Before I explain why roundabouts (also called traffic circles) are popping up all around us, let me digress. I lived in France for five years back in the 70’s and 80’s and I never once came across a four-way stop. That’s because they don’t exist there. In fact, I recently had a French visitor driving my car in Geneva, New York, with me as passenger. When we approached the four-way stop on Castle and Brook Streets, he did not know what to do. After I explained to him the “first come first go” principle, he seemed perplexed, and asked me, “but what if we get to the stop sign at the same time?” Touché! Good question.
As I write this blog, the roads in Syracuse, New York and surrounding areas are deadly. Sleet and freezing rain have been falling all day . The roads are frozen. My driveway in Geneva, NY is an ice skating rink. My windshield had a thick shell of ice covering it before I rolled it into the garage.
The National Weather Service just posted that the roads in Syracuse and all the way down through Pennsylvania are likely to be “treacherous” for travel for the next 48 hours. The National Weather Service is warning of “nearly impossible” driving conditions. They warn drivers to stay home or at least “use extreme caution, allow plenty of distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you”.
Already about a dozen Onondaga County vehicles are reported crashed or disabled likely due to the weather.
Now that the new school year has begun, here’s a mind-blowing statistic for New York State parents to worry about: 50,000 drivers a day in New York illegally pass stopped school buses. And by “stopped” I mean with lights flashing and stop sign extended. I have actually witnessed this happen myself. Do I sound like an old fogy if I say that drivers used to respect stopped school buses?
Maybe, but I’m not the only old fogy out there. Just talk to any veteran school bus driver. They’ll tell you that “back in the day” people respected stopped school buses as almost sacred. One of them, A North Syracuse Central School bus driver, was interviewed last year in the Syracuse Post Standard. She complained that she was seeing not just a few, but many motorists, on a daily basis, illegally passing her bus with its lights on. She eventually took matters into her own hands; she no longer allows children to cross until she has personally checked to see if traffic is approaching. She no longer trusts motorists to stop for her bus’ flashing lights and extended stop sign! Now isn’t that sad?
Check out this video that went viral a few years ago. It shows a car in New York passing a stopped school bus and narrowly missing a child:
This Syracuse New York personal injury lawyer loves to travel all over the world. I find other cultures and places fascinating. Last year I went to Japan. And this year it was Egypt, Jordan and Israel. (Just got back last week). See some pics I took above.
When I travel, because of what I do for a living, I can’t help noticing how other societies organize and structure their safety rules. I’m always on the lookout for dangerous conditions and am impressed when I see really safe practices. For example, in Japan I was impressed how pedestrians would wait for their light to turn green even when there was no motor vehicle anywhere near the intersection. I went right ahead and crossed if there was nothing coming. Made no sense to me to wait. The Japanese must have thought I was just another crazed foreigner. The Japanese seem obsessed with safety, cleanliness and rule-following. That’s probably one reason they live longer than any other people on the planet. Their average life expectancy is over 83 years. Ours is only 78.
Egypt was another story. I spent a few days in Cairo, a ramshackle city of 22,000,0000 people. It’s a fascinating place with thousands of years of history. The people are friendly, the food delicious and the sites incredible. But safety? Not a lot of emphasis on that. For example, there are almost no rules for crossing the street. I walked all over Cairo, and rarely did I see a crosswalk (and even then, motorists paid no attention to them). So how do you cross a street in Cairo? When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Here is a video I took of my wife, Alejandra, and I braving a stream of Cairene motorists:
At Michaels & Smolak, we all wear our seatbelts, everywhere, every time we are in a car, whether we ride in the back or the front. Hey, as Syracuse car accident lawyers, what would you expect? We’ve handled many cases where we believe even backseat belts have saved lives or reduced injuries. We’ve also represented families of several unrestrained backseat passengers who were killed or seriously injury and who we believe would have survived or suffered less serious injuries had they been restrained. According to AAA statistics, unrestrained rear-seat passengers involved in crashes are eight times more likely to be seriously injured and three times more likely to be killed.
So that’s why we support the new bill, likely to become law in New York, requiring backseat passengers to buckle up. The current law requires only front seat occupants to wear seatbelts, and those in the back seat who are under 16 years old.
