Janet Lee

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

Sunday, September 04, 2016

I used a Patrick Bedard essay as a format, for this essay

SWC alteration of PATRICK BEDARD's  article February 1997"How NHTSA has been playing GOD with your life"
            This is an article of Patrick Bedards' about air bags… altered to apply to the cab partition issue.
            Suppose, back a few years, the cab partition manufacturers and regulators fell in love with a new feature and loved it so much that they decided to require it in all new cabs ASAP. But on the road, that feature turned out to have an unforeseen side effect: Many years of cab partition use had failed to protect the many cab drivers who have been killed, even though their cabs were equipped with a so-called bullet-proof partition.

It gets worse. Suppose these cab partition manufacturers, in their negligent infatuation with this feature, put 12,000 cabs on the road with it, each one threatening its occupants with wrongful death every time they take a seat.
Would this be red meat for the tort lawyers? How many billions of dollars would they be seeking?
Imagine cab partition manufacturers trying to defend themselves by saying, "It's true, dear plaintiff, that your loved one was killed by this feature, but many others have been saved by it, so we ask you to accept your loss as a cost of protecting others."
A jury of twelve bozos wouldn't buy that excuse.
Obviously, the feature here is the cab partition. But cab owners can hardly be blamed; indeed, their warnings of danger to children and adults date back to 1967. It was the city governments that demanded the partitions, in cabs. Cab regulators have frequently attributed the initiative of requiring partitions to cab driver demands for more safety.
 It was negligent municipal governments that demanded these partitions in cabs on a hurry-up schedule, by September 1966 in Newark, September 1968 in New York and June 1969 in Boston, instead of prudently waiting to see what happened in trial fleets. They were municipal governments playing God with our lives that wrote specific design requirements for partitions that are unconscionable because they are biased against cab occupants. This is evidence of too much municipal action too soon.
In Sydney, Australia they instituted a partition requirement for their cabs - but abandoned it when drivers, owners and passengers roared their disapproval.
Long-time partition enthusiasts, the New York TAXI & Limousine Commission, have likened the deaths caused by taxi-cab partitions to the unpredictable side effects of vaccines - unfortunate, but necessary for the greater good they do. That idea is wrong. Cab partition injury and death are the perfectly predictable result of faulty partition design specifications. Cab regulators are not automotive engineers, yet for years they have postured themselves that way.
     
An article from the New York Times dated August 4th, 1972 said;
“Detroit needs three to four years to make really major changes and we had to work within this limit” Mr. Mautner said. “But this is a start and we have put Detroit on notice that we will be doing more… Stephen Wjlder, a Taxi Commission engineer who supervised preparation of the standards; said the agency had been discussing the evolving plan with the four major suppliers of city taxis - the Chrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Checker Motors - for several months, all were working to meet the standards.” The cab regulators in New York must have appeared fairly 'full of themselves' to the big four.
          The NYC TLC cab partition standard is convoluted and has a history of evolution in its' specifications. They have yet to require the partition to be certified to be compliant with federal standards despite many pleas from this complying manufacturer to do so.
Cab partitions are portrayed as friendly barriers that are there to keep unruly gun wielding assailants from hurting the driver. The actual truth is cabs are required to have partitions installed in order to create The illusion that the issue of cab driver murders has been addressed when it has not been. They do this with total disregard for passenger safety in collisions and driver safety in assaults. 

