Poor Road Conditions in New York City
Weather conditions can dramatically affect the ability to safely navigate city streets, highways and roads throughout New York City. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), seven different categories of road conditions and weather variables can affect traffic safety and lead to poor road conditions in New York City:
- Precipitation – Rain, snow, sleet, hail and freezing rain may cause visibility and traction problems, increasing the risk of accidents if drivers fail to adjust their speed, following distance, braking and other driving maneuvers to accommodate the weather.
- Fog – Visibility is seriously decreased when fog is present. Drivers should slow down, increase their following distance and turn on their lights.
- Air temperature and humidity – This does not directly impact roadways or traffic flow, but it can affect things like ice and snow accumulation and removal.
- Wind speeds – High winds can affect visibility for drivers if rain or snow is also present. It can also diminish a driver’s ability to control a vehicle.
- Pavement temperature – Pavement temperatures, particularly rapid changes in temperature, can cause damage to roadways.
- Pavement condition – Damage to the pavement, potholes, uneven pavement, or any other defect in the pavement can cause a driver to lose control of a vehicle.
- Water level – Pooling water poses serious risks, such as the risk of hydroplaning or the inability to stop when necessary.
Accidents as a Result of Poor Road Conditions in New York City
According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYSDMV), over 27,000 accidents in 2011 had a weather-related factor. One of the factors that is not mentioned by the FHA is glare, which can temporarily blind drivers. Glare was a factor in 2,454 accidents in New York during 2011. Weather was a factor in 64 car accident deaths that year in New York and in more than 10,000 injuries.
According to the NYSDMV, the following road conditions caused or contributed to approximately 30,000 collisions throughout New York in 2011:
- Improper/inadequate lane markings – A factor in 159 collisions causing 57 injuries.
- Obstruction/debris – A factor in 2,157 crashes causing six deaths and 734 injuries.
- Defective pavement – Contributed to 499 accidents, three deaths and 294 injuries.
- Defective/improper shoulders – A factor in 86 crashes causing 40 injuries.
- Improper/non-working traffic control devices – Contributed to 295 collisions resulting in one death and 181 injuries.
- Obstructed/limited view – A factor in 5,645 accidents causing 33 deaths and 2,539 injuries.
Responsibility for a Collision in Adverse Road or Weather Conditions
When weather or road conditions are a factor in a car accident, either the drivers of the vehicles involved in the collision and/or a governmental authority responsible for the design, maintenance, or repair of the roadway could be liable for injuries sustained in the crash.
Although a motorist cannot control weather conditions, a driver can control how he or she reacts and adjusts to those conditions. If a motorist fails to make necessary adjustments or fails to use caution when weather conditions demand it, a driver could be found to be negligent if an accident ensues. For example, when temperatures drop during a rain storm and the roadway begins to ice over, the posted speed limit may not be a safe speed at which to drive. A driver who drives too fast for road conditions could be held liable for injuries sustained in an accident based on the driver’s failure to decrease his or her speed.
When a road condition is to blame for a collision, a government agency could be held responsible. Local, state and federal authorities are responsible for designing, maintaining and repairing the roads and streets on which we travel each day. If, for instance, a defect in the pavement contributed to a collision, the governmental authority responsible for maintaining the pavement could be held liable for the injuries under certain circumstances. By the same token, if a street had inadequate lane markings that contributed to a crash, the governmental agency responsible for the design of the roadway may be held responsible for injuries sustained in a crash.
Determining negligence or fault in a crash in which weather or road conditions played a role can be very difficult, particularly if a governmental agency is a potentially liable party. When a government body is involved, there are very specific procedures and rules that must be followed regarding notice. If those procedures are not followed, a victim could forfeit the right to compensation for his or her injuries. For this reason, it is crucial that a victim consult with an experienced New York City car accident attorney.
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Preserving Evidence in Road Defect Cases
When a road defect causes or contributes to a car accident, it is imperative that evidence of the defect be preserved to help make sure that a victim can recover full and fair compensation for his or her injuries.
Government agencies and contractors have an obligation to design, construct and maintain safe roadways. These agencies sometimes fail in their duty, which can result in a road defect.
Some types of road defects that may contribute to car accidents in New York City include:
- Design flaws – Sometimes a road is flawed by design because of issues such as improper grading, lanes that are too narrow, steep shoulder drop-offs, blind spots or curves that are too sharp.
- Signage – Improper or inadequate signage can cause a collision if a motorist fails to see important warning signs as a result.
- Surfaces – Including improper water drainage, excessive gravel, debris on the roadway or potholes.
- Lighting – Including lighting that is missing, inadequate, malfunctioning or not functioning.
Evidence in a Road Defect Car Accident
Preserving evidence is important in any NYC car accident case. It is particularly important in a road defect case because the evidence may be more difficult to obtain in the first place and more likely to be disposed of without taking steps to ensure its preservation.
Although each road defect accident presents a unique set of facts and circumstances, some common types of evidence include:
- Photographs – Pictures of the scene should be taken as soon after the collision as possible to ensure that the conditions as they were at the time of the accident are properly documented.
- Weather conditions – Official reports indicating what the weather conditions were at the time of the accident should be requested and reviewed.
- Original designs – Blueprints may need to be located and reviewed to determine if the design itself is defective or if the design was adequate but the design was not followed correctly when the road was actually constructed.
- Maintenance schedules and orders – City, state or federal records may need to be requested and reviewed to determine if the road has been properly maintained or if complaints regarding problems have been filed and then ignored. The same is true for stoplights, signs, guardrails and other safety devices.
- Construction schedules and orders – Road construction crews must follow very strict rules and procedures when working at a construction or maintenance site. If road construction was present at the time of the collision, a review of the construction plans, orders, and schedules should be conducted.
- Measurements – Thorough measurements should be taken at the scene right after the collision. Things such as the slope of the road, the distance from a warning sign to a curve, or the length of a guardrail could be key pieces of evidence in your case.
Preserving evidence should begin as soon as possible after the accident because conditions can change in a very short period of time. A tree branch that was obstructing a critical warning sign at the time of the collision could be trimmed back, a pothole could be repaired, or a construction zone could vanish.
In addition, documentary, video or electronic evidence could be destroyed as a matter of course. Surveillance videos, for instance, are typically kept for only a brief period of time before they are recorded over. Original copies of complaints or requests for maintenance might be shredded after a specific length of time.
By moving quickly, your attorney may be able to request a court order that will prevent the destruction of evidence that might be crucial to your case.