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After a Fatal Crash, NYPD’s Initial Version of Events Often Turns Out Wrong

158_concourse

The intersection where a U-Haul driver struck and killed a cyclist Sunday afternoon. Image: Google Maps

Yesterday, the 24-year-old driver of a U-Haul van struck and killed a 43-year-old cyclist at the Grand Concourse and 158th Street in the Bronx. Police investigators have made a preliminary determination that the van driver had the right of way, according to NYPD, but the agency has yet to reveal the basis for that conclusion.

NYPD’s public information office told Streetsblog the driver was traveling southbound on the Grand Concourse but did not know the cyclist’s direction of travel. Nor did police have information on the driver’s speed, saying the investigation is ongoing.

The preliminary findings of police are what get reported and broadcast to the public the day after someone is killed in traffic, but in several cases, early NYPD accounts blaming the victim of a deadly crash later turned out to be erroneous.

When 3-year-old Allison Liao was struck and killed by a turning SUV driver in 2013, the initial Daily News report cited anonymous police sources who said she was hit “after she broke free from her grandmother.” Video later showed that at the moment of the collision, Allison was holding her grandmother’s hand, walking with the signal in a marked crosswalk.

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NYPD: Drivers Injured 816 Pedestrians and Cyclists in February, and Killed 11

Image: NYPD

Image: NYPD

Fifteen people died in New York City traffic in February, and 2,979 were injured, according to the latest NYPD crash data report [PDF].

As of the end of February, 18 pedestrians and cyclists were reported killed by city motorists this year, and 1,833 injured, compared to 22 deaths and 2,105 injuries for the same period in 2014. Drivers injured fewer pedestrians and cyclists in February than in any other month since at least January 2012, according to NYPD data.

Citywide, at least 11 pedestrians were fatally struck by drivers: one in Manhattan; two in the Bronx; three in Brooklyn; and five in Queens. Among the victims were Kamil Gorski, Marco Orellana, Regina Stevenson, Yu-O Pan, Isaak Trakhtenberg, Jao Lin Zhu, Martin Hernandez Tufino, Daniel Cabrera, Kenny Valette, and an unnamed female pedestrian in Queens. Motorists killed at least two seniors in February: Isaak Trakhtenberg, 83; and Jao Lin Zhu, 80.

NYPD reported no cyclist deaths in February.

Across the city, 735 pedestrians and 81 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 10 fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, one motorist was known to have been charged for causing a death. Based on NYPD and media accounts, at least four victims were likely walking or cycling with the right of way when they were struck, but police and district attorneys are known to have applied the city’s Right of Way Law in only one of those crashes. Historically, nearly half of motorists who kill a New York City pedestrian or cyclist do not receive so much as a citation for careless driving.

In two cases after a pedestrian was killed police blamed the victim in the press.

Two motorists and two passengers died in the city in February; 1,041 and 1,122 were injured, respectively.

There were 15,599 motor vehicle crashes in the city last month, including 2,220 that resulted in injury or death.

NYPD had not posted citywide February summons data as of this writing. NYPD posts geocoded crash data here. Crash and summons data from prior months is available in multiple formats here.

After the jump: contributing factors for crashes resulting in injury and death.

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Get Ready For a Very Uncomfortable Year on the Brooklyn Bridge

There’s crowded, and then there’s the Brooklyn Bridge on a nice warm day with construction fencing off half the walking and biking path. Image: DOT

Just as the weather warms and tourists once again mob the Brooklyn Bridge to admire the skyline and snap some photos, DOT has announced that construction work will narrow the one place on the bridge path that’s even remotely close to comfortably wide.

The maintenance work involves “steel improvements at tower locations as well as structural joint repair on the Brooklyn approach.” For people walking and biking on the bridge path, that will mean squeezing around construction fences blocking off one side of each tower.

Nowhere to pause for photos, nowhere to not be in the way of other people. Image: DOT

Image: DOT

During overnight hours, part of the Brooklyn side of the path will also be halved.  The closures, which are more intrusive than previous construction barriers, will be in place through December. Additionally, between April 6 and April 20 DOT will close half the Manhattan approach during overnight hours.

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Cy Vance: Senior’s Crosswalk Death Remains Unsolved After Seven Months

No charges were filed by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance against the driver who fatally struck 82-year-old Sui Leung in a Manhattan crosswalk last fall. Though Council Member Margaret Chin said the NYPD crash report indicated Leung was walking with the right of way, Vance’s office says the investigation has yet to conclude seven months after the crash.

