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Posts from the "“Accidents”" Category

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Attention Ray Kelly: NYPD Still Using “Accident” to Describe Traffic Crashes

The NYPD web site and crash data reports don't reflect the post-"accident" policy announced by Ray Kelly in March.

Earlier this year, Commissioner Ray Kelly announced that the word “accident” would be eliminated from the NYPD lexicon. Not only would the Accident Investigation Squad be rebranded as the Collision Investigation Squad, Kelly said, but “accident” would be changed to “collision” on all departmental materials.

In a letter to City Council transportation chair James Vacca, Kelly said what safe streets advocates have long wanted to hear from NYC’s top cop.

The term “collision,” which is utilized by other jurisdictions throughout the country, provides a more accurate description. In the past, the term “accident” has sometimes given the inaccurate impression or connotation that there is no fault or liability associated with a specific event. The term “collision” will now be utilized in all relevant Department materials, forms and manuals.

From the outside, it appears the department has barely changed its terminology in the three months since Kelly’s announcement. The AIS is now the CIS, but NYPD still uses “accident” on monthly crash data reports, and on the department’s web site.

And in a recent interview with the Times, Highway Patrol chief Inspector Paul Ciorra used “accident” to describe a typical DWI hit-and-run, though such a crash would be a potential felony.

Read more…

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New York DMV No Longer Describes Traffic Crashes as “Accidents” [Updated]

The current DMV data archive page ...

... and the page as it appeared in June 2012.

A sharp-eyed reader pointed out to us that the New York State DMV has stopped using the word “accident” in its annual statistical summaries.

On its 2011 data web page, and in each of its 2011 reports, DMV refers to traffic crashes as “crashes.” “Accident” does not appear in any of the agency’s 2011 materials. The header on the statistical summaries archive page was also changed from “Motor Vehicle Accidents” to “Motor Vehicle Crashes.”

To describe a traffic crash as an accident is to relieve all parties of responsibility. Though there are laws against drinking and driving, for example, as of 2010 the DMV listed alcohol-involved crashes among “accidents with human factors.”

Even when a motorist uses a car as a weapon, the media can’t break the habit. “It looked like the accident happened intentionally,” said a local reporter of a 2008 crash in the Bronx, in which a driver mowed down a man after an argument.

DMV communications staff couldn’t tell us why the change was made at this particular time, but said they expected the agency will use “crash” from now on. The department gave us this statement:

A vehicle crash encompasses a wider range of potential causes than does the term accident. An accident implies something that is not preventable. A majority of crashes are caused by intoxicated, speeding, distracted, or careless drivers and, therefore, are not accidents. That is why the term “crashes” is used not only by the New York State DMV, but also by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Good stuff. Today the DMV, tomorrow the Daily News.

(h/t to Keegan Stephan of Time’s Up!)

Update: Thanks to Transportation Alternatives, which urged the DMV to make this change.

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Ghost Bikes Memorial Ride Marks Another Year of Loss

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Grief, solidarity and resolve brought out two hundred New York cyclists yesterday for the third annual Ghost Bikes Memorial Ride, to commemorate cyclists killed by motor vehicle drivers last year.

At the Canal Street & Bowery triangle by the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge bike path, Steve Hindy raised his empty arms in a pantomime of a bike lift in honor of his son Sam, age 27, who died on Nov. 16 when he struck a barrier and fell to the bridge's lower roadway, where he was hit by a car.

"Sam died because he could not find his way," Steve told the throng, which had converged from separate feeder rides in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx and was squinting in the late-afternoon sun. "Look around and you'll see this area was designed for cars." Cars and nothing but cars, Steve might have said. And he might have said the same for every street the riders visited en route to 14 known sites of cycle fatalities in 2007. (Another 9 fatalities were consecrated at an "unknown cyclist" ghost bike installation on the Park Row sidewalk outside City Hall.)

