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Concerns about Aggressive Enforcement of NYC Jaywalking Laws

Not everyone is in favor of the decision by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner William Bratton focus on the jaywalking crackdown in the city. Although the task force is not an official part of the mayor’s “Vision Zero” plan to eliminate all traffic-related fatalities in New York City, the goals of the task force certainly mesh with those of the larger policy. In fact, Mayor de Blasio stated that educating the public about the dangers of jaywalking was a major part of his plan to curb traffic deaths.

Right of Way, a grassroots organization dedicated to street safety, has objected to the recent crackdown on jaywalking as a form of “victim blaming.” Although Right of Way generally supports the “Vision Zero” plan, group organizers have cautioned that the NYPD should be targeting reckless drivers, not pedestrians. The traffic safety advocacy group Transportation Alternatives has echoed these sentiments, with members stating that NYC officials should be trying to protect “the most vulnerable users of our streets” by focusing on the reckless actions of drivers, not walkers.

There are a number of concerns being raised about the NYPD crackdown on jaywalking, including:

• The fines imposed are disproportionately punitive – Fines for jaywalking are determined by local departments, with some NYC courts imposing fines as high as $250.
• Denial of civil rights – Critics of the recent crackdown on jaywalking point to a violent incident that occurred as a direct result of the new enforcement policy. While targeting a particularly dangerous intersection at Broadway and 96th Street, NYPD allegedly assaulted an 84-year-old man who they saw jaywalking. Kang Chun Wong suffered visually disturbing injuries, including a severe gash to his head, when he was accused of jaywalking at the intersection and wrestled to the ground by police officers. An attorney for Wong indicated that he would be filing a civil suit against the city for $5 million. The concern generated by incidents like this is that greater safety for pedestrians in NYC will come at the expense of civil rights.
• Waste of government resources – Reports indicate that undercover cops have been used to catch both jaywalkers and drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians. The obvious question is whether these officers could be used in more valuable ways. Using undercover cops to issue minor traffic citations seems unnecessary at best and wasteful at worst.

Given the spate of pedestrian deaths in New York City to begin the year, everyone seems to be in agreement that the main focus of any traffic safety program needs to be on reckless drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians with the right of way and distracted drivers who put everyone on city streets at risk. To this end, NYPD officers have also issued several summonses to drivers for failure to yield to pedestrians.

According to reports, the aggressive response to jaywalking was specifically prompted by three pedestrian deaths on the Upper West Side over a nine-day period. Police targeted jaywalkers in several areas, including the Upper West Side and Brooklyn. Not surprisingly, several summonses have been issued in the Upper West Side neighborhood where a nine-year-old boy was killed while walking in a crosswalk at a busy intersection last month.

If you’ve received a traffic ticket for reckless driving or failure to yield in New York City, contact the experienced traffic defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark J. Sacco by calling 866-642-3807 for a free consultation about your case.

Pedestrian Deaths Prompt NYC Police to Enforce Jaywalking Law

In response to the deaths of at least a dozen pedestrians so far this year, New York City police officers have begun enforcing jaywalking laws. This also comes on the heels of a reported 172 pedestrian deaths in NYC traffic accidents in 2013.

Jaywalking fines in New York City are set by local courts, so they tend to vary across jurisdictions. In some areas of the city, jaywalking fines are just $40. However, there have been reports that on the Upper West Side of New York City, jaywalking fines are as high as $250.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious “Vision Zero” plan, which aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities within the next 10 years, has gotten off to a rocky start. The new mayor recently referred to the rash of pedestrian deaths as “an epidemic” that needs to be stopped.

The most frequent violators of the jaywalking law are NYC locals, who often grow impatient waiting for lights to change to green at intersections that they walk past every day. Authorities recognize that these locals will be reluctant to change daily habits, so they remain sensitive to the needs of the more than eight million people who occupy the crowded city streets. To that end, the Vision Zero plan focuses on drivers, not pedestrians, with particular attention being paid to overly aggressive driving and redesigning dangerous intersections in the city. In fact, the NYC police initiative to strictly enforce jaywalking laws is not a part of the Vision Zero plan.

