Janet Lee

Janet Lee
Photo:Janet Lee, injured by a taxi partition.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Reply to Vincent letter


Steve Crowell
P.O. Box 303
Eastham, MA 02642

USDOT NHTSA Chief Counsel – O.Kevin Vincent
1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Mr. Vincent,

            First, I thank you for taking the time to respond to my October letter on January 11th, this year. Allow me to submit the following perspectives and data.
“Security” partition may be a misnomer.
Partitions installed in taxis (to reduce murders) have had a miserable failure rate. Every cab driver killed in Boston since 1970 HAD a partition in the cab. More drivers get shot now, with partitions.
Although this aspect is not a DOT issue, I offer the “1997 Baltimore report From NCSU’s urban studies professor Dr. John Randolph Stone, which says; “One of the most intuitively effective, yet controversial countermeasures is a taxi partition or shield.”

“Intuitively effective”? What does this mean? “We think it works, so let’s assume it does.”?
Dr. Stone supports taxi regulators who overstate the objective of taxi partition use. He also says; “This study makes one implicit assumption… it is assumed that assaults on taxi drivers are a proxy measure of taxi driver homicides. Thus, if shields reduce assaults then it can be assumed that they will reduce homicides.”  
You have no need to pay attention to his data which shows a 300% increase in cab driver murders. If… partitions are viable, or not, for murder rate reductions… is not a question your office would deal with. Your office would only deal with compliance issues, and performance issues in crashes, not assaults.
Regarding paragraph four; I only request that the agency do… as required by congressional directive. In order to reduce the frequency and severity of injury and the frequency of death, your agency should make it clear that partitions, IF USED, must be built and installed in compliance with all applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.
Currently none are certified, and none comply. Regarding the merits of using a partition; you mention a trade off of safety in the absence of a partition. A previous USDOT letter (from Armstrong) mentioned a trade off of safety using a partition.
“Trading off safety” with a partition is illegal and cited in the original letter of warning in 1984.
Trading off safety by not using a partition is not your concern. There are no federal standards regarding operator retention of control, nor are there any regarding assaults on operators. Just what partitions may, or may not be viable for… is none of your business. If taxi regulators are telling the truth about assault prevention, or not… should not be up for discussion with USDOT personnel. Your job is to be sure partitions comply. Trading off safety by using an illegal partition is your concern. Any so-called trade-off of safety from assailants, from ‘not using a partition’ should not concern you.

I thank you for the information about FMVSS 226. Reading it cleared up my confusion about the ‘airbag/partition intrusion zone conflict’ question. If there are other standards that mention partitions, please let me know.
Do I understand correctly that because FMVSS no. 226 excludes partitioned vehicles, that Mr. Reid was correct when he said cabs and cruisers are exempt from all FMVSS’s? The confusion persists.

That partitions are built, offered for sale, sold or installed in violation of FMVSS’s, is your concern. Even if no injuries resulted, the law should be enforced anyway. Unfortunately, many deaths and injuries do occur. So many so, that NYC trauma surgeons were alarmed enough to conduct two studies.

Dr.  Talmor, Dr. Barie, Dr. Shapiro and Dr. Hoffman, Department of Surgery, New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, NY. In 1996 four surgeons from the Department of Surgery, New York Hospital-Cornell
Medical Center released a report, this is a review of it.

 “Craniofacial injuries resulting from taxicab accidents in New York City

 Taxicab accidents are a common occurrence in New York City. This review was undertaken to characterize the nature of craniofacial injuries that result from taxicab accidents.
 Data were collected on 16 patients who required admission to trauma or plastic and reconstructive surgery services, after sustaining craniofacial injury as a result of a taxicab accidents. 
 Front-end deceleration collisions were the most common mechanism of injury. 
 Fifty-six percent of the patients were thrown against the bulletproof, Plexiglas driver safety divider and sustained an injury most commonly to the anterior midface. 
 Both bony and soft tissue injuries were common in the entire group. 
“Given the high incidence of craniofacial injury, appropriate safety standards for taxicabs must be initiated, including the reevaluation of the utility of the safety divider”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8722975

Another group also studied this matter.

Dr. Arnold Komisar,  Dr. Stanley Blaugrund and Dr. Martin Camins - Lenox Hill Hospital, NYC - "Every emergency room in New York is seeing patients injured in taxicabs: three here, four there, six at another hospital, so it's easy to underestimate the problem,"
http://www.nytimes.com/1991/04/16/news/unplanned-taxi-destination-hospital.html

 

Some other doctors have made independent comments about partitions.