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January 3rd: The Wrongdoer is Brought to Justice

"The wrongdoer is brought to justice because his act has disturbed and gravely endangered the community as a whole, and not because damage has been done to individuals who are entitled to reparation. It is the body politic itself that stands in need of being repaired, and it is the general public order that has been thrown out of gear and must be restored."  -- Hannah Arendt

eric_ng.jpgAt 9:40 p.m. on a Friday evening last December, 27-year-old Eugenio Cidron left an office party at Chelsea Piers, steered his silver BMW onto the Hudson River Greenway, a bicycle and pedestrian path where cars are not allowed, and drove south for a full mile until he smashed head-on into cyclist 22-year-old Eric Ng at Clarkson Street, killing him instantly.

Cidron, who was drunk, pleaded guilty in November to second-degree manslaughter, in exchange for a sentence of 3½ to 10½ years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Thursday morning, Jan. 3, in lower Manhattan. A number of Eric's friends and associates plan to be there.

I'll be there too, although I never met Eric, a graduate of the NYC Department of Education's teaching fellow program who was subbing at Automotive High School in Greenpoint at the time of his death. But I know that a prison term for killing a cyclist or pedestrian is a rarity - roughly on the order of a comet, say, or a total solar eclipse. Most killer-drivers get off scot-free or, at worst, get their license lifted or receive a suspended sentence. If Cidron is actually going upstate for a while, I want to see it happen.

Perhaps that sounds harsh or bloody-minded. Perhaps it is. But after twenty-some years of watching the brutal and cavalier way drivers routinely treat other road users, I think some payback, and pushback, is long overdue.

Perhaps those of us who ride should bring bike gear into the courtroom to self-identify. That seems fitting. Writing last year about Eric's death, I said, "Everyone who rides in New York dies a little when a cyclist is killed." Our presence will reflect that.

I hope not just Cidron and his family but the D.A.'s office -- indeed, the entire city -- will feel our grief at losing Eric and see our resolve to hold drivers accountable for acts that rend the community.

Sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 am, Thursday, January 3, at NY State Supreme Court, 111 Centre Street, Room 948 (9th Floor) "Part 32," in the court of Justice Gregory Carro. It is possible that other sentencings may precede Cidron's, so plan accordingly.

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S.I. Ped Killings Cause Some to Ask, What’s an “Accident?”

Rev. Lyle Guttu, a fixture at Staten Island's Wagner College since 1972, was struck by an SUV in the West Brighton ATT00221.jpegneighborhood of Staten Island last Saturday. He died Sunday evening.

The Staten Island Advance reports:

Guttu was crossing Bement, heading east from Chase Manhattan Bank at around 2:40 p.m. Saturday, when he was struck by a 2006 Nissan Pathfinder driven by 47-year-old Theresa Totorelli of West Brighton, according to a police report.

Ms. Tortorelli -- who had been heading west on Forest Avenue and just made a left onto Bement -- claimed she did not see Guttu in the road until it was too late.

Guttu was conscious when police arrived and complained of "pain all over his body," the report said.

There were no tickets issued at the scene, though police say an investigation is ongoing. Reports say Tortorelli was not speeding and was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. According to NY1, the medical examiner "has ruled the death an accident, caused by the impact of the crash."

As Wagner faculty, alumni, and acquaintances and friends of Guttu pay their respects, SI Advance readers are debating who, if anyone, is responsible for the popular chaplain's death.

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Details and Questions Emerge in Brooklyn Cyclist Deaths


Craig Murphey

The deaths of two Brooklyn cyclists just hours apart yesterday have resulted in a homicide charge and an outpouring of grief for a man friends describe as "a truly thoughtful and selfless individual." Friends of one of the victims are also questioning the official account of his death.

City dailies report that Williamsburg resident Alfred Taylor, 41, has been charged with criminally negligent homicide for killing an as-yet-unidentified cyclist on Fulton Street in Bed Stuy around 6 a.m. Thursday. Police say Taylor was driving a speeding van when he struck the 25-year-old cyclist, whose name is being withheld pending notification of relatives.

As Streetsblog readers well know, it is virtually unheard of for a driver to face a charge of any sort after hitting a cyclist or pedestrian, as long as the driver is sober and stays at the scene. We will keep an eye on this case as it progresses.

Meanwhile, no charges were filed in the death of 26-year-old Craig Murphey, who according to police and media reports was hit by a turning gas truck just after 4 a.m. yesterday while riding southbound in the northbound lane of Union Avenue at Ten Eyck Street.