The focus on pedestrians by local police departments has been met with criticism from traffic safety organizations who, like the NYC mayor, believe that traffic fatalities are caused primarily by hasty and dangerous driving. Nonetheless, NYC police are now actively enforcing the city’s jaywalking rule. During the first three weeks of the year, New York City police officers issued 65 summonses for jaywalking. This is in stark contrast to the same time period last year, during which just 12 jaywalking summonses were issued.

If you’ve been ticketed for jaywalking or if you’ve received a traffic ticket in New York City, contact the experienced traffic defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark J. Sacco.  Call 866-642-3807 for a free consultation about your case.

“Stroads” Increase Likelihood of Traffic Accidents in New York

Despite NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan to reduce traffic fatalities, pedestrian deaths are on the rise in New York City. In fact, traffic-related deaths continue to be a problem throughout the State of New York. One of the reasons for this is poor road design, resulting in so-called “stroads” that combine the worst features of streets and roads.

A road is intended to be a high-speed connection from one destination to another, while a street is designed for low-speed travel within those destinations. Unlike roads, streets are intended to function as activity centers for both drivers and walkers. Chuck Marohn, a former traffic engineer, coined the term “stroad” to describe a street/road hybrid. Highways often bleed into stroads, which, with multiple lanes and wide shoulders, are designed like small highways. Stroads are also similar to streets because they typically have lower speed limits, several intersections, sidewalks, and multiple points of access to properties along the stroad.

An unintended side effect of stroads is that they encourage fast-moving drivers who are used to driving at high speeds on similarly designed roads. In many rural areas, stroads function as the town’s main street. This means that pedestrians and bicyclists are more likely to use these potentially unsafe roadways.

Other downsides to stroads include:

  • Dangerous when highway transitions into a stroad with no warning: Drivers don’t feel comfortable driving at lower speeds so soon after getting off the highway.
  • Wide lanes induce higher speeds for cars, leading to severe injuries in car accidents.
  • Wide shoulders create less room for pedestrians to safely walk on sidewalks.
  • Intersections cause turning drivers to cutoff pedestrians.
  • Multiple access points cause congestion and traffic accidents.
  • Inefficient for travelers
  • Expensive to build
  • Lower property values: Lack of pedestrian traffic on stroads can devalue the surrounding property and discourage expansion of existing businesses.
  • Fewer retail sales: High travel speeds discourage drivers from noticing signs and stopping.
  • When businesses fail, the adjacent land is often converted into parking lots: This kind of land use is not financially productive and can further depreciate property values in the surrounding area.

If you’ve received a traffic ticket or been involved in a motor vehicle accident anywhere in New York, contact the experienced traffic defense lawyers at the Law Office of Mark J. Sacco. For your free initial consultation call 866-642-3807.

‘Vision Zero Clock’ Aims to Monitor Success of NYC Mayor’s Plan

NYC mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan calls for an end to all traffic fatalities on NYC streets within the next 10 years. In order to achieve this, city officials will redesign unsafe intersections, make dangerous sidewalks and medians wider, expand the number of 20-mph “slow zones,” encourage NYPD enforcement of existing traffic laws, and increase the number of mobile traffic cameras. The plan is certainly ambitious, considering a New York Post report that at least 220 New Yorkers were killed in traffic accidents in 2013.

The advocacy group Right of Way has responded to the plan by creating a website, titled the “Vision Zero Clock,” to help keep track of the progress of the traffic safety plan. The “clock” tracks whether the plan is on course to fulfill de Blasio’s promise of zero traffic fatalities by 2024. More specifically, the clock lists four categories – pedestrians, cyclists, drivers & passengers, and total auto deaths – and notes the number of traffic-related deaths in each category.

As part of Right of Way’s efforts to keep the public aware of the effectiveness of the plan, the group has also started a Twitter campaign. Each time a traffic-related death occurs in New York City, the group will send out a tweet via dozens of Twitter accounts. According to the self-described “activist” group’s website, the twitter campaign is meant to remind the new mayor “of his promise to achieve Vision Zero by 2024.”

Although the Right of Way website may be seen by some as a criticism of the Vision Zero plan, the group has strongly supported the mayor’s efforts to reduce traffic deaths in NYC. In fact, a statement by the group’s organizer, Keegan Stephen, declared that “Vision Zero must remain a top priority.”

