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NEW YORK CITY ATTACHES CRIMINAL PENALTIES TO DRIVERS WHO HIT PEDESTRIANS

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A recent New York City law which was enacted last year makes it a crime for a motorist to hit a pedestrian or cyclist, who is in the cross walk, with the right of way. As part of the Mayor’s Vision Zero initiative, the City of New York enacted the right of way law. The law was intended to reduce the amount of fatalities caused by pedestrians and cyclists who were hit by vehicles.

This new law came under controversy which the MTA’s bus driver’s union protesting it after a bus driver was arrested after a fifteen year old pedestrian was run over by a bus, and sustained serious injuries. The teenager was pinned under the bus and sustained serious leg injuries, even though she had the right of way to cross the street and the right to expect that the bus would yield to her. The bus driver’s union is fighting to amend the law to exempt bus drivers. Our New York City bus accident lawyers think that this attempt to make bus drivers above the law is shameful. In 2014, alone, nine pedestrians were killed by buses in New York City, which underscores the need for bus drivers who are on the road all day to be more careful. The safety of New York pedestrians, especially children is at stake. Our bus accident lawyers also feel that an amendment to the law is unnecessary because the law already provides a defense that makes the incident not criminal if the contact was not the result of a failure to exercise due care. As such, this law is not an unfair strict liability law. The latest incident is the third instance of a bus driver being arrested for hitting a pedestrian who was crossing the street since August, when the law became effective.

One argument that the bus drivers union is putting forward is that the design of the bus creates a blind spot, which makes it difficult for drivers to see certain areas, with the way that the mirrors are presently positioned. Interestingly, the bus drivers never seemed concerned with this supposed safety issue prior to facing the possibility of being arrested. MTA spokespersons have since commented that bus drivers are trained to compensate for the blind spots, presumably by looking, like every other driver has to do while changing lanes. Moreover, the claim that the MTA buses have a condition, which predisposes bus drivers to hitting pedestrians, who have the right of way, opens the possibility of negligent maintenance and design cases against the MTA. In any event, if true, the law has already had a positive effect by exposing a problem which apparently has gone undisclosed and uncorrected for years.

Interestingly, one of the supporters of immunizing bus drivers is Manhattan’s representative Charlie Rangel. One has to wonder whether politicians like Rangel are more concerned with the public safety of their constituents or protecting campaign contributions from labor unions like the bus driver’s union. While some assert that the law should not apply to those who are working, our bus accident attorneys to the coin is that professional drivers should be held to a higher standard, so the law should apply to them.

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Our New York bus accidents lawyers regularly represent New Yorkers who are injured in bus accidents of all sorts including metropolitan transportation in New York City and Westchester, as well as motor coach accident. Recently two large bus companies who operate in New York City were shut down by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for safety violations. When bus companies cut corners on safety, all too often innocent bus passengers pay the price with personal injuries and even death.

On March 8, 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration declared Ming An, Inc., an interstate passenger carrier based in New York City, to be an imminent hazard to public safety and ordered the company to immediately shut down. The FMCSA made several disturbing findings including that investigation of Ming An’s operations and its vehicles concluded that the carrier operated in blatant disregard for federal safety regulations by failing to conduct pre-employment drug and alcohol testing and allowing unqualified drivers to operate buses in an unsafe manner with its drivers receiving numerous citations for speeding in excess of 15 miles per hour over posted speed limits.
The company also failed to require drivers to maintain log books or conduct vehicle safety inspections as required by federal regulations. The FMCSA found that the company lacked a systematic vehicle inspection, repair and maintenance program and inspections of Ming An’s buses and vans revealed that many had been modified with after-market seats in violation of federal safety requirements. The FMCSA also found that the violations and conditions of operations substantially increase the likelihood of serious injury or death to the bus company’s passengers and the public. These findings exposed an all too often practice of cutting corners on safety and recklessly disregarding the safety of the passengers.

FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro actually said that Ming An’s bus company operates unsafely by frequently using part-time, unqualified drivers, and often ignores basic safety maintenance and operating standards.

On March 1, 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shut down the Boston-based Fung Wah Bus Transportation using new authorities given to FMCSA under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. The Fung Wah Bus Company regularly operated from New York’s chinatown and the Connecticut casinos and catered to the Chinese community and New York’s gamblers. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that bus companies like Fung Wah that jeopardize public safety and refuse to cooperate with FMCSA investigators have no place on the road. The shut down occured when Fung Wah stopped cooperating with FMCSA safety investigators and blocked further access to company safety records. This sudden action makes the commuting public wonder what they are hiding that they would take such an extraordinary action. In response the FMCSA ordered Fung Wah to immediately provide its entire fleet of 28 motorcoaches for thorough and detailed safety inspections by qualified inspectors.

Our White Plains personal injury lawyers continue to monitor the safety records of bus companies that operate in Westchester county.