But Elizabeth Weinberg, a friend of Murphey's, tells Streetsblog that doesn't make sense:

We know for a fact that he was coming from Lorimer (at Broadway) at that time (dropping off our friend) and heading to his place on South 3rd in Brooklyn, so he had to have been going NORTH on Union Ave, not south like the police report said. There is no way Craig would be riding against traffic and he had no reason to head back down in the opposite direction from home. He rode to work everyday in Harlem from Brooklyn; he knew what he was doing.

Murphey did social work with the West Harlem Action Network Against Poverty and was reportedly a member of Right Rides, a group that provides late-night rides and walks home to GLBT populations vulnerable to assault. Friends have dedicated a Flickr photo pool to Murphey, and are directing donations made in his name to WHANAP.

Photo of Craig Murphey courtesy Elizabeth Weinberg via Flickr

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Two Cyclists Killed in Brooklyn This Morning

From WABC:

union_teneyck.jpgTwo men, both bicyclists, were killed in separate accidents in Brooklyn Thursday morning.

In the first, police say a bicyclist was struck and killed by an oil truck at the intersection of Union Avenue and Ten Eyck Street in the East Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

The bicyclist, a 26-year-old Massachusetts resident, was hit while cycling in the wrong direction just after 4:15 a.m.

He was allegedly trying to beat the oil truck, turning from southbound Union Avenue to Ten Eyck Street, when he was struck.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

No charges were filed.

fulton_utica.jpgLater, authorities say a 25-year-old bicyclist was struck by a white passenger van at the intersection of Utica Avenue and Fulton Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn.

The bicyclist was pronounced dead at the scene, in front of a church.

The driver of the passenger van was not immediately charged. The accident was under investigation.

A woman who lives near Union and Ten Eyck describes the scene:

I came up to the intersection this morning at around 7 a.m., and it had crime scene tape around it. There was a large truck (like an oil truck perhaps) stopped, post turn, and when I turned to look I saw a bicycle completely flattened under the back left tire. The person had been removed from the scene, but from the somber expressions and the remains on the road it was clear that this individual didn't survive. I would like to honor my neighbor in some way. This is so sad. I ride a bike pretty frequently and run all the time in the neighborhood. The intersection is absolutely terrible, people just peel around and often come very close to hitting me or my dog. As a matter of fact, I was just telling my friend on Monday about almost being hit a few blocks up from this (when I had a walk sign). Actually, all the intersections along Union Avenue in WBurg are like that. It is really, really hard to cross the street. The intersection where this tragedy occurred is a "T" so you can really only cross when the walk light says stop, because no one ever, ever, ever pays attention to the walk signal when they have the green light. This is so sad and senseless. After I walked by the scene, I saw so many cars in a rush try to run over pedestrians at Grand and Union, a few blocks away. I saw a car honking at a cyclist and come aggressively close to him on Union just past Grand. It is so sad. Is there anything we can do to make drivers more accountable for their recklessness?

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Renewed Calls for Ped Safety Summit as Death Toll Mounts

After a weekend that saw three pedestrian fatalities and just as many serious injuries -- with no known criminal charges filed against any of the motorists involved as of this writing -- a Manhattan-based advocacy group has renewed calls for action on pedestrian safety.

Spurred by the death of third-grader Prince Harris, Jr. (pictured), the fourth pedestrian to die this year along a notorious stretch of Ninth Avenue, the Clinton/Hell's Kitchen Pedestrian Safety Coalition (CHEKPEDS) is again urging the city to convene an interagency panel "to address this critical health issue."

amd_prince_harris.jpgOn Friday, 8-year-old Harris was on his way to a park with his father and siblings when he reportedly "darted on W. 17th St." and was hit by a Toyota Scion, driven by an unidentified 44-year-old man. Harris's father said the Toyota and a taxi "were speeding down the block to make the light." The driver stayed at the scene and was not issued a ticket.

Today CHEKPEDS issued an e-mail bulletin offering condolences to the Harris family, and imploring the city to turn its attention to the pedestrian casualty epidemic.