The Right of Way “Vision Zero Clock,” he said, is merely intended to provide transparency about the effectiveness of the plan.

If you have received a traffic ticket in New York or are worried about losing your driver’s license, do not hesitate to contact the experienced traffic defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark J. Sacco. Call 866-642-3807 for your free initial consultation.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ‘Vision Zero’ Plan to Reduce Traffic Deaths in NYC

Shortly after Bill de Blasio was sworn in as New York’s new mayor, he unveiled an ambitious new plan to reduce traffic fatalities in New York City to zero within the next 10 years. The plan focuses in particular on preventing pedestrian deaths.

According to the NYC Department of Transportation, there were 274 traffic deaths in the city in 2012. The new plan envisions a city with zero fatalities or serious injuries caused by car crashes, with De Blasio calling on everyone in New York City to agree that “even one death on our streets is unacceptable.”

The plan takes a comprehensive approach to traffic safety reform, with several different components that would work in tandem to create a safe space for New York drivers:

  • Smart street design: Improve of at least 50 unsafe roadways, corridors, and intersections throughout the city each year, focusing in particular on streets that have been identified as the most dangerous
  • Expansion of 20-mph “slow zones:” Quadruple the current number of NYC Department of Transportation “slow zones” within four years, providing an alternative to the 30-mph zones everywhere else in the city
  • Add dedicated bicycle lanes: Reduce bicycle accidents by making bicycle lanes safer for bicyclists
  • Strict enforcement: Increase the focus on NYPD enforcement of existing traffic safety laws like reckless driving, speeding, failure to signal, and failure to yield to pedestrians
  • Thorough investigation: Encourage the NYPD to carefully investigate crashes that injure pedestrians
  • Increased use of traffic cameras: Increase the use red light cameras and speed enforcement cameras as deterrents to dangerous behavior on NYC roads
  • Implement “home rule” on traffic laws: Avoid city-state clashes by wresting NYC control of traffic laws from the state legislature in Albany

If you have received a traffic ticket in New York or are worried about losing your driver’s license, contact the experienced traffic defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark J. Sacco. Call 866-642-3807 for a free consultation about your case.

NYC DWI Cabbie Program

Allows Drunk Drivers to be Taken Home in Their Own Vehicles

The New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers (NYSFTD) enacted a new program over the holidays that allowed drunken individuals to be driven home by cabbies. The unique aspect of the program was that the taxi driver drove the intoxicated person’s car.

The pilot program, called “Operation Red Nose,” ran for nearly a week leading up to New Year’s Day. Afterwards, the NYSFTD declared the program a huge success, noting that it provided more than 1,800 trips for people who were unable to safely drive themselves home. Five hundred people used the service on New Year’s Eve alone.

Cab drivers eligible for the program had to be approved by the NY Taxi and Limousine Commission. The program called for two of these eligible taxi drivers to show up to a call, with one of the cabbies driving the client’s personal vehicle while the other “escort” cabbie followed in a taxi. Once the passenger was safely delivered to his or her destination, the driver following in the taxi would pick up the other driver.

DWI Cabbie Program Makes NY Roads Safer

Some might consider the Operation Red Nose program cost-prohibitive, with already-expensive NYC taxi fees being doubled for a client wishing to be driven home in his or her own car. However, if expanded and enacted on a large scale, the program could ultimately save tens of thousands of people from being assessed far more costly fines, parking tickets, and towing fees. Even without late fees or penalties being levied, a typical parking ticket in New York City can cost a person upwards of $115. Additionally, a person charged with a first offense DWI in New York could be looking at fines totaling more than $1,750, in addition to fees and associated costs for enrolling in the NY Drinking Driver Program, the state’s DWI-specific traffic school.

Another benefit afforded by the Operation Red Nose program is that it kept potential drunk drivers from destroying their lives. According to research conducted by the Century Council, more than 35,000 drivers were arrested in New York in 2011 for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. A person can be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in NY if he or she has a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher. The penalties for a DWI conviction in New York are severe. For example, a second offense DWI conviction could result in a sentence of up to four years in jail and driver’s license revocation for at least one year. Additionally, since a second offense DWI is considered a class E felony, a conviction will show up on a person’s permanent criminal record.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the Operation Red Nose program is that it ensured public safety by encouraging drunk drivers to stay off the roads. Fernando Mateo, the founder and spokesperson for the NYSFTD, said that the pilot program that was in effect during the holiday season saved lives because people are often willing to take the risk of driving drunk rather than leave their car behind and risk having it get stolen, towed away, or ticketed. Unfortunately, this willingness to drive while intoxicated doesn’t just risk the lives of drunk drivers; it puts everyone on NYC roads at risk. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), there were 344 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in New York in 2012. This figure represented nearly 30 percent of total traffic deaths in the state.

