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Posts from the "NYPD Crash Investigations" Category

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So Far, NYPD Isn’t Enforcing New Vision Zero Law as Intended

It was a welcome development when NYPD filed the first-ever charges under Section 19-190, a new law that makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way. The law was intended to enable precinct officers to impose consequences for reckless driving, but so far, NYPD doesn’t appear to be using it this way.

Image: WNBC

Even when CIS is on the case, application of Section 19-190 is no sure thing. As of Friday afternoon, police had not charged the driver who killed 82-year-old Manhattan pedestrian Sui Leung, though available information suggested the victim had the right of way. Image: WNBC

Section 19-190 applies a ”strict liability” standard to traffic crashes — that is, a driver who strikes a pedestrian or cyclist when the victim has the right of way is presumed to have committed a misdemeanor, unless the driver can show he was not at fault.

For years, only CIS personnel were authorized by NYPD to file charges against motorists for causing injury and death, unless an officer witnessed a crash. But by making such collisions crimes, and therefore empowering rank-and-file officers to file charges, Section 19-190 was meant to put an end to NYPD’s “observed violation rule.” Theoretically, if a precinct cop determines that a driver hit a pedestrian who was crossing with a walk signal, that officer should now be able to make an arrest on the spot.

More than a month after the law took effect, however, there is no evidence that NYPD is applying the law as intended. Motorists have killed at least 12 pedestrians and injured countless others in the last five weeks. The only confirmed instance where NYPD filed charges under Section 19-190 involved a weeks-long CIS investigation. Streetsblog has a request pending with NYPD about how many times police have applied the law, and if precinct officers are enforcing it.

Attorney Steve Vaccaro pointed to potential obstacles to enforcement before Section 19-190 was adopted:

Unless Intro 238 is communicated repeatedly to rank and file police officers via memorandum, roll call instructions, and formal in-service trainings, most police officers will not even become aware of the new law. And awareness is just the starting point. Intro 238 runs counter to the general belief held by many officers that a traffic crash is by definition a non-criminal matter, peripheral at best to the core police mission of fighting crime.

There are thousands of serious crashes a year in NYC, and CIS investigates only a few hundred. Section 19-190 is supposed to give police the latitude they need to deter traffic violence by bringing charges against dangerous drivers who would otherwise go unpenalized for harming people. If Mayor de Blasio expects drivers to get the message, he’s got to get NYPD on board first.

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No Charges for Van Driver Who Killed Elderly Woman in Crosswalk

The day after a commercial van driver killed an elderly woman in a Manhattan crosswalk, no charges have been filed, though NYPD implied but failed to confirm that the victim had the right of way. The company that employs the driver, meanwhile, refused to say if he will face any disciplinary action, and he could be back behind the wheel tomorrow.

Image: WNBC

Image: WNBC

At approximately 1:30 p.m. yesterday, the driver turned left from eastbound Kenmare Street onto Elizabeth Street, striking East Village resident Sui Leung, 82, in the crosswalk on the north side of the intersection. She was transported to Downtown Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

“Police did not suspect any criminality and the driver was not charged,” the Daily News reported yesterday. That remains the case today.

NYPD’s public information office told Streetsblog that the driver had a green light. A visit to the intersection today showed that pedestrians are given the “walk” signal concurrently with green lights on Kenmare, meaning turning drivers must yield to pedestrians. When Streetsblog asked NYPD to confirm that Leung had the right of way, a department press officer said, “We don’t know that yet.”

When a driver strikes a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way, it is a violation of Section 19-190, a local law that took effect August 22. Days later, a pedestrian in an Upper East Side crosswalk with the signal was killed by a turning driver. At first, NYPD told Streetsblog that “both of them had the right of way,” then weeks later the department filed its first-ever Section 19-190 charges against the driver.

Police would not release the identity of the driver who struck Sui Leung because no charges had been filed, but the van involved was clearly marked as belonging to Party Rental Ltd. of Teterboro, New Jersey.

