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Posts from the Traffic Enforcement Category

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NYPD Bike Crackdown Season Has Nothing to Do With Vision Zero

When the weather warms up you can count on two things: more New Yorkers riding bikes, and NYPD bike ticket blitzes.

Keegan Stephan of Right of Way tweeted that the 19th Precinct was handing out flyers to cyclists this morning and warning of a “crackdown” starting tomorrow.

The flyers feature the city’s Vision Zero graphic along with NYPD, DOT, and TLC logos. They advise cyclists to “be visible” and “use bike lanes.” Pedestrians are directed to “do what you can to be seen.” Drivers are told to “slow down” and “expect people in the crosswalk.”

You might get the impression from the flyer that motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists are equally responsible for carnage on NYC streets. In fact, driver behavior causes most serious crashes.

NYPD bike crackdowns have never been about targeting dangerous behavior. Instead, police stake out locations where infrastructure leads people on bikes to violate the letter of the law, and then the citations pile up.

While the 19th Precinct is gearing up to ticket cyclists, as of April local officers had ticketed just 24 drivers for speeding in 2015.

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Why Does Rory Lancman Want to Save Drivers From “Scofflaw Pedestrians”?

Paramedics work to save John Torson a few feet from the crosswalk at E. 61st Street and First Avenue. Photo: Daniel S. Dunnam

Paramedics work on John Torson a few feet from the crosswalk at E. 61st Street and First Avenue. NYPD said Torson was “outside the crosswalk” when he was fatally struck by the driver of the white SUV. Photo: Daniel S. Dunnam

City Council Member Rory Lancman wants to make it more difficult for NYPD to charge drivers who injure and kill people when, in his words, “accidents are caused by poor road conditions, bad weather and scofflaw pedestrians.” But if anything, NYPD has been exceedingly cautious in applying the Right of Way Law when there’s a chance the victim was not in a crosswalk.

If there’s even a speck of doubt about whether the victim had the right of way, NYPD isn’t filing charges against the driver.

The above photo was taken by a reader after an SUV driver fatally struck 89-year-old John Torson as he was walking across E. 61st Street at First Avenue. As we reported last Friday, the day after the crash, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog that, according to the Collision Investigation Squad, Torson was “outside of the marked crosswalk” when he was hit. You can see from the photo that, if Torson was not in the crosswalk, he was at most no more than one car length away. You can’t rule out the possibility that Torson was struck in the crosswalk and propelled forward by the force of impact.

As of today, police had filed no charges against the driver.

The Right of Way Law took effect last August. Between last September and March 2015, the latest month for which NYPD crash data is available, city motorists injured or killed over 8,000 pedestrians and cyclists. As of April, NYPD had applied the Right of Way Law just 22 times. NYPD is training beat cops to use the law, but as of now virtually all cases resulting in Right of Way Law charges are investigated by the Collision Investigation Squad — a small unit of detectives who are trained to process crash scenes, and whose work is relied upon to convict motorists on serious charges, like homicide.

With an application rate of one-quarter of one percent, and investigators declining to prosecute drivers whose victims were said to be just outside the crosswalk, it’s clear that NYPD is being very conservative with the Right of Way Law. Lancman’s proposed Right of Way Law amendment — which would absolve drivers who harm people when the weather is bad — would lead police to apply the law even less frequently.

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Cabbie Faces Right of Way Charges for Critically Injuring Midtown Pedestrian

Image: NY1

Image: NY1

Taxi driver Babul Miah, 29, faces charges under the city’s Right of Way Law after critically injuring a 20-year-old woman who was in the crosswalk at Eighth Avenue and West 57th Street on Saturday at approximately 5:30 p.m.

The woman, who was not identified by police, was crossing 57th Street from south to north on the east side of Eighth Avenue when Miah, driving north on Eighth Avenue, struck her while turning right onto 57th Street, according to NYPD. He then crashed into a payphone on the sidewalk. The woman was taken to Weill Cornell Medical Center in critical condition and is “likely to die,” police officials told the Daily News.

