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A Buffalo, New York mother and her two small children were walking in the park when the children were struck by an automobile that veered off Route 198, after the driver reportedly fell asleep behind the wheel. The woman’s three-year-old son was killed, her five-year-old daughter seriously injured. Doctors are optimistic about the little girl’s chances of recovery; she will be receiving therapy six days a week.

Nearby guardrails had been previously installed, long before the accident, to protect guide signs over Route 198 (Scajaquada Expressway). The signs require large support foundations that could be dangerous to drivers, should they veer off the highway. However, just a few hundred feet away, pedestrians and others who use the park had not received the same kind of protection. Even without more guardrails, residents petitioned the city and the state Department of Transportation for years to rip out Route 198 and replace it with a city street. If not, at least reduce the speed limit. Nothing was done.

The family of the deceased little boy and seriously injured little girl is contemplating legal action against the City of Buffalo and the State of New York to ensure that something like this never happens to anyone again. A relative and personal injury attorney said there is no timetable for that potential lawsuit. He said the family would be open to the city and state taking responsibility and working out a settlement outside of court.

A child’s unnecessary death sent a strong message that change was crucial for the safety of the community. The day after the accident, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) issued an executive order lowering the speed limit from 50 mph to 30 mph and ordered the installation of “park-appropriate” guardrails where the expressway passes through Delaware Park. Cuomo also directed the department to install speed messaging boards to alert drivers of the change, which was effective immediately. Senator Marc Panepinto (D) called for “the Department of Transportation to immediately transition Route 198 from an expressway to a functioning parkway. Government and community leaders are continuing to talk about the need for additional radical changes to improve public safety.

I commend Governor Cuomo for acting swiftly, but it should not take a tragedy to improve road safety. We need more citizens and civic leaders like Governor Cuomo to take action and resolve road safety issues such as this before accidents occur. It is time to stop cutting corners; it is time to put safety first, otherwise, this New York family will just be one more in a never-ending list of victims.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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