On February 11th, one of America’s best-loved and most respected journalists, 60 minutes reporter and veteran war correspondent, Bob Simon, was tragically killed when the livery cab he was a passenger in crashed on New York City’s West Side Highway.
According to reports, around 6.45pm, Simon’s car lost control, and rear-ended another car, before striking the barrier. Simon was discovered on the back seat, unconscious, with blunt-force head trauma, and injuries to his stomach and extremities. He later died at St Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in Manhattan.
Abdul Fedahi, the partially-disabled driver of Bob Simons’ car, had already notched up nine violations on his licence in the past three years (including speeding and running a red light), and had only just had his licence reinstated when the accident happened. He suffered two broken legs and a broken arm.
Had Simon been wearing a seat belt, he may well still be alive; however, in not doing so, he was not violating any New York laws, which state that passengers in cabs and other vehicles-for-hire do not have to wear a seatbelt during their journey. According to the New York Taxi and Limousine Commission’s (TLC) website,
“Drivers of yellow medallion taxicabs and for-hire vehicles and their passengers are exempt from laws regarding car seats and seatbelts. Keep in mind, the TLC encourages everyone in the vehicle to buckle their seatbelts while riding in a cab. There are no Taxi and Limousine Commission rules regarding this, as it is a State exemption. Passengers with children are encouraged to bring their own car seats, which the drivers must allow passengers to install.”
Out of the country’s 50 states, only 28 (and DC) have legislated that seat belts must be worn by all passengers on rear seats. Some states have additional laws regarding children in vehicles. Unfortunately, New York is one of the 22 states which have no such laws. Jonathan Adkins, who is the executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association said that Bob Simon’s accident is a,
“Tragic reminder to all Americans that the laws of physics still apply to cabs and other cars-for-hire. Motorists are not magically safer in these vehicles. Too many of us don’t think about wearing a seat belt when we are in these vehicles because we aren’t in them for long periods of time, and we are out of our normal travel routine.”
In 2012, the New York Daily News published a report on the growing number of taxicab passengers who end up in hospital – a lot of the time because of injuries caused by being slammed into the partition between them and the driver. Recently, the chairman of emergency medicine at Bellevue Hospital and NYU Langone Medical Center, Dr Lewis Goldfrank said that the problem has not changed in 20 years, and that his hospital treats at least two people a week who are suffering from injuries caused by this type of accidents.
Cab Riders United, a passenger safety group, has been campaigning to have the law in New York changed so that it’s a legal requirement for back seat passengers to wear a seatbelt. The organization is also pushing for road tests which are particular for taxi and livery cabs, saying that while there are responsible and reliable drivers, there should be a legal requirement to prove that they are qualified to do the job. In light of the fact that Fehadi, despite having a disabled arm – which is thought to be a contributing factor in the accident – was still granted a licence by the TLC, this does not seem an unreasonable request.
In 2007, a study of passenger vehicle crashes was carried out by the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Injury Prevention. The study looked at 12,071 incidents which involved at least one passenger in a rear seat who was aged 16+, and in which either the driver or a rear seat passenger aged 16+ was killed. The conclusion of the study was that by wearing a seat belt, passengers are 60% less likely to die in a car crash than those who do not. According to federal data, the reason most people don’t buckle up when in the back of a car is because they erroneously believe themselves to be safer than if they were in the front. In 2012, almost 2,000 rear seat passengers died in New York car crashes. Where it was known whether seatbelts had been used or not, it was discovered that over 60% of the deceased had not used them. Similarly, in the same year, around half of the 19,000 front seat passengers who were killed in accidents had not used seatbelts.
If you are in a car, regardless of whether you are the driver, or a front or rear seat passenger, please make sure you wear your seatbelt, even for the shortest of journeys.
If you, or someone you know, has been involved in an auto accident, please don’t hesitate to contact New York City motor vehicle accident attorneys, Antin, Ehrlich, and Epstein as soon as possible to discuss your legal options, and to arrange a free consultation. Alternatively, give us a call today on 212-221-5999.