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Posts from the Traffic Justice Category

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NYC Drivers Injured 1,191 Pedestrians and Cyclists, and Killed 13, in February

Jose Contreras, Elise Lachowyn, Dorothy Heimann, Carol Dauplaise, and Stanley Marshall

Jose Contreras, Elise Lachowyn, Dorothy Heimann, Carol Dauplaise, and Stanley Marshall

Eighteen people died in New York City traffic in February, and 3,770 were injured, according to Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero View crash data map.

As of the end of February, the city reported 26 pedestrians and cyclists killed by city motorists this year, and 2,277 injured, compared to 21 deaths and 1,896 injuries for the same period in 2015.

Citywide, at least 11 pedestrians and two cyclists were fatally struck by drivers last month. Among the victims were Besik Shengelia, Jose Contreras, Stanley Marshall, Elise Lachowyn, Maria Minchala, Alexa Smith, Dorothy Heimann, Gwendolyn Booker, Carol Dauplaise, an unnamed female pedestrian in Brooklyn, an unnamed male pedestrian in Brooklyn, and an unnamed male pedestrian in the Bronx

Motorists killed at least two seniors in February: Dorothy Heimann, 90; and Carol Dauplaise, 77.

Across the city, 1,008 pedestrians and 183 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 12 fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, three motorists were known to have been summonsed or charged criminally for causing a death.

Injuries to New York City pedestrians and cyclists are up this year compared to the same time period in 2014 and 2015. Data: Mayor's Office

Injuries to New York City pedestrians and cyclists are up this year compared to the same time period in 2014 and 2015. Data: Mayor’s Office

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Racial Inequity in Traffic Enforcement

With the Vision Zero Cities Conference kicking off tomorrow, Transportation Alternatives has released an accompanying collection of essays, the first edition of “The International Journal of Traffic Safety Innovation.” Streetsblog is pleased to republish TA Legislative and Legal Manager Marco Conner’s contribution to the journal. The whole collection is worth your time, and you can download it from TA’s Vision Zero Cities site

vz_citiesThe message of the Black Lives Matter movement has permeated institutions across America, but in large part, transportation planners have opted out. It’s time for that to change.

As Vision Zero policies are adopted by cities and countries around the world, equity, or a lack thereof, is a major challenge to successful implementation.

Equity in Vision Zero is the fair and just implementation of transportation safety measures across all populations, including race, age, gender, geography and socio-economic condition. Where inequities exist in cities, there is also the greatest and most disproportionate rates of traffic deaths and injuries. In U.S. cities, 89 percent of high-income communities have sidewalks, while only 49 percentof low-income communities do. At the same time, black and Latino Americans, who live in low-income communities at higher rates than white Americans, are twice as likely to be killed while walking. These deaths are not accidents, but the result of inadequate and inequitable engineering and transportation policy. They represent the biases that Vision Zero has inherited, and which we must address.

There is an urgent need for transportation planners to apply a broad equity analysis to “the three E’s” — engineering, education and enforcement — coupled with policy implementations that are similarly guided. A mandated equity analysis will force engineers, police, and educators to consider, and make an effort to correct, historic wrongs of race, age, gender, geography and socio-economic conditions as they work toward Vision Zero.

Today, the most pressing challenge is enforcement as it relates to race in the United States. Here, institutional racism and individual bias against minority groups, particularly black and Latino people, is omnipresent, and traffic enforcement is no exception. A 2015 report in the New York Times found that black drivers across the country are up to five times as likely as white drivers to be stopped and searched while driving, even though police find illegal items less often in black drivers’ vehicles.

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No Charges for Driver Who Killed Dorothy Heimann, 90, in Whitestone

The Whitestone intersection where a turning driver mortally injured 90-year-old Dorothy Heimann. Image: Google Maps

The Whitestone intersection where a turning driver mortally injured 90-year-old Dorothy Heimann. Image: Google Maps

NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown filed no charges against a driver who hit a 90-year-old woman last month, causing fatal injuries.

The victim was struck in the 109th Precinct, which made news last year for initiating a crackdown on walking in response to a series of pedestrian deaths at the hands of motorists.

