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.
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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

 

 


Deadly Snowmobile Crashes A Reminder Of Dangers Amid Winter Fun, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

NH Snowmobile Registration

It’s been a dangerous and tragic winter for snowmobilers in New York State. According to news reports, at least 10 people have died this winter in snowmobiling crashes.

In the Twin Tiers, the husband of a woman killed on Jan. 21 in a snowmobiling crash is facing multiple felony charges in her death.

David A. Gee, 45, of Addison, has been charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, and aggravated driving while intoxicated, as well as a misdemeanor charge of operating a snowmobile while intoxicated.

The Jan. 21 crash, on state Route 417 in the town of Tuscarora, killed Gee’s wife, Billie Jo McIlwain-Gee, who was a passenger.

Police said they were not wearing helmets when David Gee entered Route 417 from private property and struck a Chevrolet Astro Van. McIlwain-Gee was pronounced dead at Guthrie Corning Hospital in East Corning.

Police said David Gee failed to yield the right of way to the van.  Under NY law, any snowmobile crossing a road must first come to a complete stop before crossing and is also required to yield the right of way to any vehicle on the roadway.

rainy-lake-593053-unsplash-810x540The fatal Addison snowmobile crash has two of the most dangerous combinations, according to police: alcohol and no helmets.

NY law requires all drivers and passengers on a snowmobile to wear a helmet and NY law prohibits the operation of a snowmobile while intoxicated.  Both of these are good common-sense laws.

I think another common-sense law should be a state-approved snowmobile safety course for all operators but currently the law only requires a safety course for operators between the ages of 10 and 18.

There have been many other crashes across the state in recent months, according to news reports:

  • Feb. 1, Herkimer County: A 56-year-old Stony Point man, stepped off his snowmobile and was struck and killed by another operator.
  • Jan. 26, Fulton County: A 27-year-old snowmobiler was found dead near his snowmobile. The investigation continues.
  • Jan. 18, Oneida County: A 45-year-old Boonville man was killed when he struck a tree and was thrown from his snowmobile.
  • Jan. 18, Fulton County: A Dutchess County man hit a fracture in the ice on Great Sacandaga Lake and was killed when he was ejected. Police said speed, lack of visibility, and inexperience were factors.
  • Jan. 13, Herkimer County: A 45-year-old Clay woman lost control of her snowmobile and was killed when she struck a tree and was ejected. Speed was a factor, police said.
  • Dec. 9, Herkimer County: An 18-year-old Adams man was killed when his snowmobile hit a ditch and then a tree.
  • Dec. 7, Herkimer County: A 23-year-old man from Somerset, N.J., was killed when he lost control of the snowmobile and was thrown down a steep embankment. Speed was a factor, police said.
  • Dec. 7, Hamilton County: A 46-year-old Yates County man was killed when he lost control of his snowmobile on a curve and struck a tree. Speed was a factor, police said.

Safety tips

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) offers a series of safety tips. They include:

  1. Do preventive maintenance: Make sure your snowmobile is in proper working order before each ride. Follow the guidelines in your owner’s manual and ask your local snowmobile organization about any safety or maintenance programs it may offer. The Safe Riders! Snowmobile Awareness Safety Program, which ISMA sponsors, offers a pre-ride checklist to help you get started.
  2. Wear proper attire: Be prepared for changing weather conditions by dressing in layers, with windproof gear on the outside. You can remove or add layers as needed. In addition, wear warm gloves and help protect your head and your vision with a safety-certified helmet, sun protection goggles and a visor.
  3. Bring a friend: Use the buddy system. You never know when it may prove helpful to have another person with you out on the trails.
  4. Follow the rules of the road: Use caution when crossing any road. Coming to a complete stop, ensuring no vehicles are coming from any direction and crossing at a right angle may help you travel safely.
  5. Communicate carefully: It’s a good idea to clearly communicate your plans to others. That includes leaving your planned route with friends or relatives before you head out so they can send for help if you don’t return on schedule. And, once you’re on the trails, be sure to use hand signals to communicate with other nearby snowmobilers and drivers.
  6. Remain alert: Keep your eyes on the vehicle ahead of you rather than on its taillights. When you watch the taillights, you’re less likely to notice if the snowmobiler in front of you swerves a bit to avoid hitting something. Also, if it’s dark or overcast, be sure to drive slowly enough to see what your headlights reveal.
  7. Avoid frozen water: Don’t ride your snowmobile over a frozen lake or river. You may risk falling through the ice or having much less traction that you do on snow. In addition, if other snowmobilers enter the ice from another direction, collisions may result.