Dr. John Sherman - Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery, New York Hospital, New York City -  "The results are uniformly disastrous: patients with head wounds from dividers, fractured noses, lacerations and worse.  Last month I saw two patients die from taxi-related injuries.”        http://www.nytimes.com/1995/01/14/opinion/l-we-need-protection-from-perilous-taxis-770395.html

I have spoken with Dr. Sherman more than once. He is exasperated and has stopped his efforts to correct the problem. He accepts the partition risks as part of life in NYC.


Dr. Marc Melrose - Emergency Physician, Beth Israel Medical Center, Manhattan - "Cabs don't have to get into an accident for people to be hurt. The cab stops short and you go flying into the screen with the handles and bolts and that metal change thing. It's dangerous."    http://www.nytimes.com/1991/04/16/news/unplanned-taxi-destination-hospital.html
Dr. Rahul Sharma, NYUMC  - has worked in several city emergency rooms, is all too familiar with the  damage the anti-crime partitions, required since 1994, can cause. “Ask any ER doc in Manhattan, and they will tell you they see it very frequently,” he said. “People have a false sense of security in the backseat of a cab.”
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/riding-new-york-city-taxi-seat-belt-danger-health-article-1.1036853

Dr. Sharma has been working with Dr. Goldfrank and they are pursuing legislation to make people use seat belts in the rear seats of taxi cabs. I pointed out that correction of the violations of federal motor vehicle safety standards would solve the injury problem for BOTH front and rear seat occupants.

Dr. Stephen Pearlman - Upper East Side facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon - “Gaping soft tissue injuries are also prevalent, since an edge of a partition's sliding door or its metal track can tear the skin.” “In the most severe instances, this causes "almost an avulsion" of the nose.”           http://www.nysun.com/new-york/doctors-predict-fewer-taxi-craniofacial-injuries/51639/

Dr. Paul Lorenc – NYC Plastic Surgeon “Crushed noses, fractured cheekbones and eye sockets, and "stellate," or burst lacerations, are among the most common injuries suffered when a passenger is hurled into the clear partition.”
Dr. Geoffrey Doughlin - E.R. Director, Jamaica Hospital – ‘Since the partitions act as a second windshield, back seat passengers fall victim to the same type of injuries as people in the front passenger position, the "suicide seat," ‘

Dr. Gary Sbordone – Massachusetts Chiropracter  - “Could cause complex spinal injuries.”

Dr. Sbordone treated my spine injury from a partition in a rear end collision.

Dr. Kai Sturmann - Acting Chairman, Emergency Department, Beth Israel  -  “I would like to see back-seat air bags.”


Clearly, there is a problem with partitions in taxis.




There are problems in cruisers also. Those losses are difficult to document, but I have solicited a number of comments from officers who have boasted that they can use the partition to injure people. Here is one.
Tim Ray - a police officer of Monee, Illinois - wrote the following message to me on the internet. This message was available for anybody in the world to read.

"HERE'S  SOMETHING I LIKE TO DO… WHEN YOU GET AN UNFRIENDLY PASSENGER IN YOUR CAR, WHO LIKES TO RUN HIS MOUTH, PUT HIM ON THE PASSENGER SIDE WHERE THE WIRE SCREEN IS, AND WHILE HE IS RUNNING HIS MOUTH, TELL HIM THAT YOU CAN'T HEAR HIM, SO HE GETS RIGHT UP TO IT, AND WHEN HIS FACE GETS RIGHT THERE. SLAM ON YOUR BRAKES, I GUARANTEE IT SHUTS THEM UP EVERY TIME. "

Officer Ray is describing a cowardly, vicious felony, which can be fairly characterized as nationwide, institutionalized police brutality.

The sword cuts both ways. Officers are injured by partition grids also.
This steel grid is deformed by head impact from a front passenger seat occupant.



Straight lines show the deviation of the steel grid.



            As a manufacturer of federally compliant partitions it would be absurd of me to campaign against the use of all partitions. I have never asked that all partitions be removed, just those that don’t comply and those that aren’t certified to comply. Beyond that, I’d like to see mandates for all partitions in taxis lifted. Use of a taxi partition should be a choice for the taxi driver to make. But that is not a DOT matter.

             If you are leaving enforcement to the cities and/or states, please explain their obligations under federal law, pertaining to setting standards that are lower than the federal standards.

Thank you,

Steve Crowell

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