Dorothy Heimann was crossing Clintonville Street at around 9:50 a.m. on February 7 when the driver hit her with a Jeep SUV while turning left from 17th Avenue, according to NYPD and accounts published by Gothamist and Ridgewood Times.

Clintonville Street at 17th Avenue, in Whitestone, is a signalized intersection of two-way residential streets. There is no exclusive turn signal, according to Google Maps photos, so if the driver had a green light, it’s likely Heimann would have been crossing with the right of way.

Heimann, who lived in Whitestone, suffered head trauma. She died on March 4.

The Right of Way Law gives police and prosecutors a tool to hold drivers accountable for harming pedestrians and cyclists who are following traffic rules, but NYPD and city DAs rarely use it. As is usually the case when law enforcers don’t file charges for a serious crash, NYPD withheld the name of the motorist.

Gothamist reported that the driver fled the scene, but the NYPD spokesperson I talked with said she saw no indication that the crash was a hit and run.

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Epileptic Cab Driver on Trial for Murder for Bronx Sidewalk Killings

Tierre Clark and Kadeem Brown were on a Grand Concourse sidewalk when they were run over and killed by Emilio Garcia.

Tierre Clark and Kadeem Brown were on a Grand Concourse sidewalk when they were run over and killed by Emilio Garcia.

The driver of a green cab who killed a child and a man on a Bronx sidewalk last year was charged with murder.

The Bronx district attorney’s office said Emilio Garcia was not taking his epilepsy medication when he fatally struck 4-year-old Tierre Clark and 25-year-old Kadeem Brown on the Grand Concourse at E. 170th Street on March 20, 2015.

Press accounts published after the crash said Clark injured two other people. One of the injured victims was reportedly a 55-year-old man. The other was Sanequa Howe, Tierre’s mother, who suffered bone fractures.

“When we are waiting for the bus, she gave me a kiss and she was dancing around, she never saw it coming,” Howe told WABC.

Gothamist reported that, according to the DA’s office, Garcia was aware of his epilepsy and had been in another crash, causing injuries to a second driver, four months before Tierre and Brown were killed.

The DA’s office told Streetsblog last October that Garcia was charged with manslaughter and homicide. According to court records, current charges against Garcia are two counts of murder, one count of assault (a class D felony), two counts of negligent homicide (a class E felony), and one misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment.

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Years After Death of Ariel Russo, NYPD Chases Still Injuring and Killing People

Last week Franklin Reyes was sentenced to three to nine years in prison for the death of 4-year-old Ariel Russo.

NYPD pursuits have killed at least one person since the 2013 death of Ariel Russo, and injured an unknown number of other people.

NYPD pursuits have killed at least one person since the 2013 death of Ariel Russo, and injured an unknown number of bystanders and police.

Police pulled Reyes over on W. 89th Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, on June 4, 2013, after he drove his family’s pick-up truck across several lanes to make a turn. As officers walked toward the truck, Reyes, who was 17 and did not have a drivers license, hit the gas.

Police chased Reyes for eight blocks until he crashed onto the sidewalk at Amsterdam and W. 97th Street, where Ariel and her grandmother, Katia Gutierrez, were walking to Ariel’s school. Reyes hit them both, killing Ariel and injuring Gutierrez.

NYPD vehicle pursuits that result in death typically lead to serious charges for the people being chased. According to court records, Reyes pled guilty to manslaughter, assault, and two counts of fleeing police — all felonies. Gothamist reports that he was sentenced Friday.

“Ariel died a violent death because of your reckless behavior and you have not apologized,” said Sofia Russo, Ariel’s mother, in court. “You have shown no remorse.”

Nor has NYPD stopped engaging in car chases. NYPD policy says “a vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community.” As in the case of Ariel Russo, and Karen Schmeer, and Violetta Kryzak, and Mary Celine Graham, many times a pursuit doesn’t end until the suspect crashes. In the wake of Ariel’s death, NYPD chases are still injuring and killing people.

NYPD hides police crash data from the public, so we don’t know exactly how much injury, loss of life, and property damage is caused every year due in part to the department’s open-ended pursuit policy. Stories about police pursuits that lead to injuries still surface regularly in the press. In March 2015 an unlicensed driver attempting to evade police killed Dave Jones on a sidewalk in Crown Heights.

