One hundred and twenty eight people have been killed by drivers in New York City streets this year. Eight were children. In some cases drivers were ticketed, but few were prosecuted. As Jenny Luna reports, bicycle and pedestrian safety activists are asking for drivers involved in fatal traffic collision to be prosecuted.
NARR: It was a rainy Friday night around 9pm last January, when nine year old Cooper Stock was hit and killed by a taxi driver while crossing 97th Street and West End Avenue. At the time Stock and his father Richard were crossing the street, they had the light. Cooper was holding his father’s hand. Police issued the driver, Koffli Komlani, a ticket – and he was ultimately charged with (careless) driving. Kolmani pleaded not guilty to failure to yield, claiming bad weather. A trial will be held in February.
Street safety groups say that’s not enough. They want more drivers who seriously injure or kill people with their cars to be prosecuted. Aaron Charlop-Powers is the co-founder of the advocacy group Families for Safe Streets.
AX: your son or your daughter or your mother or loved one could be killed or injured and the person responsible for that could face no repercussions. (0:09)
NARR: Fewer than seven percent of drivers who hit and kill a pedestrian … are even issued a ticket. The city’s district attorneys say in order to be prosecuted, they must be able to prove the Rule of Two: drivers must break two traffic laws – say careless driving AND running a stop sign. And most cases, the toughest judgment drivers will face is a safety hearing at the DMV.
Charlop-Powers says the District Attorneys can and must do more.
AX: Our hope is that prosecutors can play their part to have a consistent message from across the aspect of city government so that there is a serious and consistent way of saying you can’t behave this way on the streets of New York. (0:15)
NARR: In several high profile cases, the District Attorney has defended the decision not to prosecute, saying simply accidents happen. The drivers didn’t mean to cause harm. Paco Abraham is the Brooklyn chairperson for Transportation Alternatives. He says how we describe what happens makes a big difference.
AX: I think one of the best things we could do is, is, you know, remove the word accident from New Yorkers’ vocabulary. (0:07)
NARR: That’s what the NYPD did two years ago. It changed the Accident Inspection Squad to the Collision Inspection Squad. Still, little has changed.
On November 12, Nora Nussbaum says she was hit by a van while crossing on Avenue N and Flatbush Avenue. She was lucky. She suffered only minor injuries, but as someone who’d just started doing more to promote pedestrian safety, the timing was weird.
AX: I actually got my assignment for volunteering at the Vision Zero conference and an hour later I was hit by a car so it gives me additional investment (0:08)
NARR: Nussbaum is writing a thesis project on Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Plan – his effort to reduce pedestrian and cyclist fatalities – for her Master’s degree in Public Administration. Nussbaum knew that by the numbers, what happened to her happened to others. The driver who hit her was not charged.
AX: I think somebody who’s driving a thousand pound chunk of metal really has to be held accountable. (0:06)
Every 48 hours a New Yorker is killed in a traffic collision.
AX: I was hit by a car two weeks ago today and probably ten people have died you know or have been bit by cars. (0:07)
Nussbaum isn’t far off. Since the minivan hit her on November 12, seven people have died in collisions.
Jenny Luna, Columbia Radio News