The collision that claimed the life of eight-year-old Axel Pablo yesterday afternoon was another sobering reminder of New York City law enforcement’s institutional failure to deter deadly driving. Police let the cab driver who killed Pablo, Akim Saiful Alam, leave their custody after deciding that he had not committed a criminal act. Even adherence to the so-called "Rule of Two" can’t explain away the lack of charges in this case.
The cab driver clearly failed to yield to pedestrians as he turned from Lexington Avenue into the crosswalk on 112th Street, and multiple witnesses cited in news reports estimated that the cab was traveling at least 10 mph over the speed limit as it approached the intersection. The cabbie also had a hands-free cell phone attachment dangling from his head, which he may or may not have been using at the time of the crash, depending on whether you trust the judgment of police or the accounts of eyewitnesses. And he would have left the scene if not for the efforts of a few good Samaritans who managed to stop him.
Much of the responsibility for investigating crashes and determining criminality lies with New York’s district attorneys. All three Democratic candidates for Manhattan DA, who are facing off in the primary on September 15, have said they will take traffic crime seriously once in office. (Read Streetsblog’s interview with candidate Leslie Crocker Snyder and watch highlights from June’s traffic justice debate to find out more about where they stand.) Earlier this week, candidate Richard Aborn became the first to pledge to reduce vehicular violence in his official campaign platform:
Almost everyone in New York knows that the homicide rate in New York, thanks to effective policing and prosecution, has declined to around 500 homicides a year from a peak of more than 2200 homicides in 1990. And yet few people know that, shockingly, the traffic fatality rate in New York is almost as high -almost 300 lost lives a year. As District Attorney, I commit to dedicating appropriate resources to ensure that traffic fatalities become as rare as bike lanes used to be.
Aborn has previously stated that he believes the Rule of Two is ready to be challenged in court. The addition to his campaign platform echoes his piece in the Huffington Post last week vowing to focus resources on preventing traffic deaths.