Transportation Alternatives Launches Probe Into NYPD Crash Investigations

Transportation Alternatives today delivered over 2,500 citizen letters to Ray Kelly demanding that NYPD crack down on dangerous driving, and announced a comprehensive probe into how the department handles traffic crash investigations.

Flanked by dozens of supporters and victims of traffic violence at 1 Police Plaza, TA executive director Paul Steely White excoriated NYPD for what he called a “cavalier attitude” toward lawless driving. While hundreds are killed and thousands are injured by reckless drivers in the city every year, enforcement of traffic laws is relatively rare, and drivers who cause suffering and death are routinely excused by police and prosecutors without as much as a summons.

“It’s the NYPD’s job to keep dangerous driving in check by holding reckless drivers accountable,” said White, “but they are simply not taking that job seriously.”

Calling for a zero tolerance approach to a “public safety crisis,” TA will have attorneys review NYPD reports on recent crashes that resulted in serious injury or death. Evaluations will focus on whether police followed proper post-crash procedure and if victims were “guaranteed a full and fair investigation.”

Erika Lefevre, whose son Mathieu was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bike in East Williamsburg in October, said that her family is still waiting for definitive information about the crash. Initially, police told reporters that Mathieu ran a red light at Morgan Avenue and Meserole Street and was struck by the driver of a flatbed truck making a right-hand turn. The NYPD report, however, indicates that Mathieu was hit from behind, and makes no mention of either Mathieu or the driver running a light.

The report identifies the driver who struck Lefevre as Leonardo Degianni of College Point. Degianni, 48, was driving a truck registered to Imperium Construction of Ridgewood. After hitting and dragging Lefevre, Degianni left the scene. Police found the truck a short distance from the crash site but did not locate Degianni for days. He was not charged.

Erika Lefevre said police have video of the crash along with other evidence, none of which her family has been allowed to see.

“We appreciate that NYPD has a difficult job in trying to investigate this crash and determine what happened,” said Lefevre. “We want NYPD to take the time it needs to conduct an unbiased, thorough, professional investigation. But NYPD has caused us great pain with the mishandling and withholding of information, and their rush to clear the driver of any wrongdoing.”

Juliana Berger, former wife of Mathieu Lefevre, urged Ray Kelly to beef up the department’s accident investigation squad and to implement targeted enforcement of dangerous behaviors including failure to yield, speeding and failure to exercise due care.

Also speaking at today’s rally was Donna Ganson, whose husband was seriously injured in 2009 by a motorist as he walked his daughter to school in Park Slope. Though witnesses said the driver was traveling some 20 mph over the 30 mph speed limit, and though Ganson’s husband was crossing legally, no charges were filed and no summonses were issued. The collision put the victim in a coma and left him with brain damage.

“My life, his life, and the lives of our three daughters will never be the same,” said Ganson. “How can a speeding driver who hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk in broad daylight not get a ticket for anything?”

Though he was not present for the rally himself, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio sent over a statement, read by spokesperson Wiley Norvell, announcing that his office has asked NYPD for data related to the application of vulnerable user laws and information on when the department deploys the accident investigation squad.