The availability and use of ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft have risen substantially in New York City. The number of traffic accidents in the city is also climbing. Is there a connection? Collisions involving ridesharing vehicles in the five boroughs jumped more than three hundred percent in just two years – from 534 crashes in July 2014 to 1,672 accidents in June of this year – and those numbers are causing concerns to mount about the popular ridesharing services and the drivers they hire.
Surprisingly, while drivers for New York City ridesharing companies are increasingly involved in collisions, the accident statistics for yellow cab drivers in the city has declined in the same period. Yellow cabs were involved in 1,168 collisions in July 2014, in 1,118 accidents in July 2015, and in 1,054 crashes in June 2016. No yellow taxis in New York City were involved in fatal accidents in 2016 as of August 25th, according to the New York Post.
However, New York City’s “black cars” – the luxury vehicles-for-hire predominantly used by corporate and professional travelers – have also, like the ridesharing vehicles, been involved in a rising number of accidents. From January 1 through August 25, black cars were in 9,062 crashes, or 4,273 more crashes than the same period last year. More than a third of those accidents were “fender-benders,” but in many of the accidents, passengers suffered severe or catastrophic injuries, and black cars were involved in five fatal collisions in the months of May and June.
CAN DRIVERS-FOR-HIRE WORK FOR MORE THAN ONE EMPLOYER?
The New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission has recognized that the rising number of accidents corresponds to the growing number of vehicles-for-hire during precisely the same period of time. Predictably, the number of accidents involving vehicles-for-hire in New York City is also happening as an increasing number of drivers are working for – and transporting passengers for – more than one employer simultaneously. It’s not unusual for a driver to work for Uber, Juno, and Lyft all at the same time in New York City.
The ridesharing drivers may be trying to monitor three cellphones while driving, providing almost nonstop opportunities to be distracted and take the eyes off the road. Nancy Soria, the vice president of Green Taxis of New York, told the New York Post, “The devices can be quite distracting…. Some of them work for Uber and Lyft and other companies. They are constantly in between.”
Taxi industry officials are taking the opportunity to criticize their black car competitors who operate with significantly fewer regulations. Michael Woloz, speaking for the Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade, the largest taxi trade association in the city, told the New York Post, “There is highly uneven enforcement on the street that skews heavily against yellow cabbies due to their high visibility and away from black cars which blend into the streetscape and are often impossible to differentiate from passenger cars at a distance.”
ARE SOME DRIVERS-FOR-HIRE DANGEROUS OR INEXPERIENCED?
Woloz also said the drivers of some black cars are driving with suspended licenses: “This uneven regulation results in more dangerous drivers gravitating to the less regulated black car app companies where drivers know they will not receive as many summonses and will be allowed to operate even if their license is suspended. Put it all together and you have a recipe for more crashes and more dangerous streets.”
Nancy Soria believes that many of the drivers of black cars lack the experience they need to avoid accidents in New York City traffic. “These newbies only came for the dreams; they aren’t professional drivers. They are promising instant money for them to get in. I’ve seen a lot of terrible black car drivers. They disregard stop signs, run past me, and don’t use their turn signals.”
Several passengers told the Post that they are tired of – and sometimes frightened by – distracted drivers who pay more attention to phones, tablets, and monitors – and less attention to the road. Lindsay O’Brien, a 25-year-old waitress from Midtown, said “I think it’s ridiculous. It’s not normal for drivers to text, call, or touch a gadget in the corner of the car.” Michael Vier, a 32-year-old Manhattan law clerk, thinks ride-for-hire companies should “implement better training, practices, and standards for their drivers.”
DID NEW TRAFFIC REGULATIONS IMPROVE SAFETY?
With accidents and fatalities on the rise in the five boroughs, New Yorkers are asking if Mayor Bill de Blasio is still committed to his campaign pledge to reduce traffic fatalities in the city to zero by 2024. In 2014, Mayor de Blasio signed into law a set of new traffic regulations that were intended to improve the safety of New York’s residents and visitors and to reduce traffic fatalities and injuries.
However, the numbers have been rising rather than declining. No figures are available (yet) for August, but in June and July of this year, 46 people died in city traffic, up from 39 in 2015. In the first seven months of 2016, 129 people lost their lives in New York City traffic accidents. It’s bicyclists who seem to be at the most risk. Fifteen were killed in traffic in the first seven months of 2016, a 250 percent increase over the same period in 2015.
The truth is that anyone can be injured in New York City traffic, and you don’t even have to be in a car. Pedestrians and bicyclists – because they lack the protection that cars and trucks provide – are at even more risk. While ride sharing apps do exist and some drivers do drive distracted while in route, for every distracted driver there’s an emergency application for handling the crash. These apps function as a user’s premeditated plan of action for handling emergencies. If you’re injured in a crash in the city, these apps will handle the most important aspects of the emergency. Regardless of if it was while riding with a ride sharing partner or if alcohol was involved or if you leveraged an emergency app, it is in your best interest to speak to a good New York City personal injury attorney right away.
If you’re injured by a driver who was negligent, you are entitled by law to full reimbursement for your all of your medical expenses, lost wages, and all other injury-related losses. However, bring “entitled” doesn’t mean the money is simply handed to you. You’ll have to prove the other driver was negligent, and you’ll have to prove – with the help of a New York City personal injury attorney – that the negligence directly caused your injury. Be careful on the streets of New York; those streets are getting even more dangerous. Follow all of the rules of the road. Use abundant caution. Never drink and drive, and always, always look out for the other guy.