Cy Vance indicted 190 drivers for vehicular crimes in five years. Will he try for 191? Photo: Manhattan DA

commercial van driver hit Leung as she crossed at the intersection Kenmare and Elizabeth Streets on the afternoon of September 25, 2014. NYPD didn’t release the driver’s identity. The van belonged to Party Rental Ltd. of Teterboro, New Jersey.

Shortly after the crash, NYPD told Streetsblog the driver had a green light. A visit to the intersection revealed there is no exclusive turn phase at Kenmare and Elizabeth, so Leung would have had a walk signal when the driver had a green, and would therefore have had the right of way.

“She had the right of way,” local City Council Member Margaret Chin told Streetsblog last October. Along with council reps Rosie Mendez and Ydanis Rodriguez, Chin sent a letter to NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan urging police to charge the driver under the Right of Way Law, which took effect last August. According to details provided in the police report, Chin said, Leung “unquestionably did nothing wrong.”

Streetsblog contacted Chin’s office last December to check up on the case, and at that time no action had been taken against the driver.

“It looks like no charges were ever filed,” Chin spokesperson Sam Spokony told Streetsblog last week, “and that’s obviously something we’re really unhappy with, as Council Member Chin has communicated to both the Manhattan DA’s office and NYPD.”

“At this stage, the investigation remains open, so we cannot make further comment,” said Vance spokesperson Joan Vollero. Vance’s office usually does not comment on vehicular cases, even when cases are disposed or no charges are filed in the first place.

The investigation into the death of 9-year-old Cooper Stock was officially “open” for months after Vance’s office told family members no charges would be filed against the cab driver who killed him.

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Daily News Inadvertently Reveals the Extent of NYC’s Speeding Epidemic

Don't be distracted by the clever rhyme: NYC speed cameras are working. Image: Daily News

In other words, speeding in NYC is rampant, but there’s finally some enforcement thanks to cameras. Image: Daily News

If you’re a Daily News reader, today is your lucky day. The paper that is not afraid to oppose safer streets for walking, biking, and driving has a major exclusive, and it is this: New York City has a small number of speed cameras, and they are catching more speeding drivers than NYPD.

It’s actually a good story, if you read through the tabloid-speak. In 2014, 57 cameras ticketed almost four times as many speeding drivers as the entire police department during the same time period, despite Albany-imposed restrictions that limit camera use to school zones during school hours.

This all points to the fact that cameras are doing an efficient job penalizing thousands of drivers who would otherwise get away with speeding, the leading cause of New York City traffic deaths.

“If the drivers of New York slow down and obey the speed limit and the city collected no revenue, I would consider the speed-camera program a victory,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the paper, again.

The Daily News could have cited data showing that crashes and incidents of speeding declined in areas where speed cameras are located. It could have called for DOT to immediately deploy its remaining 83 speed cameras, or shamed Albany lawmakers for arbitrary restrictions that keep the cameras turned off at night, when severe crashes tend to occur.

Instead, reporter Reuven Blau ran with an outrage quote from City Council Member Mark Treyger, whose big Vision Zero idea is ticketing cyclists for texting. And the paper played up revenue figures as “wallet-walloping.”

“Your pain is the city’s gain,” goes the scare-graphic. Which, in fairness to the Daily News, rhymes better than “cameras are preventing speeding drivers from inflicting actual pain.”

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NYC Now Tracking Crashes Involving City Government Fleet, Except NYPD

Drivers of city government vehicles crashed at least 5,605 times last year, including 378 collisions that resulted in injury and seven fatalities, according to a new city database. Of the injury crashes, 41 harmed pedestrians and 11 hurt cyclists. The database collects information on crashes involving vehicles from all city agencies — except NYPD, which has yet to share its data.

Photo: ddartley/Flickr

Every city agency, including the fire department, sends data on crashes involving its fleet to a central database, but NYPD is not sharing its information yet. Photo: ddartley/Flickr

“It’s the first time that we’ve had a citywide program of tracking all the collisions that involve the city’s fleet,” said Keith Kerman, deputy commissioner for fleet management at the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. “It’s one of our major commitments as part of Vision Zero for the city fleet.”

The database is called CRASH and contains information going back to October 2013. CRASH is populated with data from the standard DMV crash report form, such as the date, time, and location of a crash, as well as the vehicles, pedestrians, or cyclists involved and whether the crash resulted in injuries. It also includes causal factors and traffic conditions at the time of the crash.

NYPD has not responded to questions about why it is not yet reporting data to the CRASH database. The police have “additional reporting and management needs,” Kerman said, including marking whether a crash occurred during enforcement activity and whether emergency lights and sirens were on at the time of the crash.