Now that the Operation Red Nose pilot program has concluded, the NYSFTD is looking into the possibility of offering the program year-round in New York City. In the meantime, NY traffic officers will continue to crack down on drunk driving.

If you’ve been assessed a traffic violation or charged with drunk driving in New York, do not hesitate to contact the experienced drunk driving and traffic defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark J. Sacco. For a free consultation call 866-642-3807.

 

Speeders Support Greater Enforcement of Speed Laws

 

According to federal data, speeding is responsible for one-third of all traffic fatalities on US roads. The National Survey of Speeding Attitudes and Behavior, an annual survey conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), revealed that many Americans hold inconsistent views about speeding.

David Strickland, the NHTSA administrator, reflected on the survey results and observed that “motorists who drive at excessive speeds put themselves and others at an increased risk of being involved in a crash and possibly of being injured or killed.”

Survey Reveals Paradoxical Norms and Attitudes about Speeding

Although nearly 25 percent of people surveyed admitted to speeding, more than 90 percent expressed a desire for everyone to obey speed limits. The survey results suggest that American drivers want others to avoid speeding but are not quite so willing to stop speeding themselves.

Nearly half of people surveyed believe that more measures should be taken to ensure compliance with speed limits and reduce speeding on roadways. However, respondents differed on the types of measures that they would support. Two-thirds of people surveyed indicated that they want more frequent ticketing for speeding. However, only 41 percent of respondents want higher fines for speeders, suggesting an uneasy relationship between safety concerns and financial considerations.

An optimistic view of the survey results is that the heightened and more visible presence of traffic law enforcement on roadways has led to changing attitudes regarding speeding. Since 1997, the first year in which the annual NHTSA survey was conducted, the percentage of people who admit to enjoying the feeling of driving fast has dipped from 40 percent to just 27 percent.

Unfortunately, speeding remains a significant problem for thrill-seeking younger drivers. The survey found that 11 percent of drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 have been involved in a speeding-related crash during the previous five years. This number is all the more alarming when one considers that many of these drivers have not been able to drive for the entire five-year period.

According to federal data, speeding was a factor in motor vehicle crashes that killed more than 120,000 people in the US in the past decade. Nonetheless, opponents of those calling for an increased focus on the dangers of speeding argue that high speeds obscure more prevalent causes of car crashes. Drunk driving (DUI/DWI), distracted driving, and even mechanical defects, they say, are more likely to cause fatal car accidents.

Regardless of the cause, a motor vehicle accident can result in serious injuries and possibly even death. If you or a loved one has been involved in a car crash in New York, do not hesitate to contact the experienced traffic defense and personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark J. Sacco. Call 866-642-3807 for your free consultation. 

If NY Uses New StarChase GPS It Could Prevent Police Chases

 

A new technology that sounds rather James Bond-like, if implemented in New York, might protect police officers and innocent bystanders by limiting the need for dangerous police chases.

Law enforcement agencies throughout the country use the StarChase company’s launchable GPS tracker to keep track of the whereabouts of suspects’ vehicles. The agencies and departments currently using the new technology include the Arizona Highway Patrol, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Iowa State Highway Patrol, and the police department in Austin, Texas.

At present, the technology is not used in New York. However, as the GPS tracker is being utilized and tested by more and more police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country, it may be only a matter of time before NY police departments consider employing the new technology. The question is: Should NY police departments use the device?

High-Speed Police Chases Are Dangerous

Police chases occur for all kinds of reasons: a stolen car, a drunk driver, a driver under the influence of narcotics, and minor traffic violations. High-speed pursuits put law enforcement officers at risk. Just as serious is the risk posed to innocent bystanders during police chases. According to the FBI, 42 percent of persons killed or injured in police pursuits are innocent third parties.