The "new DOT" is moving fast and all problems cannot be tackled in one day. Priorities must be set, and in our book none is more important than pedestrian safety. 11,000 injuries and 163 deaths annually would qualify as a national disaster if they were all happening in one day. But they keep happening year after year.

In March, CHEKPEDS worked with Community Board 4 to draft a letter (PDF) to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer asking them to organize a citywide task force "bringing the various players to the table to address street and signal engineering, agencies jurisdiction, enforcement and traffic safety laws, reporting traffic problems and police procedures in accidents." But it hasn't happened.

Also over the weekend, a speeding taxicab jumped a curb and struck three members of the same family, killing 60-year-old TV helicopter pilot Paul Smith; no criminal charges have thus far been reported. On Staten Island, a 4-year-old is "fighting for her life" after being hit by a car yesterday while trying to cross the street with a group of other children; the unidentified driver was not ticketed. And yesterday morning in Coney Island, the driver of a charter bus making a U-turn hit an 60-year-old woman, knocking her down and running over her abdomen; the driver was not charged.

This weekend's carnage comes after last week's angry memorials to Hope Miller and Julia Thomson, who were run down five days apart at the end of September.

Photo of Prince Harris via New York Daily News

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Vehicular Homicide Charge in Thomson Death

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The man who police arrested for hitting and killing 24-year-old Julia Thomson last weekend has been charged with vehicular homicide.

According to the Daily News and the Post, police say Tenzing Bhutia, a 21-year-old Baruch College senior from Queens, knew he hit "something" with his father's Mercedes, but did not stop.

Thomson was struck by a speeding car as she tried to cross Bowery at E. 4th Street early Sunday morning. She died almost instantly, suffering massive head injuries.

Bhutia was arrested hours after the collision when a police officer spotted the damaged car. His blood alcohol level when tested was .087, just above the legal limit of .08. Bhutia was initially charged with driving while impaired and leaving the scene of an accident. Yesterday he was arraigned on the vehicular homicide charge, which carries a penalty of up to seven years. He was held in lieu of $75,000 bail.

The Post says Thomson, who was from Scotland but had dual American citizenship, had been showing a British girlfriend around town. She was heading toward her nearby apartment when she was killed, at around 4 a.m.

Streetsblog visited the scene today. There is no indication of what happened there other than a small bouquet of flowers tied to a signpost in the center of Bowery. Employees working the lunch shift at two corner bars said they didn't witness the collision, though the Post spoke with a doorman and barmaid who did.

Time's Up! will be holding memorials for Thomson and Hope Miller, a 28-year-old pedestrian killed on Houston Street on September 25, starting tonight at 6:30 at Houston and 6th Ave.

Photo: Brad Aaron

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Two Traffic Fatalities: One a Homicide, the Other an “Accident”

Two people died in separate but similar motor vehicle crashes in the city over the weekend. The drivers accused of causing the deaths of Robert Pelicone, 22, and Julia Thomson, 24, were both speeding; both fled after their respective crashes; and both drivers were soon arrested and charged with DWI and leaving the scene.

juliathomson.jpgThe cases differ in two crucial respects. The driver involved in the crash that killed Pelicone was also charged with criminally negligent homicide; the driver identified as Thomson's killer was not. Pelicone was a passenger in the wrecked vehicle; Thomson was a pedestrian trying to cross the street.

This is no isolated instance, of course. Just last week a Greenwich Village pedestrian was killed by a driver charged with driving under the influence of drugs, but was not charged for killing 28-year-old aspiring actress Hope Miller.

On September 4, a driver arrested for running down and killing 7-year-old Christian Acteopan was charged with leaving the scene; another driver who hit Acteopan after the first vehicle stayed at the scene and was not charged.

On September 1, Ismael Mercado, 47, was "accidentally" run over on West 54th Street by a driver who was not charged.

The list goes on. The circumstances of each death are inherently different, and details are often not known or are overlooked, in part because of the way they are reported by the media or recorded by police. But the deaths of Mr. Pelicone and Ms. Thomson, assuming no additional charges are brought, offer a chilling snapshot of how city police and prosecutors value, and devalue, human life based on whether one is or is not inside an automobile.

Photo of Julia Thomson via New York Daily News