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Posts from the "Carnage" Category

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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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NYPD: Drivers Injured 1,300 Pedestrians and Cyclists in July, and Killed 18

Image: NYPD

Image: NYPD

Twenty-eight people died in New York City traffic in July, and 4,571 were injured, according to the latest NYPD crash data report [PDF].

As of the end of July, 80 pedestrians and cyclists were reported killed by city motorists this year, and 8,380 injured, compared to 90 deaths and 8,958 injuries for the same period in 2013. Drivers killed more pedestrians and cyclists in July than in any other month to this point in 2014.

Citywide, at least 15 pedestrians and three cyclists were fatally struck by drivers: two pedestrians and one cyclist in Manhattan; one pedestrian in the Bronx; seven pedestrians and one cyclist in Brooklyn; three pedestrians and one cyclist in Queens; and two pedestrians in Staten Island. Among the victims were Joie Sellers, Jackie Haeflinger, Matthew Brenner, Jean Chambers, Avrohom Feldmaus, Sokhna Niang, Marie Valentino, Valding Duran, Margherita Nanfro, and Agatha Tsunis. Also killed were three unnamed pedestrians in Brooklyn, two unnamed pedestrians in Queens, an unnamed cyclist in Queens, and an unnamed pedestrian in Staten Island.

Motorists killed at least two children and four seniors in July: Joie Sellers, 12; Valding Duran, 13; Avrohom Feldmaus, 89; Marie Valentino, 91; Margherita Nanfro, 80; and Agatha Tsunis, 87.

Across the city, 772 pedestrians and 528 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 18 fatal crashes reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, two motorists were known to have been charged for causing a death. Robert DeCarlo was charged with manslaughter for the Brooklyn hit-and-run curb jump crash that killed Joie Sellers, and Romulo Mejia was charged with manslaughter and DWI for killing an unnamed pedestrian in Queens. 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.

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The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage.

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. No charges were filed, despite indications that the victim had the right of way. Image: Google Maps

Fatal Crashes (7 Killed This Week; 139 This Year*)

  • East Elmhurst: Melania Ward, 55, Killed by MTA Bus Driver on Astoria Blvd.; No Charges (Streetsblog)
  • UWS: Cydney S. Arther, 73, Struck on West End Avenue, Dies from Injuries; No Charges (DNA)
  • Bed-Stuy: 30-Year-Old Man Struck in Gates Avenue Crosswalk by 80-Year-Old Driver; No Charges (Post)
  • Pelham Bay: 31-Year-Old Woman Hit by Pickup Truck Driver on Hutchinson River Parkway (News)
  • Soundview: Two Killed, One Seriously Injured Crashing Into Tree, Splitting Car in Half (DNA, News)
  • Bay Ridge: 29-Year-Old Motorcyclist Thrown From Bike in Crash With Driver; No Charges (News)

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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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The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage.

A livery cab driver jumped the curb on Atlantic Avenue after colliding with the driver of a flatbed truck, striking a pedestrian on the sidewalk and crushing her leg. The truck driver was summonsed for an improper turn and other violations, according to the TLC. The cab driver was not ticketed or charged. Photo: Sarah Goodyear

A livery cab driver jumped the curb on Atlantic Avenue after colliding with the driver of a flatbed truck, striking a pedestrian on the sidewalk and crushing her leg. The truck driver was summonsed for an improper turn and other violations, according to the TLC. The cab driver was not ticketed or charged. Photo: Sarah Goodyear

Fatal Crashes (5 Killed This Week; 132 This Year*)

  • UES: Woman, 58, Hit in Crosswalk by Turning Cab Driver; No Charges (Streetsblog)
  • LES: Shu Fan Huang, 82, Struck Along With Two Other Pedestrians, Dies From Injuries; NYPD, Media Say Victims Were Crossing Against the Light; No Charges (DNA, Lo-Down)
  • Jamaica: 53-Year-Old Man Struck Crossing Liberty Avenue; No Charges (NY1, TL, WABC)
  • Whitestone: 49-Year-Old Motorcyclist Thrown From Bike on Whitestone Expressway (Queens Courier)
  • Lincoln Tunnel: 1 Killed, 2 Injured When Speeding Driver Causes 3-Vehicle Collision (WCBS)

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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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Chin Calls for Safety Fixes After Driver Injures Three Women on South Street

South Street at Rutgers Slip, before a traffic signal and crosswalks were installed last year. Photo: Google Maps

A driver seriously injured three women in the crosswalk at South Street at Rutgers Slip in Manhattan yesterday, and one of the victims is facing life-threatening injuries. In response, Council Member Margaret Chin called on DOT to study pedestrian safety along this stretch of South Street, where many residents of Chinatown and the Lower East Side cross beneath the FDR Drive to access the East River Esplanade.

DOT says it is conducting a safety review of the intersection, where it installed a traffic light and crosswalks last year. Meanwhile, NYPD says the women were crossing against the signal and that it does not suspect “any criminality” by the driver.

Yesterday at around 6:50 a.m., the three women were in the crosswalk at Rutgers Slip when a 34-year-old woman driving a Volvo northbound on South Street struck them. Two of the victims, age 60 and 67, were seriously injured, while a third, whom NYPD said is in her 70s, sustained life-threatening injuries. All three were taken to Bellevue Hospital.

It’s not known if the driver was distracted when she struck the three women in the road. She is not facing any charges and did not receive a summons for any traffic violations. The Collision Investigation Squad is investigating. ”It appeared the driver had the light,” NYPD’s press office said today. “Nothing here to indicate any criminality.”