“It was hectic. It was just hectic. Everybody was mad because it was so much people,” a witness told NY1. “Her boyfriend, the people who was watching it, was like, ‘Could you stop, stop, stop.'”

Miah was charged with failure to exercise due care and failure to yield to a pedestrian, misdemeanor charges under the city’s Right of Way Law. His hack license was “immediately suspended” under Cooper’s Law, the Taxi and Limousine Commission told Streetsblog.

Miah is new to taxi driving. He was issued a hack license in April and was still in a probationary period, allowing the TLC to take “more aggressive actions,” including automatic revocation of a license [PDF]. TLC has not yet taken any action other than suspending Miah’s license.

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Will NYPD Charge Driver Who Rammed Woman on Sidewalk and Left Scene?

Beekman Street, with Spruce Street School and New York Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital at right, where a driver hit Heather Hensl on the sidewalk and left the scene. Parents say motorists routinely drive on the sidewalk in front of the school to get around traffic. Image: Google Maps

Beekman Street, with Spruce Street School and New York Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital at right, where a driver hit Heather Hensl on the sidewalk and left the scene. Parents say motorists routinely drive on the sidewalk in front of the school to get around traffic. Image: Google Maps

A motorist who deliberately drove down a Manhattan sidewalk, rammed a pedestrian, left the scene and reportedly hit a second person in Brooklyn might not be charged with a crime, according to one of the victims.

Heather Hensl was walking on Beekman Street near William Street on April 13 when a motorist struck her, knocking her to the ground, lacerating her head and fracturing her leg. The driver did not stop. In an email to Downtown Express, Hensl, a 37-year-old physician assistant, said she is on crutches and may require knee surgery, in addition to physical therapy.

The crash occurred near Spruce Street School. Parents of kids who attend the school say it’s not unusual for motorists to use the sidewalk to drive around traffic.

From Downtown Express:

Video viewed by Downtown Express shows the driver backing up several times in order to be able to make the turn onto the sidewalk and head west past a traffic jam.

Captain Mark Iocco, the First Precinct’s commanding officer, said the same car was involved in an accident in Brooklyn about 30 minutes after that incident. The car was pulling into a parking spot and hit an elderly lady, he said at last week’s meeting of the First Precinct Community Council. The elderly woman couldn’t identify her, and could only confirm that the driver was a female, he said.

The suspect has filed an insurance claim. The police are working with the insurance company and they are “investigating her up and down,” said Iocco.

The driver barely missed striking other people on Beekman, including children, who were able to get out of her path, DNAinfo reported. “[The driver] drove on the sidewalk as if it was a lane,” one witness said. “So fast that I turned my head and I didn’t see the car.”

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No Right-of-Way Charge for Cab Driver Who Killed Senior in UES Crosswalk

An unidentified cab driver fatally struck 76-year-old Amelia Sterental in an Upper East Side crosswalk. NYPD and Cy Vance filed no charges. Image: WABC

An unidentified cab driver fatally struck 76-year-old Amelia Sterental in an Upper East Side crosswalk. NYPD and Manhattan DA Cy Vance filed no charges. Image: WABC

A yellow cab driver fatally struck a senior in an Upper East Side crosswalk Saturday, and no charges were filed by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. The crash occurred in the 19th Precinct, where as of March officers had issued just 10 speeding tickets in 2015.

At around 2:43 p.m. Amelia Sterental, 76, was walking north across 60th Street when the cab driver hit her with a Ford SUV while turning left from Madison Avenue, according to NYPD and published reports.

From the Daily News:

The Miami woman was thrown over the taxi and ended up crumpled on the road in front of high-end clothing stores like Barneys and Calvin Klein, witnesses said.

“It smashed her and she went airborne and went over the back (of the car),” said Frank Semmel, 39, a retired New Jersey policeman.

“A street vendor who didn’t give his name said the cabby had ‘made a fast turn’ before he struck the unidentified woman in the crosswalk,” the Post reported.