Streetsblog asked Party Rental Ltd. if the company had taken any disciplinary action against the driver since the crash. “We determine that based on what we hear from the authorities,” said Barney Drew, the company’s vice president of human resources. Drew would not say whether the company had been in contact with NYPD since the crash, or if the company would keep the employee off the road pending the results of the investigation. ”He’s not driving today because it’s his off day,” he said. “I am being purposely evasive because you’re asking questions about an ongoing process.”

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NYPD Starts Using Vision Zero Law, Charges Driver for Killing UES Pedestrian

NYPD has filed misdemeanor charges against a cab driver who killed an Upper East Side pedestrian, marking the first time police have employed a new law that makes it a crime for drivers to strike pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way, according to a report in DNAinfo.

NYPD filed criminal charges against the cab driver who killed Silva Gallo on the Upper East Side in August, marking the first time police applied a new Vision Zero law intended to hold drivers accountable for harming pedestrians who have the right of way. Image: WCBS

NYPD filed criminal charges against the cab driver who killed Silvia Gallo on the Upper East Side, marking the first time police applied a new Vision Zero law intended to hold drivers accountable for harming pedestrians who have the right of way. Image: WCBS

Silvia Gallo, 58, was in the crosswalk at E. 79th Street on the afternoon of August 29 when MD Hossain hit her while turning left from Madison Avenue. Gallo was dragged beneath the cab until Hossain came to a stop and witnesses overturned the vehicle, which was still running, to free her. She was pronounced dead at Lenox Hill Hospital.

DNAinfo reports that Gallo, a Pilates instructor, was preparing to leave for Ireland the next day, to work and live with her boyfriend.

Hossain’s hack license was suspended after the crash. Police initially said both the driver and the victim had the right of way — an impossible scenario, since the motorist would have been required to yield, but one that suggested Gallo was in the crosswalk with the walk signal.

Available information indicated the driver could have been charged under Intro 238, now known as code Section 19-190, which took effect on August 22. The law was one of a number of new measures intended to reduce traffic deaths and injuries as part of the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative, but NYPD wasn’t yet ready to put it to use. Motorists have killed at least nine pedestrians and cyclists, including Gallo, since the law took effect.

DNAinfo reports that police filed charges in Gallo’s death last week.

After a month-long probe, the NYPD Collision Investigations Squad determined last Thursday that Hossain had violated the new law. He was arrested at his Bronx home and formally charged. Hossain, who has no previous criminal record, faces a $250 fine per offense and possible jail time under the new law, officials say.

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Every NYC Traffic Death Should Be Investigated Like the Central Park Crash

When the news broke last week that a cyclist had critically injured a pedestrian in Central Park, a number of things happened that you don’t normally see after a serious New York City traffic crash.

Like every fallen NYC pedestrian and cyclist, Jill Tarlov deserves justice. Photo via New York Post

Like every fallen NYC pedestrian and cyclist, Jill Tarlov deserves justice. Photo via New York Post

First, unlike most instances when a motorist strikes a pedestrian or cyclist, the crash received extensive and sustained coverage from just about every major media outlet in the city. Though traffic violence makes headlines all year long, thousands of pedestrian and cyclist injuries, and many deaths, go unreported. The vast majority of crashes that receive ink or airtime are forgotten with the next news cycle.

NYPD not only released the name of the victim, Jill Tarlov, but also the identity of the person accused of hitting her — Jason Marshall. NYPD normally gives out the names of deceased pedestrians and cyclists, but drivers’ identities are shielded unless summonses or charges are issued, which is extremely rare.

NYPD released no exculpatory statement in Marshall’s defense, nor did anonymous police sources blame Tarlov for the collision that eventually took her life. Police apparently did not issue the standard “no criminality suspected” line, which is usually the last word the public hears after a driver — a sober driver, at least — takes a life. On the contrary, police sources leaked details of the vehicle operator’s actions to the press.

Investigators interviewed witnesses and confiscated Marshall’s bike as evidence. When a driver kills someone, his account of the crash is often the only one police are interested in, and NYPD literally allows motorists to drive away from fatal crash scenes. In fact, while drivers injure and kill thousands of pedestrians and cyclists a year, only a handful of crashes are investigated by NYPD and city district attorneys.

The authorities should leave no stone unturned in investigating what happened to Jill Tarlov, and charges should be filed if warranted. In turn, law enforcers and the media should approach the next serious injury or death with the same tenacity displayed over the last four days.