Tracking whether lights and sirens are turned on at the time of a crash in a citywide database could be important in cases where a pedestrian or cyclist is injured by an NYPD driver. After 24-year-old Ryo Oyamada was killed by an officer driving a cruiser in 2013, the department said the vehicle’s emergency lights were engaged. That claim was later contradicted by witnesses, video footage, and testimony from the officer himself.

FDNY, which like the police department also regularly engages its lights and sirens, is already participating in the CRASH database. Kerman says he is working with NYPD to bring its data into the system.

Kerman said Department of Sanitation vehicles are involved in the highest number of crashes in the database, followed by the fire department. This aligns with pedestrian personal injury claims tracked by Comptroller Scott Stringer, who found NYPD is far and away the top agency for crash claims, followed by DSNY and FDNY.

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DMV Suspends License of Driver Who Killed Mathieu Lefevre for Six Months

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles found the truck driver who killed Brooklyn cyclist Mathieu Lefevre responsible for the collision and suspended his driver’s license for six months.

Mathieu Lefevre. Photo by Chieu-Anh Le Van via Support Justice for Mathieu Lefevre

Leonardo Degianni’s DMV safety hearing took place on March 2, three-and-a-half years after he hit Lefevre at the intersection of Morgan Avenue and Meserole Street. At around midnight on October 19, 2011, Degianni was driving a crane truck, traveling in the same direction as Lefevre, when he struck Lefevre while making a right turn. Degianni did not stop at the scene, and was identified after police found the truck parked a block away.

After initially blaming Lefevre for the crash, NYPD summonsed Degianni for failing to signal and careless driving, but DMV dismissed the tickets. Degianni, who told police he didn’t know he had run Lefevre over, was not charged criminally by NYPD or former Brooklyn district attorney Charles Hynes.

DMV administrative law judge Marc Berger announced his findings from the hearing on March 6 [PDF]. Based on video evidence and testimony from NYPD Detective Gerard Sheehan, who investigated the crash, Berger determined Degianni did not signal his turn and failed to use his mirrors. “Had he signaled 100 feet prior to turning, as required under VTL section 1163(b), Mr. Lefevre would have been alerted, before he even reached the truck, and been able to protect himself by taking evasive action,” Berger wrote.

Berger found that in addition to failing to signal, Degianni failed to exercise due care. “These violations contributed to the accident and warrant taking action against the license and/or driving privileges of the respondent,” Berger wrote.

Berger’s ruling was posted on a new DMV web page that lists hearings resulting from fatal crashes.

In New York State, a license suspension means a motorist can pay a fee and get his license back after the prescribed period — 180 days in Degianni’s case. While it’s technically not as serious as a revocation, which requires a driver to re-apply for a license, a six-month suspension is notable for the DMV, which has a history of going easy on motorists who kill people.

Steve Vaccaro, attorney for the Lefevre family, said in a statement:

On behalf of the families we represent who have lost loved ones in crashes, I welcome the DMV’s decision and process. Mr. Degianni’s 180-day suspension is one of the most serious sanctions to be applied to a sober, reckless driver in a fatal New York City crash in recent memory. The DMV’s new practice of announcing safety hearing results online is also a welcome step for the agency towards greater transparency and accountability.

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Alleged Unlicensed Driver Kills Brooklyn Pedestrian While Fleeing Police

An unlicensed driver fleeing police crashed into another vehicle and killed 21-year-old Dave Jones on a Brooklyn sidewalk Monday, raising questions about whether the officers adhered to NYPD policy on vehicular pursuits.

Police pulled over 18-year-old Raymond Ramos near Schenectady Avenue and Sterling Place in Crown Heights after midnight Monday, according to DNAinfo.

As the officers approached, Ramos drove away. With police in pursuit, Ramos made it seven blocks before his car collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Nostrand Avenue and St. Johns Place, police said.

Both cars barreled up onto the sidewalk fatally plowing into a pedestrian who was walking north, a preliminary investigation by the NYPD showed.

Ramos hit Jones, who died of head injuries at Kings County Hospital. Three people in the other vehicle were injured, DNAinfo reported.

The Post also reported that, according to police, the crash occurred after Ramos “led cops on a brief chase.”

Ramos was charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment, homicide, fleeing police, reckless driving, unlicensed driving, speeding, and other traffic infractions, according to court records. His next court appearance is set for Friday.

DNAinfo reported that, according to anonymous police sources, officers who pulled Ramos over “smelled marijuana coming from his vehicle,” but no charges were issued for impaired driving or drug possession.