“I heard screeching of the brakes,” another witness told the Post. “People started screaming. I turned around and there was a woman on the floor.”

Sterental, who lived in Bal Harbour, Florida, died at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NYPD told Streetsblog.

Police and press accounts of the crash suggest Sterental was crossing with the right of way and the cab driver was traveling at an unsafe speed. But as of this morning, NYPD and Vance had filed no charges against the driver, whose name was withheld by police.

Cab drivers turn onto 60th Street from left turn lane on Madison Avenue. Image: Google Maps

Cab drivers turn onto 60th Street from left turn lane on Madison Avenue. Image: Google Maps

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Driver “Flying” Through Harlem School Zone Kills Child — Tabs Blame Victim

The car involved in the collision that killed Ervi Secundino had extensive damage to the hood and grille, indicating the crash likely occurred at a high rate of speed. Witnesses said the driver was “flying” through a school zone at dismissal time. Image: WNBC

The car involved in the collision that killed Ervi Secundino had extensive damage to the hood and grille, indicating the crash likely occurred at a high rate of speed. Witnesses said the driver was “flying” through a school zone at dismissal time. Image: WNBC

A driver operating a TLC-licensed vehicle killed a 12-year-old boy outside a school in Harlem Wednesday.

The crash occurred in the 32nd Precinct, where officers issue an average of between one and two speeding tickets per day.

Ervi Secundino was hit at approximately 3:15 p.m. in front of Frederick Douglass Academy, where he was in the sixth grade, the Times reported. He was crossing Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at 150th Street, west to east, when the southbound driver struck him and dragged him for one block, according to NYPD and media reports.

Ervi lived on 145th Street, near the school. He was pronounced dead at Harlem Hospital. Ervi was at least the second child age 14 and under killed by a New York City motorist this year, and the tenth since January 2014, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

The driver was a 23-year-old man who lives in Brooklyn, a police spokesperson said. His name was not released by NYPD or the Taxi and Limousine Commission. NYPD had no information on the driver’s speed or who had the right of way, and police had filed no charges as of late this morning. The NYPD spokesperson said the investigation was ongoing.

Images from the scene show the car, a Toyota livery cab, with extensive damage to the hood and grille, indicating the driver was likely exceeding the 25 miles per hour speed limit. While the Post and the Daily News blamed the child for being in the street, WNBC spoke with witnesses who said the driver was speeding.

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NYC DOT Needs to Turn On the Rest of Its Speed Cameras ASAP

NYC Traffic Injuries January-March 2012-2015

Total traffic injuries and fatalities in NYC declined in the first three months of 2015 compared to the same period last year, according to NYPD crash data. While it’s too early to isolate the effect of the city’s speed camera program on street safety, the available evidence strongly suggests cameras are a factor in the city’s continued improvement.

And yet more than half the speed cameras at NYC DOT’s disposal are still dormant. If speed cams are saving people’s lives, then the sloth-like rollout is also costing lives.

As of the end of March, there were 40 traffic fatalities in NYC this year, compared to 51 through March 2014, a 22 percent decrease. Motorists killed 24 people walking and biking through March, compared to 33 for the same period last year, a 27 percent decline.

Injuries, which are less prone to random variation, were also down through March. The total number of people injured in crashes decreased by 6 percent from the same period in 2014, and injuries to pedestrians and cyclists dropped 14 percent.

What’s making streets safer? The increase in speed cameras, paired with the lowering of the city’s default speed limit to 25 mph last fall, is the single most significant change to NYC’s streets in the past year.

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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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Crash Victim Lawsuit: App Use by Uber Drivers Is Negligent and Illegal

Erin Sauchelli, who was seriously injured by an Uber driver while walking in Manhattan, has filed a lawsuit claiming the app Uber drivers use to respond to hails causes driver distraction in violation of New York State law. The driver, Aliou Diallo, killed Sauchelli’s boyfriend, Wesley Manning, in the collision, but he remains in good standing with the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The Taxi and Limousine Commission reinstated the license of the Uber driver who killed Wesley Mensing and injured Erin Sauchelli. Photo via New York Post

The Taxi and Limousine Commission reinstated the license of the Uber driver who killed Wesley Mensing and injured Erin Sauchelli. Photo via New York Post

Sauchelli and Mensing were crossing E. 62nd Street at Lexington Avenue last January 3 when Diallo drove into them with a Mercedes SUV. Mensing, 27, died at the scene. Sauchelli, 30, was hospitalized.