The New GPS Technology Might Save Lives

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study determined that 360 people are killed each year in police chases. Some experts argue that the number of fatalities is even higher because there is no mandatory reporting system for deaths in police pursuits.

StarChase, the Virginia-based company that manufactures the new GPS technology, said that police apprehended 80 percent of suspects whose vehicles had been tagged with the company’s tracking device. The Arizona Department of Public Safety recently used device to track drug traffickers and recover more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana.

The new technology could prevent accidents and save lives by allowing police officers to avoid pursuing suspects in potentially dangerous chases. The StarChase system utilizes a double-barreled, compressed-air unit that is designed to be mounted onto the grille of a police cruiser. A police officer in hot pursuit of a suspect uses an air cannon to fire a small GPS beacon onto the suspect’s car. This allows officers to track the suspect from a safe distance and then make an arrest later with the assistance of backup.

NY police departments might truly benefit by using the new GPS technology. Additionally, the public at large could probably benefit from more widespread use of the device.

If you have been cited for a traffic violation in New York, contact the aggressive and experienced traffic defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark J. Sacco or call 866-642-3807 for a free consultation.

NYU Study Finds Strict Enforcement of Traffic Safety Laws Reduces Motor Vehicle Fatalities

A recent study by researchers at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development found that states with a higher number of alcohol and traffic laws tend to have less traffic fatalities than states with fewer such laws. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The NYU study examined a subset of 27 laws, which included child safety seat regulations, beer taxes, and mandatory fines for DUI violations. The study was comprehensive, analyzing these laws across all 50 states. Specifically, the researchers determined how many of these laws were adopted by each state between 1980 and 2010. The types of laws were chosen based on two criteria:

· The laws had to be aimed at changing individual behaviors with respect to either alcohol consumption or traffic safety.
· There had to be prior evidence suggesting that these types of laws might be effective at reducing preventable traffic-related deaths.

Although the average state had adopted less than eight percent of these laws in 1980, that number grew to 59 percent by 2010. Importantly, the significant increase in alcohol and traffic laws in some states corresponded with a significant decrease in the total number of deaths resulting from traffic accidents. States that had adopted most traffic safety laws saw a 14.5 percent decrease in their motor vehicle fatality rates for all ages.

Significantly, the NYU study also found that alcohol consumption was strongly associated with higher traffic fatality rates. This is important because more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired car crashes across the nation in 2012.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 33,561 people were killed on US roadways in 2012. This represented a three percent increase over 2011. In New York, there were 1,168 traffic fatalities last year. Driving has become more dangerous in recent years because of the prevalence of technology and a resulting increase in texting while driving. If you’ve been assessed a traffic violation or charged with drunk driving in New York, contact an experienced traffic defense lawyer at the Law Offices of Mark J. Sacco. Call for a free initial consultation: 866-642-3807.

New Starchase GPS Technology Might Save Lives

New Starchase GPS Technology Might Save Lives

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study determined that 360 people are killed each year in police chases. Some experts argue that the number of fatalities is even higher because there is no mandatory reporting system for deaths in police pursuits.

StarChase, the Virginia-based company that manufactures the new technology, said that police apprehended 80 percent of suspects whose vehicles had been tagged with the company’s tracking device. The Arizona Department of Public Safety recently used the device to track drug traffickers and recover more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana.

The StarChase system utilizes a double-barreled, compressed-air unit that is designed to be mounted onto the grille of a police cruiser. A police officer in hot pursuit of a suspect uses an air cannon to fire a small GPS beacon onto the suspect’s car. An industrial-strength adhesive helps the tracker remain on the car once it’s attached. The vehicle’s location is then tracked in a secure web browser accessible only by authorized law enforcement. The device relays the vehicle’s location every three to five seconds, so the officer is constantly updated.

The new technology could prevent accidents and save lives by allowing police officers to avoid pursuing suspects in potentially dangerous chases. Instead, an officer would have the option to try to cut off the suspect. An officer could also decide to simply track the suspect from a safe distance and then make an arrest later with the assistance of backup. If you or a loved one were injured in a high-speed police pursuit, contact Law Office of Mark J. Sacco, PLLC or give us a call at 866-642-3807.

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