    Drivers continue to be killed in every city that requires allegedly bullet-proof partitions. Actually, murder rates increase when the partition;
A)    requires all robberies to done with a gun
and
B) precludes preemptory or retaliatory action on the part of the driver. Without a partition most robberies are done with a knife or an implied weapon and the driver can usually reach the assailant.
    Without a partition it is like 'two dogs in a cage'. With a partition it is more like 'shooting a fish in a barrel'.
Now, these predictable outcomes are coming home to kill our loved ones who happen to be in a taxi in any one of a dozen-odd cities in the US that require partitions.
Forcing all passengers to wear seat belts won't solve the collision risk problem. Because only two of three seating positions in cabs, front or rear, have three point restraints, a two point restraint will 'jack-knife' ones' torso forward impacting the partition, face first, with more force than one would suffer otherwise. Actually, seatbelts can only protect two, of six possible occupants, in the cab.
    Dianne McGath-McKechnie, TLC Commission Chairperson and Matthew W. Daus, Deputy Commissioner for Legal Affairs, both of the NYC TLC, have written;
    "Although there have been incidents of passengers injured in taxicabs as a result of contact with a partition, most serious injuries have occurred when the passenger has failed to use a seat belt. Seat belts and shoulder harnesses must be installed for rear passengers in taxicabs, and the belts must be maintained in good working order and be accessible to passengers."
    One might get the idea that unless the NYC TLC was 'on the ball' we would have no seat belts in taxis. One reason cabs have been without seat belts is due to the failing of the TLC to make them a cab inspection checklist item for decades.
Cab regulators and state agencies have inspected and approved
cabs without seat belts in place for years.
    Title 49 of the US Code, Chapter 301, Subchapter II, sec. 30103, prohibits municipal or state agencies from setting standards inferior to the Federal standards. It is truly amusing that the cab regulators adopt the identity of savior because they stop violating federal laws.
            When municipal agencies inspect and approve partitions in cabs they are in violation of Title 49 of the US Code, Chapter 301, Subchapter II, sec. 30103, because the partitions are sold without the mandatory certification of compliance label required by. Title 49 of the US Code, Chapter 301, Subchapter II, sec. 30115.
    Despite many communications sent to Dianne McGath-McKechnie and Matthew W. Daus, of the NYC TLC, which carried enclosures of the letters of warning sent on June 22, 1984 to partition manufacturers and one cab regulator (Boston), the TLC has refused to address the complaints of Federal violations in partition design. This has been swept under the rug. When the TLC reads letters that refer to Federal law the blinders appear to be in place.
    To fortify the viability of the TLC's position, a recent report is out from North Carolina State University (the STC Report - John R. Stone) that asks us to believe that partitions reduced assaults 20%.
    A four-year period is shown where no cabs used partitions for the first two years and for the next year and a half less than 10% used them, but by the last six months of the observed period, all cabs, in the city studied, used them. The assault rate was dropping 20% per year in each of the four years observed. If we are to believe that partitions caused this 20% decline, as Dr. Stone claims they have, then we have to believe that they were working for three and a half years before they were used. That's one outstanding device that works before it is used.
    Dr. Stone, the fellow that describes partitions as "intuitively effective", also wants us to believe that the assault rate is a proxy measure of the murder rate. How does that work!!? How this connection is made, is not revealed in the plethora of statistical gobbledy-gook in Dr. Stones' report, we are supposed to suspend our disbelief, I suppose.

    Hidden in his many charts is the 'statistic behind the curtain', his 200% increase in the cab driver murder rate with partition use. Actually it was 400% in the first four months of the first full year of mandatory partition installation.
Dianne McGrath-McKechnie;
"Most serious injuries have occurred when the passenger has failed to use a seat belt."

     Holding the unrestrained passenger responsible for injuries sustained attributable to belt non-use has no legal weight.
     New York University Medical Center did research from April to August of 1997 where they studied belt usage in NYC cabs, the New York Times reported on December 29th, 1998;
New York's Riders an Unfastened Lot
12/29/98
By Alisha Berger
            Despite taped reminders to buckle up from Eartha Kitt, Joe Torre, Joan Rivers and Placido Domingo and increased accessibility of seat belts in taxis, a new survey reports that passengers are not fastening themselves in.
            A New York University Medical Center research team took short trips in 60 Yellow Cabs between April and August 1997. The investigators looked at partitions, noted seat belt accessibility and observed driver seat belt use. They also observed 102 passengers entering and leaving cabs at stop lights.
            The N.Y.U. team, whose report appears this month in the American Journal of Public Health, found that seat belt accessibility has improved greatly since a similar investigation in 1986 - at least partly because of a 1990 law that required cab owners to make seat belts more accessible. Of the cabs surveyed, 75% had usable right rear belts, 40% had usable middle belts and just over 81% had left belts. In 1986 only 16% had accessible right seat belts.
            Neverthless, this was the number of passengers and drivers who were seen wearing belts: Zero. New York State does not require taxi riders or drivers to fasten their seat belts.
            Dr. Seth Manoach, lead author of the report, said;
  "The plexiglas partition that separates the front and back of the cab, protruding change dish, and metal border can cause serious injury in an accident."
            He urged taxi passengers to buckle up "Sit in one of the seats with shoulder and lap belts. The middle seats don't have them and during a front-end collision, your head is going to come forward and hit the barrier."
            ACSH President Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, “The deaths and injuries attributed to taxicab accidents are highly preventable."
          
NY Times Article 7/20/98
"Dr. John E. Sherman, an assistant clinical professor at New York Hospital -Cornell University Medical College and a vocal critic of the partitions, said some of the blame rests with the commission, which he noted has specifications for the design placement and padding of the partition so vague that the partitions vary greatly from cab to cab. Some are so close to the back seat or have so many protruding, parts he said that even passengers who do wear seat belts - and few riders do - are sometimes thrown into them. In an afternoon, he said the mechanic who installs the partition can undo thirty years of advances in automotive safety."
'Detroit has a million crash dummy studies and when the car arrives in Queens it’s safe at any speed' he said. But then someone in Astoria throws in a plexiglas divider that no-one has tested and there is nothing standardized about it."

