 87.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 New Yorkers in 2002 to 57.0 in 2014.

BY THE NUMBERS:

2017 national crash overview

Early 2018 national crash overview estimate

NY crash data summary 2014

PA 2017 crash statistics overview

On average. there were 136,913 emergency department (ED) visits each year due to unintentional motor vehicle traffic-related injuries, requiring the treatment of 696.6 of every 100,000 New Yorkers. The rates were highest for females and New Yorkers ages 20 to 24 years old, followed by ages 15 to 19.

The rate of ED visits due to unintentional motor vehicle traffic-related injuries decreased from 778.7 ED visits per 100,000 New Yorkers in 2005 to 685.8 in 2008. They increased to 731.0 in 2010, followed by a decrease until 2013 when the rate increased to 737.0. In 2014, the rate decreased to 683.1.

In Pennsylvania:

In 2017, there were 128,188 reportable traffic crashes in Pennsylvania. These crashes claimed the lives of 1,137 people and injured another 80,612 people. To add some perspective, the 2017 total of reportable traffic crashes is the twelfth lowest total since 1950, when 113,748 crashes were reported.

In 2016, there were approximately 101.1 billion vehicle-miles of travel on Pennsylvania’s roads and highways. The 2017 fatality rate of 1.12 fatalities per hundred million vehicle-miles of travel was the lowest ever recorded in Pennsylvania since the department started keeping records of this in 1935.

Here are the latest crash results available by counties in New York and Pennsylvania.

My observations:

The two biggest causes of collisions I have been seeing lately are distracted driving resulting in rear-end collisions and driving too fast for conditions (usually in snow but sometimes in rain).

One other big cause is left-turning cars that fail to yield the right-of-way to oncoming vehicles.

My best advice, based on more than 30 years of representing injured clients in crash cases:

  • Slow down this winter, because you never know when you will hit ice or frozen debris in roadways.
  • Turn the phone off until you are stopped or reach your destination. No peeking at traffic lights.
  • Beware of vehicles turning left or planning to turn left. Some people never turn their turn signal on, and some do but either don’t see you approaching or think they can make the turn before you are in the intersection. Approach intersections with extra caution because everyone seems to be in a hurry and in no mood to wait.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com