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Our New York bus accident lawyers regularly keep abreast of the studies of the National Transportation Safety Board and monitor the boards findings to help assess causes of bus accidents. These days millions of people travel by bus every year into the New York metropolitan area. Nationally, more than 700 million passengers ride buses every year. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there were more than 250 fatalities and 20,000 people who suffered personal injuries in bus accidents in 2009. Between 2000-2007, there were 1,093 fatal accidents involving large buses, resulting in 1,315 fatalities and 3,471 personal injuries.

This high volume with discount carriers loading up passengers are pushing safety to its limit. Because of the size of a bus and the amount of people that a bus carries, bus accidents all too often result in serious personal injury and even wrongful death.

After an extensive study of the cause of bus accidents across the United States, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that recent bus accidents have a common theme of three recurring safety issues: fatigued drivers, poor occupant protection and marginal operators.

One recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board recommended is better and more comprehensive training of bus drivers and more thorough background checks of bus drivers to ensure that the professional motorcoach driver is properly qualified. The National Transportation Safety Board also recommended that drivers undergo more frequent medical examinations to make sure that they are continually fit to operate such complex machinery. Too often bus drivers undergo medical examinations when they are initially hired but then their medical condition can change while they are employed and hopefully more frequent medical examinations will help to weed out drivers whose health deteriorates to the point that they are no longer qualified to operate a bus.

Driver fatigue on interstate motor coaches has been a contributing cause of accidents for years. Inattention during a long bus trip on a high speed interstate is a recipe for disaster. The National Transportation Safety Board recommends that drivers and operators work together to limit hours of service to ensure that drivers have adequate opportunity for rest–and to institute measures, such as fatigue risk management programs and vehicle technologies, that can assist operators and drivers in recognizing and mitigating fatigue. Hopefully these simple steps can eliminate bus accidents which are caused by driver fatigue and inattention.

Our New York bus personal injury lawyers handle bus accident cases all over New York State and New Jersey. Our Westchester accident lawyers will continue to serve the New York City areas including the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. As rapid transit bus services, commuter buses and charter buses are becoming more common in the Westchester cities of White Plains, Yonkers, Port Chester, Mamaroneck, Ossining, New Rochelle, Greenburgh, Elmsford, Rye, Scardsdale, Harrison and Bronxville, our New York personal injury lawyers and Westchester bus accident attorneys will continue to represent personal injury victims of bus accidents.

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According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2010, there were 468 Buses Involved in Non-Fatal Crashes and 307 Buses Involved in Injury Crashes, with 801 Injuries in Crashes Involving Buses in New York. There were also 26 bus accidents in 2010, which caused fatalities. Our New York bus accident lawyers are fighting to make bus operation safer by making them pay for the injuries their drivers cause.

Bus driver fatigue, distraction and even texting and cell phone use are all contributing factors to bus accidents. Our New York personal injury lawyers have handled numerous personal injury and even wrongful death cases involving bus accident. Motorists, pedestrians and bicycle riders are all at risk from careless bus operation.

There are strict time limits in bus accident cases. Your own car insurance company may be responsible to pay your lost wages and medical benefits or if you don’t own a vehicle, the bus company must pay your lost wages and medical benefits, but you must file an application for no fault benefits within 30 days of the accident. Likewise, usually a notice of claim must be filed within 90 days. If you miss these deadlines, you may be out of luck. So personal injury victims who are hurt in bus accidents who are injured in bus accidents need to speak with an experienced bus accident lawyer shortly after their accident.

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According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in 2010, there were 468 Buses Involved in Non-Fatal Crashes and 307 Buses Involved in Injury Crashes, with 801 Injuries in Crashes Involving Buses in New York. There were also 26 bus accidents in 2010, which caused fatalities.

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Our New York personal injury attorneys have been retained to handle the bus accident last month on the New Jersey Turnpike, which killed four people and injured forty one people. There have been a rash of deadly bus accidents in the New York tri-state area in the last two months.

There have been two deadly bus accidents last month alone. One occurred on the Hutchinson Parkway in the Bronx and the other on the New Jersey Turnpike. Our New York accident lawyers are already handling another bus accident wrongful death case from an accident in which a mega bus hit an overpass and killed several people and critically injured many others.

In these days with higher gas prices and bus companies are cutting fares to compete with each other, there is pressure for the bus drivers to work longer hours, drive faster to turn around trips and do more with less. These pressures creates more incentives for the bus companies in the New York and New Jersey area to cut corners and take chances with the safety of their passengers.

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Our New York bus accident lawyers have been retained by one of the families of the victims of the Syracuse bus crash. Our New York accident lawyers intend to pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of the family.

Our investigation has revealed that this tragedy never should have happened. This accident was the result of reckless behavior on the part of the driver. The bus driver failed to see 14 different warning signs over a two mile stretch of road leading up to the bridge. Additionally the bridge was painted in bright orange as a warning to approaching vehicles.

Our New York bus accident lawyers express our sincerest sympathies for all of the personal injury victims and the families of those who were killed in this terrible bus accident.

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