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Proposed Hit-and-Run Fines Doubled, But Law Could Hinge on Drivers’ Word

Ahead of a scheduled Tuesday vote by the full City Council, transportation committee members voted today to increase proposed civil penalties for hit-and-run drivers. However, the bill in question still contains language that could make it difficult to apply the new fines.

Intro 371 originally called for fines ranging from $500 to $5,000 for hit-and-run crashes where a driver “knows or has cause to know” an injury has occurred, with fines at the higher end of the scale applied in cases of serious injury and death. After a hearing held earlier this month, Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Ydanis Rodriguez, the bill’s primary sponsors, doubled the maximum fine to $10,000, and assigned a minimum fine of $5,000 for fatal crashes.

Committee members passed the bill with a 9-0 vote. “It can, and I believe will, serve as a deterrent to those who would do the same thing to others,” Van Bramer said today, citing three hit-and-run fatalities in that have happened in his district in the last 18 months.

“At the same time, we need our colleagues in Albany to act to make all of us safer,” said Rodriguez, referring to state laws that give drivers who may be impaired by alcohol or drugs an incentive to flee the scene, since the penalty for hit-and-run is less severe than causing death or injury while intoxicated.

While Albany fails to act, by attaching civil penalties at the local level, council members are using what tools are available to them. But as we reported after the initial hearing, the “knows or has cause to know” provision may make the law, if passed, not nearly as effective as it could be. To avoid criminal charges, often all a hit-and-run driver has to do is claim he “didn’t see” the victim, presumably in part because trial outcomes are notoriously unpredictable, even in cases where prosecutors have video evidence.

A new city law that makes it a misdemeanor for a driver to strike a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way employs strict liability, a legal standard based on driver actions, rather than driver intent. Streetsblog asked Van Bramer’s office how the “knew or had reason to know” condition would be satisfied under the bill, and if strict liability-type language was considered instead, but we didn’t get an answer.

Another issue is whether application of the law would depend on NYPD investigations. Of 60 fatal hit-and-runs investigated in 2012, NYPD arrested just 15 drivers, according to Transportation Alternatives. After a hit-and-run driver seriously injured cyclist Dulcie Canton in Bushwick, the victim herself collected evidence pointing to a driver who lives near the crash site, but the detective assigned to the case said he didn’t have time to follow up with the car’s owner.

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TLC Commish: It’s Up to NYPD to Get Reckless Cab Drivers Off the Streets

Dana Lerner, Cooper Stock's mother, before today's TLC hearing, with City Council Member Helen Rosenthal at left. Photo: Brad Aaron

Dana Lerner, Cooper Stock’s mother, before today’s TLC hearing, with City Council Member Helen Rosenthal at left. Photo: Brad Aaron

The success or failure of a Vision Zero law intended to get reckless cab drivers off the road will depend on how often NYPD issues summonses and charges after serious crashes, the Taxi and Limousine Commission confirmed today.

Cooper Stock, 9, was killed last January by a cab driver who failed to yield on West End Avenue. Signed by Mayor de Blasio in June as part of a package of street safety bills, Cooper’s Law allows the TLC to suspend or revoke hack licenses of cab drivers who cause critical injury or death as a result of breaking traffic laws.

The law takes effect Sunday, but as we reported when the bill passed the City Council, since action against a cab driver’s TLC license hinges on a conviction for a traffic violation or a criminal charge, its effectiveness may be severely compromised. Of thousands of crashes annually in which pedestrians and cyclists are injured and killed, NYPD investigates only a few hundred.

At a public hearing this morning on TLC rule changes necessitated by new Vision Zero laws, Dana Lerner, Cooper’s mother, asked TLC board members and Commissioner Meera Joshi how the law would be enforced. Joshi said the TLC “works closely” with NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan and the Collision Investigation Squad, which according to Joshi has for the past few months contacted the TLC “within minutes” of any serious crash involving a for-hire driver. Upon getting the word from NYPD, Joshi said, the TLC dispatches inspectors to crash scenes.