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DOT: Drivers Injured 1,084 Pedestrians and Cyclists, and Killed 13, in January

Richard Oates, Can Reng Ma, Rodney Graham, Thomas McAnulty

Richard Oates, Can Reng Ma, Rodney Graham, and Thomas McAnulty

Seventeen people died in New York City traffic in January, and 3,750 were injured, according to DOT’s Vision Zero View crash data map.

DOT reported 11 pedestrians and two cyclists killed by city motorists last month, and 1,084 injured, compared to 10 deaths and 1,043 injuries in January 2015.

Among the victims of fatal crashes were Andrea Kremen, Rodney Graham, Richard Oates, Thomas McAnulty, Can Reng Ma, Nancy Ventura, Alfiya Djuraeva, and an unnamed male pedestrian in Manhattan.

Motorists killed at least two seniors in January: Andrea Kremen, 68, and Thomas McAnulty, 73.

Across the city, 915 pedestrians and 169 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of eight 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. The truck driver who killed cyclist Can Reng Ma was charged with felony leaving the scene, but was not charged for taking a life. The motorist who killed the unnamed Manhattan pedestrian was charged with manslaughter, felony leaving the scene, and DWI. The driver who killed Alfiya Djuraeva was charged with failure to yield.

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.

A witness told the press Andrea Kremen went airborne for 70 yards after she was hit by a driver on the Upper East Side. The driver was not charged. Rodney Graham’s girlfriend said he survived being hit by one driver but was struck again by another motorist, who fled the scene, as he tried to reach the sidewalk on Atlantic Avenue. Before filing charges, NYPD offered the hit-and-run driver who killed Can Reng Ma a preemptive “didn’t see him” defense. Thomas McAnulty, killed by a motorcycle rider on Amsterdam Avenue, was “best friends” with his 7-year-old grandson, the victim’s grieving son told the press.

Four motor vehicle occupants died in the city in January, according to DOT, and 2,666 were injured.

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Vance Drops Right of Way Charge Against Truck Driver Who Killed Senior

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance dropped a Right of Way Law charge against a truck driver who killed a senior on the Upper East Side.

On the afternoon of October 10, 2014, Victor Hernandez hit 86-year-old Peter Romano with a Coca-Cola truck while making a right turn at the corner of Third Avenue and E. 96th Street, according to reports.

“The driver wanted to keep going, people had to tell him to stop,” witness Edwin Rios, told the Post. “People were yelling please stop, please stop.”

Police said Romano was in the crosswalk and was crossing with the signal. On October 11, the NYPD Highway Division announced that the driver was arrested for failing to yield.

Vance’s office conducted a 15-month investigation of the crash. Last week, prosecutors dropped their case against Hernandez without taking it to trial.

According to Vance’s office, prosecutors said in court that Hernandez was not using his phone at the time of the crash and was not impaired. Prosecutors told the court that Hernandez stopped at the light and that several people crossed in front of his truck before he proceeded to turn.

In explaining their decision to drop the case, prosecutors said they believed Hernandez’s visibility was hindered due to the truck’s design and because the victim was 5’5” tall. Prosecutors noted that Hernandez did not leave the scene, and said they could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not exercising due care when he ran over Romano.

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DA Cy Vance Wins Conviction in Washington Heights Hit-and-Run Killing

A driver charged with fatally striking a man in Washington Heights and leaving the scene was sentenced to prison yesterday.

Antonio Ramirez. Image: WNBC

Antonio Ramirez. Image: WNBC

Jesus Fabian pled guilty to evidence tampering in the death of Antonio Ramirez, according to court records and the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

The crash occurred on Audubon Avenue at W. 176th Street on October 18, 2013, as the victim walked home from the subway at the end of an overnight shift at the restaurant where he worked.

Ramirez, 40, was married with two kids, who were 14 and 9 when their father was killed. In the aftermath of the crash, local electeds noted that speeding is commonplace in the area where Ramirez lived, due in part to its proximity to the George Washington Bridge and the Cross Bronx Expressway.

