In New York, Long Island is the most dangerous place to drive. The number of car accidents our residents are involved in and the severity of each accident is the highest in all of New York State. In both Suffolk and Nassau Counties, motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of injury related death. In Suffolk, approximately 134 died as the result of a motor vehicle accident, which is the highest fatality rate in New York State. Nassau County has the second highest fatality rate, with 68 people a year killed in 2018 because of a motor vehicle accident. Consistently, motor vehicle accidents are the second cause of emergency department visits, with nearly 32,000 Long Islanders requiring emergency medical care after an accident. These figures do not include people who visited the emergency department for their accident injuries immediately after the accident. Of those 32,000 Long Islanders who visit the emergency department, almost 3,000 must be admitted to the hospital for inpatient care. Approximately 40% of those hospitalizations are diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI). Regardless of the type of injury sustained, hospitalizations were, on average, seven days. Evidently, Long Island car accidents occur frequently and can be extremely dangerous. It is important to evaluate the statistics so that we may take proper precautions. Accidents are preventable and nobody wants to be involved in one.

Who is at risk for accident related injuries?

On Long Island, pedestrians are most likely to be killed and severely injured, requiring rigorous medical treatment.  While pedestrian accidents are higher in New York City, pedestrian accidents on Long Island mirror the statewide death rate at approximately 27%. Second are bicyclists and motorcyclists. The less protective barriers (ex: the frame of a car and airbags versus a helmet versus no protection), the more susceptible an individual is to sustain more serious bodily injuries. Safety equipment, for instance, airbags, seatbelts, and well-made vehicle frames save lives and reduce injuries.  However, motor vehicle drivers and occupants are not fully protected by the safety equipment installed in their vehicles. While you should always use safety equipment, such as seatbelts and car seats, it does not make you invincible. As a matter of fact, motor vehicle occupants, which includes both drivers and passengers, comprise the highest numbers of emergency room visits and hospitalizations than pedestrians, motorcyclists and bicyclists combined. The number of deaths of motor vehicle occupants is second to pedestrians. This may be explained by the greater number of motor vehicle occupants compared to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists, which influences the data. Nevertheless, the significance is that motor vehicle accidents, regardless of your position in or outside of the vehicle, may cause injury or death.

In Suffolk and Nassau, men and woman are injured in equal numbers; however, while woman are more likely to seek emergency treatment immediately following an accident, men are more likely to be hospitalized or die. This may have to do with partaking in risky behavior. Accidents are preventable. The more you adhere to the rules of the road, the less like you are to be involved in an accident and the less likely you are to be involved in a serious accident.

Our youth, ages 20-24, are more likely to be killed in accidents whether they are pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, or vehicle occupants.  Our youth, ages 15-19, are equally likely as 20-24-year-olds to require hospitalization and medical treatment as pedestrians or bicyclists. Those over age 65 are also susceptible to death and severe injury following a motor vehicle accident. Predictably, minors and young adults and those who are most fragile are experiencing the worst effects of car accidents.

What are the causes of dangerous and fatal accidents?

In 2018 there were just over 403,000 accidents in New York State.  About one-third of those accidents caused personal injuries.

In Nassau County, the major contributing factors to traffic accidents are, in order of rank:

  1. Distracted driving
  2. Following too closely
  3. Failure to yield to the right of way
  4. Improper lane change

In Suffolk County, the major contributing factors to traffic accidents are, in order of rank:

  1. Distracted driving
  2. Failure to yield to the right of way
  3. Following too closely
  4. Improper lane change

The most fatal accidents in Nassau County involve, in order of rank:

  1. Unsafe speed
  2. Failure to yield to the right of way
  3. Pedestrian/Bicyclist error/confusion

The most fatal accidents in Suffolk County involve, in order of rank:

  1. Unsafe speed
  2. Pedestrian/Bicyclist error/confusion
  3. Failure to yield to the right of way

Distracted driving is defined as participating in other activities while driving.  When a driver is distracted, they take their eyes off the road, their hands off of the wheel, or are not paying attention to driving.  The biggest contributor to distracted driving is cell phone use. In Suffolk and Nassau Counties, distracted driving accounts for the majority of accidents involving personal injuries.  Although distracted driving is not enumerated above as one of the top three causes of fatal accidents, it remains a top cause of fatal accidents on Long Island. Younger individuals are more apt to partake in the use of cell phones while driving.  It is difficult to avoid emergency situations when you are not watching the road.  Furthermore, drivers usually operate their vehicles at a high rate of speed while texting or using their phones, which heightens the potential for serious damage.  

In both Suffolk and Nassau Counties, unsafe speed was the cause of most fatal accidents. Unsafe speed is assessed by the responding police officer and listed as a contributing factor in the police report or whether a speeding ticket was issued to one or more drivers. Not only does speed increase the impact and thus increasing the potential for injuries, speeding also puts the driver at a greater risk for losing control of the vehicle, reducing the effectiveness of safety equipment, and increases the stopping distance before the point of danger. Drivers ages 21-29 cause more accidents by speeding than any other age group. In all of New York State, the speed limit is 55 miles per hour, which is set for maximum fuel economy and crash safety.

Yielding to the right of way is frequently required of Long Island Drivers, as we are required to yield when merging into a different lane, when encountering emergency vehicles, at an intersection, etc. Unexpectedly, failure to yield to the right of way capped the list of causes of fatal accidents and injury accidents in both Suffolk and Nassau. There are programs and initiatives to prevent other types of accidents, however, failure is infrequently addressed. Education on the rules of the road may be beneficial if you caused a prior failure to yield accident, occasionally (or frequently) fail to yield properly, or have been issued a citation for failing to yield to the right of way. Yielding is allowing the vehicle that has the right of way to proceed first. While pedestrians and vehicles may not have the right of way, if they are in the roadway, you cannot strike them with their vehicle (profound advice, I know). We must pull over for emergency vehicles to pass. Yellow lights signal to slow down, and you must yield to the vehicle that has the right of way when proceeding to the intersection.  A citation for a violation of New York Vehicle and Traffic Law regarding failure to yield to the right of way carries three points in addition to other penalties.  For more information on how to properly yield to the right of way, visit https://dmv.ny.gov/about-dmv/chapter-5-intersections-and-turns.

While Long Island’s roadways are dangerous, you can protect yourself by following the traffic laws and utilizing proper safety equipment.  If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the Law Offices of Jennifer G. Tocci, P.C., for a complimentary consultation (631) 343-7676.

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