There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened Monday. The crash happened about a mile from the location of the traffic stop. Judging from a Daily News photo that shows both vehicles overturned on the sidewalk, Ramos was driving at high speed at the time of impact. After Ramos fled the traffic stop, did officers chase him at speed through a Brooklyn neighborhood? Were they in pursuit when Ramos hit the second car? At the very least, an investigation is warranted to determine whether the pursuit conformed to protocol.

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NYPD: Drivers Killed 7 Pedestrians and Cyclists in January, and Injured 1,017

Image: NYPD

Image: NYPD

Thirteen people died in New York City traffic in January, and 3,449 were injured, according to the latest NYPD crash data report [PDF].

Seven pedestrians and cyclists were reported killed by city motorists in January, and 1,017 injured, compared to 13 deaths and 1,191 injuries in January 2014.

Citywide, at least six pedestrians and one cyclist were fatally struck by drivers: two pedestrians in Manhattan; one pedestrian in the Bronx; one pedestrian in Brooklyn; and two pedestrians and one cyclist in Queens. Among the victims were Wesley Mensing, Dylon Ramirez, Uszer Lejtman, Hoyt Jacobs, Susan Eddy, and two unnamed female pedestrians in Queens. Motorists killed at least three seniors in January: Uszer Lejtman, 83; Susan Eddy, 69; and one of the unidentified women killed while walking in Queens, also 69.

Across the city, 902 pedestrians and 115 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of seven fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, no motorists were known to have been charged for causing a death. NYPD rarely releases enough information to determine exactly how a crash occurred, but based on police and media accounts, at least one victim was likely walking or cycling with the right of way when she was struck. NYPD and district attorneys are known to have applied the city’s Right of Way Law in no crashes. Historically, nearly half of motorists who kill a New York City pedestrian or cyclist do not receive so much as a citation for careless driving.

In two cases, after a pedestrian was killed, police publicly exonerated the driver by telling the press the victim was not in a crosswalk.

Three motorists and three motor vehicle passengers died in the city in January; 1,133 and 1,299 were injured, respectively.

There were 15,977 motor vehicle crashes in the city in January, including 2,542 that resulted in injury or death.

Download January NYPD summons data here. NYPD posts geocoded crash data here. Crash and summons data from prior months is available in multiple formats here.

After the jump: contributing factors for crashes resulting in injury and death.

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No Word on Whether Trucker Who Killed Mathieu Lefevre Will Keep License

More than three years after the crash, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles held a hearing today to determine whether to take action against the truck driver who killed cyclist Mathieu Lefevre. But Lefevre’s family will have to wait on a DMV decision.

Mathieu Lefevre. Photo by Chieu-Anh Le Van via Support Justice for Mathieu Lefevre

Lefevre, 30, was killed just after midnight on October 19, 2011, while riding his bike on Morgan Avenue in Brooklyn. As Lefevre approached the intersection of Morgan and Meserole Street, Leonardo Degianni, who was driving a 28-ton crane truck and traveling in the same direction as Lefevre, ran over Lefevre while turning right. Degianni did not stop at the scene, and was identified as the driver after police found the truck parked a block away.

It took a lawsuit and a lot of well-earned negative publicity for NYPD to share information about the crash with Lefevre’s family. NYPD concluded Degianni was unaware he struck Lefevre based on video of the crash. Detective Gerard Sheehan, the crash investigator assigned to the case, also apportioned some blame to Lefevre in his report. Though Degianni did not signal before turning and Lefevre was riding legally, Sheehan said Lefevre “should not have been passing on the right side.”

Lefevre’s family asked Charles Hynes, then the Brooklyn district attorney, to review the case, but Hynes declined to press charges. Degianni was eventually ticketed for failing to signal and careless driving, but the DMV threw out the tickets.

At this morning’s “safety hearing,” DMV administrative law judge Marc Berger heard testimony from Sheehan, who basically repeated the conclusions contained in the NYPD crash report. Berger also reviewed video of the crash, and accepted photos of the scene as evidence.

Berger questioned Sheehan on key details, such as the number and position of the mirrors on the truck, and whether in Sheehan’s opinion Degianni should have known he hit a person on a bicycle. Sheehan at one point indicated he believed Degianni should have seen Lefevre, had he used his mirrors properly, but said police could not determine if Degianni had passed Lefevre prior to the collision. Though the investigation found Degianni made contact with Lefevre on the driver’s side of the truck, Sheehan said drivers of large vehicles often say they didn’t detect running someone over.

Berger did not render a decision today.

Today’s proceeding was a vast improvement over the 2014 hearing when Berger asked the driver who killed Brooklyn pedestrian Clara Heyworth for his analysis of the crash scene. But the DMV adjudication process is still biased to favor motorists who kill people.

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