The problem with this protocol is that it doesn’t necessarily involve CIS, which still handles a tiny fraction of crashes. And even in cases where known information points to driver behavior as the primary cause of a serious crash, CIS investigations rarely result in summonses or charges.

Despite an unprecedented push from the mayor and City Council to reduce traffic violence, NYPD has shown no signs of reforming its crash investigation policies. This is evident in the department’s failure to enforce another new law, known as Section 19-190, that makes it a misdemeanor for a motorist to harm a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way.

Since Section 19-190 took effect in August, New York City motorists have killed at least seven pedestrians and injured countless others. To date, no drivers have been reported charged under the law.

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NYPD Does Not Apply Vision Zero Law in Fatal Elmhurst Crosswalk Collision

Melania Ward was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Astoria Boulevard in Elmhurst. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to NYPD. Image: Google Maps

Melania Ward was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Astoria Boulevard at 80th Street in Elmhurst. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to information released by NYPD. Image: Google Maps

An MTA bus driver killed a pedestrian in Queens last night. As with a fatal August crash in Manhattan, NYPD did not apply charges against the driver under a new Vision Zero law, despite information that suggests the victim had the right of way.

Melania Ward, 55, was hit by the driver of the Q47 she’d been riding after she exited the bus at Astoria Boulevard and 80th Street, according to the Daily News. The crash happened at around 10 p.m. NYPD told Gothamist the victim was “crossing Astoria Boulevard, south to north, in the marked intersection, when a Q47 MTA bus, traveling north on 80th Street, proceeded to make a right turn onto eastbound Astoria Boulevard.”

From the Daily News:

The woman was apparently run over by the front tire of the bus, witnesses said.

“She was sitting next to me on the bus,” said Jan Lim, 27, who ran over to the woman as she lay under the midsection of the bus.

“She was crying. I said don’t fall asleep, keep breathing,” Lim said.

Ward was pronounced dead at Elmhurst General Hospital.

Unless the bus driver had an exclusive signal phase, based on NYPD’s account of the crash, Ward would have had the right of way. NYPD told Gothamist the department “could not say” if this was the case, and no charges were filed.

A new city law makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way. Intro 238, now known as Section 19-190, took effect on August 22, but 60 days after the bill was signed by Mayor de Blasio, a spokesperson for the mayor said NYPD wasn’t ready to enforce it.

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Will NYPD Apply New Vision Zero Law to Cabbie Who Killed Woman on UES?

NYPD has not filed charges against a cab driver who killed a pedestrian on the Upper East Side last week, despite indications that the crash may warrant a misdemeanor charge under a new city law.

The cab driver who killed a woman on the Upper East Side last week may or may not lose his hack license under Cooper's Law. Image: WCBS

The cab driver who killed a woman on the Upper East Side last week may or may not be charged under a new law that makes it a misdemeanor to strike pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way. Image: WCBS

Available information suggests the cab driver failed to yield to a pedestrian with the right of way. According to press accounts, the 58-year-old victim was in a crosswalk at around 2 p.m. last Friday when the cab driver, who was northbound on Madison, hit her while turning left onto E. 79th Street. The victim was dragged before the driver came to a stop, leaving her pinned beneath the Nissan NV200 cab until witnesses overturned the vehicle, which was still running, to free her.

The woman was declared dead at Lenox Hill Hospital. As of Thursday morning her identity was still being withheld pending family notification, according to NYPD.

The 30-year-old cab driver was not injured, reports said, and his passenger was treated for a head injury at the scene.

“Preliminarily, both of them had the right of way,” an NYPD spokesperson said. This is not possible, but it is a strong indication that the victim was crossing with the walk signal. Since the motorist would have been required by law to yield in this situation, only the victim would have had the right of way.

A new city law makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way. Intro 238, now known as Section 19-190, took effect last month, but at that time a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio said NYPD wasn’t yet ready to enforce it.

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NYPD: No Reason to Investigate Greenway Crash That Hospitalized Cyclist

A witness to the aftermath of a Hudson River Greenway crash that sent a cyclist to the hospital says NYPD officers, including personnel from the Collision Investigation Squad, said they did not intend to investigate the cause of the collision, explaining to bystanders that it was an “accident” while blaming the cyclist.