Learn more about riding in New York and Pennsylvania.

You can also review the state laws: NY snowmobiles and PA snowmobiles.

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

 


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

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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

 

 


Winter Strikes Early … Are You Really Ready? Legal Tips for Winter Safety

Capture1Winter arrived way too early in the Twin Tiers.

Our mid-November snowstorm has mostly melted, but it’s not something most of us will forget any time soon. We jumped from raking leaves to shoveling and blowing wet, heavy snow (full of leaves) in 24 hours.

So before the next storm strikes, here are some things Twin Tiers motorists and property owners need to remember as we head into another unpredictable Northeast winter.

Cleaning up the snow: I recently appeared on WENY-TV’s special report, “Winter Ready 2018,” with the Horseheads TV station’s meteorologists to talk about snow removal. I am always amazed at the number of property owners who don’t clean their sidewalks, driveways, and porches within 12 to 24 hours after a snowfall.

In many cases, if someone falls on their property because the sidewalk or driveway is not cleaned sufficiently in a timely fashion, the property owner could be held liable. Most communities have laws that require property owners to keep their sidewalks clear of snow and ice within a reasonable amount of time after a snowfall or ice storm.

So keep your shovel and salt handy, and if possible, keep your snow blower full of gas and ready to go. If you are a renter, does your landlord handle snow removal or have they delegated that responsibility to you? Be sure to review your lease closely about sidewalk and driveway responsibility.

You can watch my WENY segment here.

 

 

About that “move over law” in New York State: Many of us have learned to slow down and move over to another lane when we encounter emergency responders on our four-lane highways, but did you know it’s also the law to do it when you are driving 30 mph or so in a city, town or village? I see people ignoring emergency lights all the time when they’re going slower speeds.

If you did not watch the video above of the officer talking about the importance of the move over law — he survived being struck by a vehicle during a traffic stop — then you should watch it now before reading any more.

move-overHere is another overlooked fact about the law: We all know we are supposed to slow down and pull over safely or stop for emergency vehicles such as police cars, firetrucks, and ambulances, but we are also supposed to provide a slow and safe buffer zone around other non-emergency vehicles such as snow plows, tow trucks, sanitation trucks, and road construction crews.

I strongly recommend you read the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law 1144-a.

If an officer or trooper pulls you over for violating this law, it’s a moving violation that is punishable by two points on your license and a fine of $275. If you’re pulled over for that violation, you might also see some additional charges: Failure to Yield the Right of Way (three points), Improper Passing (three points), Unsafe Lane Change (three points), Reckless Driving (five points), and Speeding (three to 11 points depending on the speed).

So if you see a vehicle with flashing amber, red or blue lights, slow down and decide carefully how you can get around them for your safety, theirs, and everyone else. On a two-lane road, moving over to the other lane may not be a safe move. You may have to stop and move over slowly, so be prepared to slow down and stop.

Also, about that snow on your car: If you have a buildup of snow and ice on your vehicle, it could pose a clear and present danger to vehicles behind you and can illegally obstruct your visibility out of your vehicle. You could be ticketed and face a civil lawsuit because you failed to take reasonable steps to make sure you could see safely.

Bottom line: Our Twin Tiers winters are unpredictable, so my best advice is always to slow down and avoid distractions (your phone!) when driving, keep your sidewalk and driveway clear, clean that snow off your vehicle, and move over for all emergency vehicles.

 

Thanks for reading,

Jim

Jim 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: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

 


Be Prepared For Crashes With The New Ziff Law Crash Help App

The Ziff Law Firm wants to help drivers in their most stressful moments – in the minutes after a vehicle crash. Be prepared and protect yourself and your loved ones with the free Ziff Law Crash Help App for iPhones and Androids.

Crash Help picThe Ziff Law Crash Help App’s automatic car crash detection system uses internal sensors in your smartphone to detect a crash and automatically sends a help message with your location to the emergency contacts you selected, if it is enabled.

Crash Help also features:

  • Camera, video recorder, and a text notepad to record all pertinent crash information.
  • Time-saving forms to help you collect information from other drivers, passengers, and other witnesses.
  • An automatic GPS locator that captures critical crash information like traffic patterns and road conditions.
  • A frequently-asked-questions section that educates users about the best ways to prepare for and handle any motor vehicle crash.
  • A locator of emergency services based on your location.

Download the iPhone App here.

Download the Android App here.

Thanks for reading,

Jim

Jim 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: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com