“The driver had accepted a trip and was en route to pick up his customers at the time of the accident and he did not have any passengers in the car,” Uber told Streetsblog after the crash.

Diallo was summonsed for driving without a license. The citation was dismissed two days later. Diallo was not charged criminally by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance for killing Mensing and injuring Sauchelli. The Taxi and Limousine Commission said Diallo’s license to drive a cab was suspended after the crash, but TLC records indicate it is currently valid. Diallo was also reinstated by Uber.

A suit filed by Sauchelli claims she was “a lawful pedestrian in the crosswalk” when she was struck, and that the crash was caused by negligence on the part of Diallo, vehicle owner Tea Bromberg, Malcolm Limo Express, Uber base Schmecken, and Uber, all of whom are named as defendants.

The suit says Diallo was speeding and disregarded a traffic signal. It claims Diallo broke state law that prohibits using an electronic device while driving, and that Uber “knew or should have known that the use of the Uber App by Uber Drivers, including but not limited to” Diallo was a violation of state code intended “to protect individuals from injury and death due to driver distraction and driver inattentiveness.”

“Mr. Diallo was driving an Uber car, en route to pick up a passenger at the time of this accident,” said Robert A. Sgarlato, Sauchelli’s attorney, in a statement emailed to Streetsblog. “We believe that this particular stage in the ‘Uber Car process’ leads to a toxic combination of Uber Drivers that are both hurried to pick up passengers, and distracted by the influx of information coming from the Uber application.”

Uber declined comment on the lawsuit.

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With Traffic Deaths Trending Downward, Lancman Attacks Right of Way Law

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told the City Council today that NYC traffic fatalities have continued to drop in 2015, but not every council member is pleased with the city’s recent steps to deter dangerous driving.

Rory Lancman

In testimony to the public safety committee, Bratton said traffic deaths were down 43 percent as of mid-February, though he didn’t give exact figures or dates. NYPD collision data from January show overall fatalities were down 38 percent compared to January 2014, and pedestrian and cyclist deaths decreased by 46 percent compared to last year. Injuries to pedestrians and cyclists also declined relative to 2014. NYPD didn’t release January data until March, so February data likely won’t be available to the public for a few weeks.

This is too small a sample to draw hard conclusions. But it could be an indication that NYC’s speed camera program, coupled with NYPD enforcement of speeding and failure to yield — which is inconsistent among precincts but trending upward overall — is paying dividends.

Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said enforcement of the Right of Way Law, which made it a misdemeanor for drivers to harm someone with the right of way, continues to be limited to the Collision Investigation Squad, as the department is still developing a protocol for precinct officers to apply it. Council Member Rory Lancman, who in February asked Chan how police determine whether a driver who failed to yield also failed to exercise due care, again questioned whether NYPD is applying the law correctly.

“I get it that you’re formulating a procedure for the rest of the force, but you’re arresting people now,” Lancman said. “And so those arrests need to be done in conformance with the law, which requires not merely failure to yield, but also the failure to exercise due care. So for the group of officers, the CIS team, that are authorizing those arrests, what standards are they applying to whether or not somebody not just failed to yield, but also failed to exercise due care?”

Chan laid out the procedure. “What happens is that the CIS officers and investigators will conduct a thorough investigation, and taking a look at the totality of the evidence, whether it be video tape, an interview with witnesses, the right of way of the pedestrian who was crossing at the time, and doing a full investigation and taking all those circumstances into consideration,” he said. “And if we do find that the individual failed to use due care when they struck the pedestrian in the crosswalk, then they will make the arrest for that particular violation.”

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