By declining to determine what caused a collision between a bus driver and a greenway cyclist, NYPD failed to take steps that could prevent future injuries. Photo: Hilda Cohen

By declining to determine what caused a collision between a bus driver and a greenway cyclist, NYPD failed to take steps that could prevent future injuries. Photo: Hilda Cohen

Just after 9:30 a.m. last Thursday, July 24, a NY Waterways bus driver and a cyclist collided at the greenway and W. 40th Street, in Hell’s Kitchen. Responders transported the cyclist to Bellevue Hospital in serious condition, FDNY said.

Reader Hilda Cohen, who alerted Streetsblog to the crash, asked officers at the scene if they would impound the bike as evidence. ”Why would we investigate?” an officer said, according to Cohen. “This was clearly an accident.” Cohen told Streetsblog the officer who made those comments was with the Collision Investigation Squad.

While “accident” implies no one was at fault, Cohen said police also preemptively blamed the cyclist. In the comments on our post last week, Cohen wrote: “The attitude was nightmarish, with comments like: ‘A bus isn’t gonna yield to anyone,’ [and] ‘The only reason this happened is because that guy was going too fast on his bike.’” NYPD also told Cohen the cyclist “hit the bus” before he was “dragged under the front wheel.”

The dismissiveness on the part of NYPD in this case is alarming for many reasons. For one thing, had they conducted an investigation, officers might have spoken with cyclists about the conflict between greenway users and turning drivers at the intersection where the crash occurred.

Cohen told Streetsblog via email that she spoke with cyclists, as well as police, at the scene. ”There was really a lot of talk about who was at fault, and sadly the majority figured the cyclist was at fault simply because it was a bus,” she said. “The fact is it is a bad design. Turning vehicles should yield to the path users — it is quite blatant — but the comments from the NYPD were excusing the driver, because it was a bus.”

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No Charges for Motorist Who Killed Senior Margherita Nanfro in Bath Beach

Would daylighting the intersection of Rutherford Place and Bay 16th Street have prevented the crash that killed Margherita Nanfro? With cursory media coverage and NYPD keeping crash reports hidden from view, the public may never know. Image: Google Maps

Would daylighting the intersection of Rutherford Place and Bay 16th Street have prevented the crash that killed Margherita Nanfro? On this and other questions, the public is left to speculate, thanks to scant information available from NYPD. Image: Google Maps

A Brooklyn driver who killed a senior by crashing into her on a neighborhood street in broad daylight was not charged by NYPD, though reports suggest the victim had the right of way.

The 37-year-old motorist drove into Margherita Nanfro as she crossed Rutherford Place at Bay 16th Street in Bath Beach at around 12:20 p.m. on July 25, according to the Home Reporter. The driver, in a Honda sedan, was westbound on Rutherford Place, a single-lane, one-way street lined with residences. Nanfro was pronounced dead at Lutheran Medical Center.

Photos published by Brooklyn Daily indicate Nanfro was struck with enough force to throw her onto the windshield. Photos show the car stopped on Rutherford Place about halfway between Bay 16th Street and 17th Avenue, the next intersection.

Though reports are vague, if Nanfro was crossing Rutherford Place at the intersection, she would have been in an unmarked crosswalk and likely would have had the right of way. Other crucial details are also missing. How, in the middle of the day, did the driver fail to see an 80-year-old crossing the street in front of her? How fast was she going in order to throw the victim onto the hood of the car? Did NYPD crash investigators address these questions? The public doesn’t know, and probably never will unless the crash report is released pursuant to a freedom of information request.

Though several outlets say the NYPD investigation is “ongoing,” the Daily News reported that according to police the driver “did not face criminal charges.”

Beginning next month, it will be a crime for a NYC motorist to strike a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way. But unless NYPD makes drastic changes to the way the department approaches crashes, Intro 238 will be another traffic safety law that goes all but unenforced.

This fatal crash occurred in the 62nd Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain William G. Taylor, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 62nd Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at the precinct, located at 1925 Bath Avenue. Call 718-236-2501 for information.

The City Council district where Margherita Nanfro was killed is represented by Vincent Gentile. To encourage Gentile to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7363, vgentile@council.nyc.gov or @VGentile43.