Addison Woman, 23, Died In Crash With School Bus In Town Of Erwin; Students And Bus Driver Uninjured

The driver of this vehicle was killed Wednesday morning in a crash involving an Addison school bus. (The Leader newspaper)

The 23-year-old driver of this vehicle was killed Wednesday morning in a crash involving an Addison school bus. (The Leader newspaper)

New York State Police have identified 23-year-old Kayanna Lehman of Addison as the driver of the sedan who was killed Wednesday morning when her car crossed the center line on a Steuben County highway and struck an Addison Central School District bus head-on.

Lehman was killed in the 7:45 a.m. crash Wednesday on state Route 417 in the Town of Erwin. There were no injuries on the bus, which had a driver and nine students, according to the school district.

Troopers said they don’t know why Lehman’s vehicle crossed the center line. Weather was not a factor in the crash.

Troopers said Lehman was pronounced dead at the scene. Two children in her vehicle were not injured. Both vehicles suffered extensive damage, troopers said.

The district sent the students on the bus to Guthrie Corning Hospital in East Corning for evaluation. The bus was transporting the students to a program outside the school district.

Addison Central School District Superintendent Joseph DioGuardi said that two of the children on the bus were elementary school students and the others were high school students.

There are seat belts on the bus, but DioGuardi did not know if students were wearing them at the time of the crash.

Thank you for reading,

Adam Gee
[email protected]
607-733-8866


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

Depositphotos_55923601_m-2015

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


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

dreamstime_s_40452569

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

 


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

 


UPDATE: Child Victims Act Approved, Opening Courts To More Child Sex Abuse Victims

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UPDATE ON JAN. 29, 2019:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign the long-awaited Child Sex Act into law after the Democrat-controlled New York State Senate approved it unanimously on Monday, Jan. 28, in Albany. The new law will give victims of child sexual abuse, regardless of how long ago the crimes occurred, the chance to pursue civil justice against their abusers and the institutions that seemingly protected them,.

The state Assembly, also controlled by the Democrats, previously approved the legislation 130-3, so the legislation goes to Cuomo.

The law opens the state’s tough statute of limitations on sex crimes against children and provides a one-year window for crimes from any time in the past.

According to news reports, the Child Victims Act:

  • Extends New York’s statute of limitations to allow for criminal charges against sexual abusers of children until their victims turn 28 for felony cases, up from the current 23.
  • Allows victims to seek civil action against their abusers and institutions that enabled them until they turn 55.
  • Opens a one-year, one-time-only period to allow all victims to seek civil action, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

Previously …

The New York State Legislature appears finally ready to give new hope to the victims of child sexual abuse and their families. The Child Victims Act, if approved this year, is expected to extend the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against children, allowing more victims to sue their attackers and the institutions they represented.

In 2019, with the Democrats leading the Senate and Assembly under Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the long-debated Child Victims Act may finally be approved by state lawmakers. The Republican-controlled Senate in the past had blocked the legislation after the Democrat-controlled Assembly passed it.

The legislation may give past abuse victims a one-year window to file civil claims, regardless of when the abuse happened. The one-time measure has powerful opponents in Albany, including the insurance industry and the Catholic Church.

Cuomo is expected to highlight the legislation in his executive budget proposal, which will be introduced Tuesday, Jan. 15, in Albany.

To summarize, according to recent news reports, the proposed legislation does the following:

  • Extends or eliminates the statute of limitations for future criminal sexual cases involving a child under the age of 18, which would give victims more time to come forward after they become adults.
  • Extends the time limit for victims to sue in civil court to the time they turn 50.
  • Opens a one-year window for all past victims of child sexual abuse to file civil claims, regardless of when it happened.

The most serious felony sexual crimes against children already have no statute of limitations, so prosecutors can’t be restricted from bringing charges because of how much time has passed.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But there is a five year statute of limitations for other lower-level felonies that begin when the victim turns 18. A 2018 bill proposed by Cuomo called for dropping any time limit but the Legislature’s bill would start the five-year statute of limitations when the victim turns 23.

The bill’s sponsors call the so-called “look-back period” the key part of the legislation. If approved, the one-year period would begin six months after the bill is signed. In that next year only, victims would be able to seek civil relief from people or institutions, regardless of the victim’s age or when the abuse occurred.

News reports said insurance groups have strongly lobbied against the look-back period for obvious reasons: They would likely face pressure to pay out damages to victims of institutions the insurers count as clients for claims that had been previously barred by the statute of limitations.

The state Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s Catholic dioceses, has also targeted the look-back period, saying it appears it would only apply to private institutions — like the Catholic Church — and not schools and governments, according to news reports. The bill sponsors said it applies to both.

The dispute is over what’s known as a “notice of claim,” which has to be filed within 90 days of an act and serves as an extra layer of protection that public institutions have against being sued.

But last week, news reports said Cuomo’s office announced the Child Victims Act in his budget would eliminate the need for a notice of claim when a sex crime is committed against a child.

Cuomo also wants judges to attend required training on how to handle cases involving children who are sexually abused. The legislation would also let the state Office of Court Administration establish rules for adjudicating revived claims against abusers in the past.

Thank you for reading,

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

 

 


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