            "Dr. Ralph Upchurch, chief of emergency medicine at Somerville Hospital,
said 'not wearing a seatbelt in the back seat of a cab can be especially dangerous because of the plastic divider between the front and back seats' -- a device that is required in all Boston cabs."
            Dr. John E. Sherman and Dr. Seth Manoach may have been led astray or maybe they just refer to any plastic glazing as plexiglas.
            On July 16th, 1985 The Boston Police Department Hackney Division Commander, Capt. Cadegan, wrote to a prominent Boston surgeon in response to the doctors' letter about partition injury risk;
            Capt. Cadegan;
            "The reason for the safety factors mentioned above was to protect the taxi drivers from some of their customers who used knives and clubs to effectuate robberies."
Notice that the partition is supposed to eliminate the less deadly methods of cab driver robbery.
            Capt. Cadegan;
 "The plastic section of the partition was initially made of plexiglass but changed to 3/8" Lexon in 1982 after the death of a driver from a bullet wound inflicted by his passenger."
The word is LEXAN not Lexon. The police deserve no credit for the cessation of the practice of allowing plexiglas for partition glazing. They should also note that Lexan does not meet the minimum abrasion resistance requirements under federal law. At least Lexan is less likely to shatter like plexiglas. In 1982 the plexiglas killed the driver not the bullet according to Boston City Hospital doctors. The drivers brain was peppered with bits of plexiglas. That is always fatal.
            Capt. Cadegan;
            ”The Lexon material has been tested by the Police Department Ballistics Unit to determine its bullet resistant capability.  The tests proved that the material will stop a .22 cal, .38 cal.and .45 cal. round fired from the rear compartment of the taxicab."
The 3/8" Lexan is nothing like bullet-resistant. The tests conducted followed no specifics of the bullet-resistance rating test proceedures established by Underwiters Labs. The thinnest bullet-resistant 'rated' plastic glazing according to U.L. is 1 & 1/8" thich… three times thicker than the 3/8" Lexan required by the police.
            Capt. Cadegan;
         "In late 1984, one taxicab operator had the unfortunate experience of being subjected to a passenger attempt­ing to rob him and firing a .38 cal. round at said partition.  The round was deflected by the Lexon material and located on the rear shelf of the vehicle behind the rear seat."
If this story is true one cannot help but wonder what happened next! There is a strong implication that the partition is supposed to protect the driver from gunshots. This has never occurred.
         Capt. Cadegan;         "The purpose of this shield is to stop a .45 cal. bullet fired from the rear seat at the driver of the taxicab."
This has never occurred. There is only one story, in a newspaper, which asserts the partition saved the driver. Nothing in the story corroborates the headline assertion.
CABDRIVER SAVED BY PARTITION WHEN PASSENGER FIRES SHOTS
By Matthew Brelis, Globe Staff 04/09/1994  Page: 18  Section: METRO
"John E. Naughton owes his life to a $350 shield of thick safety glass. The veteran taxicab driver had driven three passengers to DeWitt Drive in Roxbury late Thursday night when one of the passengers tried to shoot the 58- year-old with a .45-caliber semiautomatic pistol.
One bullet lodged in the safety partition and the other missed Naughton and
lodged in the driver's side door.
"The partitions really help. It saved his life," said Armen Mahserejian, manager
of the drivers at EJT, a company that operates more than 100 brown- and-white Boston Cab taxis."
The fleet owner not the cab driver claims the partition saved the drivers life. If the bullet can hit the driver's door, it seems that the driver can credit his survival to bad aim rather than partition bullet-resistance. Or he can credit the sheer idiocy of attempting to shoot at the driver through the strongest window in the cab.
         Back to Capt. Cadegan's letter to Dr. Malt;         "This Department has not been put on notice that any children riding in the rear compartment of our taxi­cabs have suffered any facial injuries.  We are in constant communication with attorneys involved in civil litigation with members of the Boston Taxi industry."
It seems that Dr. Malt only mentioned risk to children and not to adults. There is much more reason to be concerned about regarding the risk to children because children die in car accidents more than any other kind of accident. This may be because a child's 'head to body weight ratio' is higher in children than adults. There is no good reason to ignore the risk to adults.
         Capt. Cadegan;         "Each instance wherein a driver is killed or seriously injured by a passenger, the majority of the drivers demand more protective measures."
There is no evidence that the drivers with that demand were a majority. Capt. Cadegan wrote this fourteen years after the partitions were required. If the partition actually works, the drivers must be referring to killings that occurred before 1970. Why would they be doing that in 1985? They might do that only if the partition has a 100% failure rate. I believe it does.