Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accidents

New Mexico’s Department of Transportation recently held a summit on autonomous vehicles.  The theme was that New Mexico needs to be ready. Semi-autonomous vehicles are operated with a driver behind the wheel.   Some semi-autonomous vehicles are already on the roads.  Fully autonomous vehicles are anticipated to hit roads in the coming years – cars and trucks that are fully automated and driverless. This raises concerns about what happens after a New Mexico car accident involving an autonomous vehicle.

The summit on autonomous vehicles followed a fatal car accident in Tempe, Arizona.  Tragically, a woman was struck and killed in Tempe while she was crossing the street.  She was hit by another woman who was behind the wheel of a self-driving Uber.  Tempe police had stated that the car did not slow down before striking the pedestrian, which has since been confirmed by review of video footage of the accident.  The Uber accident in Tempe is alarming because either the pedestrian who was struck was not recognized by the car’s autonomous system as a pedestrian, or, if she was, something went wrong applying the brakes.  The National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Safety Administration investigated the accident to try to figure out what happened.

Among the technological innovations discussed at the summit on autonomous vehicles organized by the Department of Transportation were the five levels of automation.  Level 1 vehicles have automatic braking and cruise control.  Level 2 vehicles assist with steering and acceleration.  At Level 3, conditional automation, a driver is still needed and is expected to jump in and take over under certain circumstances.  At Level 4, a vehicle can drive itself under some conditions, without input from a driver.  At Level 5, a vehicle can drive itself under all conditions and may not include the option to let a driver take over.

Courts can rule for or against parties as a matter of law by granting motions for summary judgment.  If a motion for summary judgment is granted, absent a reversal on appeal, the issues it decides will not be presented to the trier of fact, which in New Mexico personal injury cases is often a jury.

In a recent ruling, the United States District Court denied for the most part a motion for summary judgment brought by a driver of a semi-tractor trailer and his employer, the defendants in a personal injury lawsuit.  The court granted the defendants’ summary judgment motion with respect to the plaintiff’s punitive damages claim, and it denied summary judgment with respect to the plaintiff’s New Mexico state law claims, including negligence, negligence per se, and negligent training and supervision.

The underlying accident occurred on Interstate I-40 at around 3:00 in the morning, after the individual defendant had taken over driving responsibilities from his brother.

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In early January 2018, the continental United States experienced record-breaking weather conditions.  Snow came down in parts of the country that usually enjoy mild winters, including Florida, where, reportedly, the cold caused iguanas to lose their grips and fall out of trees.  Inclement weather and the hazards it poses to health and safety can be unexpected.

Property owners and others in New Mexico are obligated to ensure that the premises under their control are safe and do not pose hazards to visitors.  Premises liability can be triggered when there are New Mexico slip and fall accidents within and outside commercial properties, including but not limited to stores, restaurants, and hotels, and residential properties, such as houses and apartment buildings.

To help minimize the occurrence of injurious accidents that can result from hazardous outdoor conditions, New Mexico law has provisions in place imposing obligations on property owners at the municipal level.

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The Albuquerque City Council recently passed Council Bill Number F/S O-17-51 to improve safety in the city and reduce the occurrence of Albuquerque pedestrian accidents and related issues.  Under the ordinance, pedestrians are prohibited from occupying certain locations absent an emergency, including those near highway entrance and exit ramps and medians.  The new ordinance also prohibits pedestrians, in the absence of an emergency, from engaging in physical interactions or exchanges with drivers and other occupants of vehicles.  Similarly, occupants of motor vehicles within travel lanes or intersections are prohibited from engaging in physical interactions or exchanges with pedestrians unless an emergency situation makes the interactions or exchanges necessary.  Signs are anticipated to go up soon to advise people of the new city ordinance.

According to a KOB 4 article, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico has expressed concerns that the ordinance violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because of its impact on panhandling.  The ordinance does not discuss panhandling; it does discuss alarming statistics concerning pedestrian fatality rates in New Mexico in general and in Albuquerque in particular.

Among the statistics cited in the new Albuquerque city ordinance is the fact that New Mexico, as compared to other states, had the highest rate of pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents in 2014 and the seventh-highest rate in the year 2015.  The city of Albuquerque is said to have had the second-highest rate of pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents among U.S. cities with a population of over 500,000 in 2014.  As Albuquerque-specific statistics go, the city ordinance explains that among all of the pedestrian and bicyclist accidents involving crashes in New Mexico, more than 40% of the crashes occurred in the city of Albuquerque, and over 80% occurred around intersections.  Hopefully, the new measures will reduce accidents and improve safety.