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The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage.

The intersection of Park Avenue and 108th Street, where unlicensed driver Nojeem Odunfa killed cyclist Jerrison Garcia. Image: Google Maps

Fatal Crashes (5 Killed Since Aug. 15; 127 This Year*)

  • Midwood: 62-Year-Old Man Struck by SUV Driver While Crossing Avenue P (DNA)
  • East Harlem: Jerrison Garcia, 25, Struck on Bicycle at Park Avenue and E. 108th Street (Streetsblog)
  • Maspeth: Karoll Grzegorczyk, 32, Struck by Hit-and-Run Driver (NewsNY1)
  • Spuyten Duyvil: 24-Year-Old Motorcyclist Crashes on the Major Deegan Expressway (News)
  • Crown Heights: Michelle Migmott, 32, Killed in Backseat of Car in Drunk Driving Crash on Eastern Parkway (NewsAMNY)**

Injuries, Arrests, and Property Damage

  • Morningside Heights: Driver Critically Injures Pedestrian Crossing Amsterdam (DNA)
  • Mott Haven: Woman Critical After Hit-and-Run Driver Intentionally Rams Her; Driver Charged With Attempted Murder (DNA 1, 2, NewsWCBSWNBC)
  • Brighton Beach: Cyclist Critically Injured on Ocean Parkway (Bklyn Daily)
  • Corona: Parks Dept. Sanitation Truck Driver Strikes Cyclist and Her Dog (DNAFDNY)
  • LES: Driver Injures Three Women in Their 60s, One Critically; No Charges (DNA)
  • Harlem: Drunk Driver Sends Car Carrying Newborn Baby Onto Sidewalk; Five Injured (WNBC, News)**
  • Ozone Park: SUV Driver Jumps Curb, Smashing Into Pizzeria Storefront (Forum)
  • Springfield Gardens: Driver Crashes Into Post on Rockaway Turnpike; CIS Requested (@NYScanner)
  • Queensboro Bridge: Taxi Bursts Into Flames on Upper Level of Bridge (DNA)
  • St. George: Tractor-Trailer Jackknifes, Crashes Into Parked Car (Advance)
  • Travis-Chelsea: Drunk Driver’s Arrest for Sideswiping Vehicle Was Second DWI in a Month (Advance)

* Based on latest available reports
** Incident in which a vehicle left the roadway

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America’s Progress on Street Safety Is Pathetic

The United States was one of the worst performers among developed nations on decreasing traffic fatalities over the last decade. Image: International Transport Forum

Most countries ranked by the International Transport Forum reduced traffic fatalities at least twice as much as the United States between 2000 and 2012. Graph: International Transport Forum (Click to enlarge)

A new report from the International Transport Forum shows America is only falling farther behind all of its peer nations on street safety [PDF].

The traffic fatality rate in the United States (10.7 per 100,000 people) is nearly four times higher than in the United Kingdom (2.8 per 100,000) and close to double that of Canada (5.8). To put that in perspective, if America had the same traffic fatality rate as the U.K., around 25,000 fewer people would be killed every year.

America’s street safety record puts it near the bottom of the ITF’s ranking of 35 countries, far behind most other developed nations.

Image: International Transport Forum

Graph: International Transport Forum (Click to enlarge)

Traffic deaths have generally been declining in America, but not nearly as fast as in other countries. From 2000 to 2012, the U.S. managed to lower traffic death rates just 20 percent. Even Australia, another laggard that ITF grouped among nations with the “least success” reducing traffic deaths, still managed to cut fatalities 28.5 percent. Meanwhile, high performers Denmark, Spain, and Portugal all reduced fatality rates 65 percent or more over the same period.

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DOT: No Plans for Park Avenue Bike Infrastructure After Recent Deaths

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The west side of Park Avenue and 108th Street, facing south. Image: Google Maps

DOT will consider design changes at the Park Avenue intersection in East Harlem where drivers have recently killed three cyclists, but there are no plans for new bike infrastructure along the Park Avenue viaduct.

Livery cab driver Nojeem Odunfa hit cyclist Jerrison Garcia at Park Avenue and E. 108th Street Monday morning, reportedly dragging Garcia 80 feet before stopping. Odunfa was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation and careless driving.

“There’s car accidents here all the time,” a local resident told DNAinfo. ”They drive like this is a highway.”

Park Avenue is divided by a Metro-North viaduct from E. 102nd Street northward. There is car parking on northbound and southbound Park along this 30-block stretch, but no bike lanes. Cyclists on Park must share one through-lane with moving vehicles, and riding on Park or biking across Park entails negotiating intersections with limited visibility.

Jerrison Garcia was the third cyclist killed at 108th and Park since July 2012. Image: I Quant NY

It’s no secret that this segment of Park Avenue is dangerous for people on bikes. Garcia was the third cyclist killed at the E. 108th Street intersection since 2012. There were six additional crashes resulting in cyclist injuries on Park between E. 106th and E. 110th Streets from April to September 2013, according to I Quant NY. Data mapped by Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat show dozens of cyclist injuries along the viaduct, and one death, from 1995 to 2007.

The viaduct area is also hazardous for pedestrians, and a DOT project to make it safer to walk there is underway. In light of recent cyclist deaths and injuries, on Monday we asked DOT if the agency is reviewing conditions at Park and E. 108th, and if bike infrastructure improvements along the viaduct are in the works.

Here is DOT’s reply:

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