Video of the crash showed the driver of the vehicle braking after impact, then apparently driving over the victim, according to Vance’s office. No witnesses could identify Fabian as the driver, and the car was not registered in his name, the DA’s office said. But investigators with Vance’s office and NYPD produced sufficient evidence to indict Fabian on charges of leaving the scene and tampering with evidence.

Evidence tampering is a class E felony. Prosecutors sought the maximum sentence of three-and-a-half to seven years, according to Vance’s office. On Thursday, New York State Supreme Court Judge James Burke sentenced Fabian to three to six years.

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Charges Reduced in Manhattan Hit-and-Run Death of Charity Hicks

Scene of the Midtown crash that killed Charity Hicks. Image: WNBC

Scene of the Midtown crash that killed Charity Hicks. Image: WNBC

Charges have been reduced against a driver who allegedly killed a woman on a Manhattan sidewalk and fled the scene.

On May 31, 2014, Thomas Shanley drove a Dodge SUV onto the curb on 10th Avenue near W. 34th Street, striking a pole that fell on Charity Hicks, according to a criminal court complaint and Gothamist. Hicks, who lived in Detroit and was in the city for a conference, suffered injuries to her head and chest. She died weeks later. A second pedestrian was also injured.

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

The criminal court complaint said video reviewed by NYPD showed the SUV driver “swerve across two lanes of traffic and onto the sidewalk” on 10th Avenue. Shanley’s cell phone, which was recovered at the scene, indicated that the user was sending a text message at the time of the collision, according to the complaint.

Investigators found Shanley, who fled the scene on foot, in New Jersey and arrested him in August 2014, the Daily News reported. He was on parole at the time of the crash.

District Attorney Cy Vance initially charged Shanley with manslaughter and felony leaving the scene — class C and D felonies, respectively. However, the current charges against him are (class D) felony leaving the scene, criminally negligent homicide (a class E felony), and leaving the scene of an incident without reporting (a class A misdemeanor). Vance’s office declined comment on why the manslaughter charge was dismissed, as the case remains open.

In New York City, motorists accused in deadly hit-and-run crashes usually face a top charge of leaving the scene — assuming they are prosecuted at all — and are rarely charged for taking a life. So though the top charge in this case was reduced to felony leaving the scene, it’s noteworthy that Vance elected to pursue a homicide charge and succeeded in securing an indictment.

Class D felonies carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. Shanley is expected to go to trial in March. He has been in jail since pleading not guilty in January 2015, court records say.

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Richard Brown: Probation for Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed Kamil Gorski

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski got probation and $1,088 in fines and fees after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges and allowed a misdemeanor plea deal.

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski got probation and $1,088 in fines and fees after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges for a misdemeanor plea deal.

A driver charged with a felony for the hit-and-run death of a Queens pedestrian was sentenced to probation as a result of a plea deal from District Attorney Richard Brown.

Raul Reyes and a second driver hit 36-year-old Navy veteran Kamil Gorski on Metropolitan Avenue on February 3, 2015, according to Brown’s office. Gorski died at Elmhurst Hospital.

Brown did not charge the second driver, who remained at the scene. Brown charged Reyes with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, which is a class D felony, and issued a press release saying Reyes “face[d] up to four years in prison.” Last December, however, Brown reduced the charges, and allowed Reyes to plead to a misdemeanor leaving the scene, which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence.

This week, pursuant to his plea agreement with DA Brown, Reyes was sentenced to three years probation, a $1,000 fine, and $88 in administrative fees for leaving Kamil Gorski to die in the street, according to court records. There is no indication that the court took action against Reyes’s driver’s license.

As Streetsblog reported last month, Gorski is one of several Queens hit-and-run victims whose killers avoided a sentence that included jail time, either because Brown accepted a plea or filed no charges in the first place.

If New York City hopes to get a handle on its hit-and-run epidemic, which results in thousands of injuries and deaths annually, district attorneys will have to send a message that such crimes will not be tolerated. Based on his record of prosecuting traffic violence over the last year, Brown earned a middling C+ in the Transportation Alternatives 2015 Vision Zero Report Card, which said the DA “seems uninterested in protecting the lives of constituents.”