Should there be misdemeanor charges for careless drivers who injure or kill New Yorkers legally crossing the street? For the second time in a month, the Daily News editorial board says “No.”
A brief recap: Last year, the city enacted the Right of Way Law, making it an unclassified misdemeanor to drive into a pedestrian or bicyclist who has the right of way. The law carries a criminal fine of up $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. In practice, nearly all unclassified misdemeanors get pled down to traffic violations.
Before the law took effect, NYPD would not file charges in such cases unless the victim was dead or likely to die, or an officer personally witnessed a crash. For all intents and purposes, there were no consequences for drivers who struck someone in a crosswalk but only maimed, dismembered, or otherwise injured the victim instead of ending a life. Even in fatal failure-to-yield crashes, charges were not always applied.
What has the Daily News so worked up is that, as a result of the Right of Way Law, police can now respond to failure-to-yield collisions like so:
The NYPD last week arrested Alexander Smotritsky of Brooklyn after he fatally bowled over 61-year-old Xiali Yue on a right turn, as she attempted to cross with the light.
The injustice, according to the Daily News, is that Smotritsky was charged with a misdemeanor after his negligence caused the death of another person. The rest of the piece argues, in so many words, that police should have just let Smotritsky go about his business even though he killed Yue.