New Yorkers will not be alone in being required to buckle up in back. Twenty-nine other States already have a buckle-up-in-back law.
This is an update on the crazy serial hit-and-run dude I talked about in two past blog posts. Anyone interested in following the story (and believe me, it’s worth it!) who has not read those two prior posts should read them now by clicking here and here.
Long story short, a NASCAR-loving nut job had a nasty habit of plowing into other vehicles, always from behind, and always as the victim was moving forward. He appears to have been using innocent motorists in Ontario, Wayne and Seneca Counties to enact fantasy NASCAR races. Here’s his homepage on Facebook:
My last blog post described how I got whacked by a hit-and-run driver and then chased him down. You can read that blog post here. Some of my readers commented that I was a stubborn fool for pursuing him at fairly high speeds on a snowy day. I agree. As it turns out, though, my stubbornness may have paid off and made the roads safer for my fellow motorists in Wayne, Seneca and Ontario Counties. Read on to find out how!
As I explained in my prior post, I kept up my hot pursuit until the 911 operator asked me to cease it. But by then I had at least gotten his license plate number and several pictures of his tan-colored Chevy pickup truck. Seneca County law enforcement now knew who owned the vehicle, a Lyons NY resident. Here’s one of the pictures I snapped of the offending vehicle while on the chase:
After I posted my blog, several of my readers from the Geneva area tipped me off about Facebook postings they had seen describing a similar tan-colored pickup truck deliberately rear-ending folks. Could this be the same guy?
Last Tuesday morning, I was heading east on Route 318 through the Town of Tyre, Seneca County, NY, my usual route to get from my home in Geneva to my office in Auburn. I had been following a slow-moving tractor trailer on the slippery, snow-covered road. The tractor trailer was going 55 miles per hour. A rust-colored pickup truck trailed me. The tractor trailer then moved into the left-turn lane at the intersection with Route 414 to turn left toward the Thruway. I slowed down to about 30 mph behind the tractor trailer as it moved into the left-turn lane. I kept going straight through the green light. Just after I passed through the intersection, I glanced up and noticed the rust-colored pickup truck growing large – quickly — in my rear-view mirror. I knew I was going to get wacked, and hard, so I braced for it.
Here’s a google map showing the approximate location of where I got rear-ended:
In this Syracuse NY Injury lawyer’s last blog post, I talked about how, in most cases, a New York personal injury victim will end up with a much larger settlement with a lawyer than without one. The problem with “going it alone” is that insurance companies will generally “low ball” you an offer, hoping you will take it, sign a release, and go away (forever).
But my clients aren’t the only ones who get low balled. Sometimes insurance company adjusters will “low ball” me an offer, hoping I will want to make a quick buck and move onto the next case. But at my law firm, we don’t take low ball offers (except in the rare case where our clients won’t listen to our advice and take the low offer). Although some New York personal injury lawyers regularly traffic in low ball settlements, I am proud to say ours does not.
In my opinion, those that do are typically large law firms who advertise heavily and need to “churn” their cases to keep the money rolling in to pay their advertising bills. At my law firm, where the bulk of our cases come by referral from other lawyers, we would rather handle fewer cases and MAXIMIZE the amount we can get for those few but dear clients. We make our money by working up a few cases rather than knocking off quick settlements on a swarm of cases.
A woman is walking her bicycle across a street at night. She is wearing light colored clothing. A car approaches. Its headlights shine upon her. The car does not slow down. It is traveling at 40 miles per hour. The car does not brake. Inside the car, another woman sits behind the wheel. She does not steer. She does not brake. She just sits there. At the last second, just before the collision, the woman behind the wheel shrieks. But it is too late to react. The pedestrian is down. She is dead.
In the 20th Century traditional car accident case, no question about who’s responsible: the driver. But this case is different. There is no driver. The car was driving itself. The car is owned by Uber. Uber’s engineers designed the car to be driverless. The woman sitting behind the wheel was not driving. She is an Uber employee and was supposed to be “monitoring” the vehicle, just in case the vehicle made a mistake.
This collision, which occurred Sunday night in Tempe, Arizona, was a major setback for Uber. But also for the entire self-driving car industry. It is believed to be the first pedestrian death caused by a self-driving car.