In Deadly Week for Pedestrians, No Consequences for Drivers

Photo: Google Street View
The intersection of Avenue X and Ocean Parkway, where a woman was struck crossing the street on Tuesday. Photo: ##http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&client=firefox-a&q=ocean+parkway+and+avenue+x&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Ocean+Pkwy+%26+Avenue+X,+Brooklyn,+Kings,+New+York&gl=us&ei=xk2STOvHHYqosAPusfjACg&sqi=2&ved=0CBMQ8gEwAA&ll=40.591112,-73.965111&spn=0.003992,0.015771&t=h&z=16&layer=c&cbll=40.591129,-73.964955&panoid=i1U2TGQerYDz-ybQ0SdFrA&cbp=13,302.63,,0,2.27##Google Street View##

This has been a deadly week for New York City pedestrians, with three New Yorkers losing their lives in traffic collisions in three days, and another in critical condition.

On Monday, an SUV driver hit and killed two-year-old Shamira Zaman in Queens Village as she crossed the street to greet an uncle. The NYPD told reporters that no criminality is suspected.

On Tuesday, a school bus driver hit a Gravesend woman who had the light when she started crossing Ocean Parkway, according to accounts in the Post. NYPD told Streetsblog that she is in critical condition at Lutheran Hospital, and that police suspect no criminality. (Ocean Parkway is slated to receive some of the 1,500 pedestrian countdown timers that DOT is installing across the city, according to a press release put out today by City Council members Brad Lander and Sara Gonzalez.)

Yesterday, a van collided with an ambulance in Elmhurst and then flipped into 75-year-old Rashid Muhammad, killing him. Neither driver has been charged with anything yet, said the NYPD.

In addition, 29-year-old Joydeep Sarkar was hit and killed yesterday at 2:22 a.m. on the northbound side of the FDR Drive, near 72nd Street, according to the NYPD. No criminality is suspected, despite a WPIX report that the crash was a hit-and-run.

  • The NYPD needs to retire the phrase “no criminality is suspected” when it comes to motor vehicle collisions. I don’t care if its an accident… running someone over is still a crime and should be punished as such. If I accidentally discharge a gun and kill someone, I don’t think cops would be so quick to say “no criminality is suspected.”

  • Doug G.

    “On Tuesday, a school bus driver hit a Gravesend woman who had the light when she started crossing Ocean Parkway…”

    A countdown timer would not have helped this woman. I’m all for them, but they put the onus on pedestrians. What’s needed are traffic calming measures and enforcement, not timers.

  • Cops don’t convict, juries do.

  • jsd

    I’m just going to throw this idea out there.

    How about speed bumps just before stop signs and stop lights at pedestrian and traffic heavy intersections. This will force drivers to slow down just before any interactions with pedestrians or other automobiles. Drivers won’t be able to race the yellow anymore because they’ll have to slow down in every circumstance. Any pedestrians that are crossing and get hit will actually have a fighting chance at these lower speeds.

    Just a thought. Of course, we might end up with most drivers stopping in the intersection itself, defeating the purpose. Although many do that anyway.

  • Not always criminal

    Hey Paco, if you accidentally stepped in front of a moving vehicle because you weren’t paying attention would it be the drivers fault? What if you intentionally stepped into traffic to commit suicide. Would he be a criminal for your foolish/negligent action? An accident is an accident unfortunately (not always, but sometimes). If a two year old runs into traffic, it does not make the driver a criminal. I don’t know anyone who would want to hit a child or any pedestrian for that matter under any circumstance. The person who hit that child will probably suffer some trauma from the incident. Nobody (with rare exception) wants to kill anybody with their vehicle.
    Running someone over intentionally is a crime. Running someone over while incapacitated or acting in a negligent manner is a crime. Not every fatal pedestrian accident falls under these categories. People should be responsible for their own actions, not for cases of tragic circumstance.

  • Ian Turner

    NAC, I’d say that yes, if you walk into auto traffic at a slow-to-moderate walking pace, it is cars’ responsibility not to hit you. The corrolory is that anyone going too fast so as not to be able to stop on time is a criminal. That is the essence of New York’s Basic Speed Law: “A person shall not drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.”

    Automobiles are what create dangerous conditions on our streets, not pedestrians or cyclists, and it’s not at all clear to me why we should accommodate them or take any blame for the violence that they create.

  • Not always criminal

    http://gothamist.com/2010/09/17/crossing_the_harlem_river_drive_isn.php#comments
    so the driver who hit this guy should be held criminally liable? How about the bus driver who ran him over when he was pushed under his tires? Here’s an idea, pedestrians should use some common sense and good judgment. In this case the pedestrian was the one creating the dangerous situation, not the drivers.

  • Ian Turner

    NAC,

    If you create a facility that is closed to pedestrians and gives drivers the reasonable belief that there will be no pedestrians around, then I don’t think it’s reasonable to charge from for hitting a pedestrian. I can’t comment on Harlem River Drive in particular because I don’t know what it looks like. However, most of the ten thousand pedestrians injured by cars in the city are not hit in an automobile-only facility.

    Does that answer your question?

    –Ian

  • BicyclesOnly

    The Harlem River Drive is a controlled access highway on which pedestrians and cyclists are prhibited, with a 50 MPH speed limit, and with no traffic lights or pedestrian signals except at its northen terminus at Dyckman Street. Unless the pedestrian was hit at Dyckman, those circumstances should of course be taken into account in assessing the driver’s potential liability for this crash, criminal or civil. However, even in such an environment, a driver is still responsible for exercising due care to avoid hitting pedestrians. For example, if the driver in this case was passing other cars while traveling in the right lane at 60 MPH, there’s a basis for civil liability for hitting a pedestrian.

    I ride on the esplanade along the Harlem River and have seen people crossing the Harlem River Drive on foot a few times. The problem is that the waterfront is the main green space in that neighborhood, the HRD lies between the neighborhood and that space, there are only a very few pedestrian bridges over the HRD, and their is no signage on the esplanade telling people where the nearest bridge is. There also is no high fencing and little or no signage to keep people off the HRD. People become frustrated with the access situation and conclude that dashing across the HRD is an option. I have no idea if that’s what happened in this most recent incident, but it has happened in the past. None of this is directly relevant to liability for the recent crash, but there will be more crashes like this without design changes to improgve pedestrian access to the Harlem River Waterfront. As reported here in Streetsblog recently, some such changes are under consideration right now, although they probably don’t go far enough.

  • ‘Not only criminal’ does make some valid points and thank you Ian Turner for already acknowledging that and replying accordingly. Pedestrians can often be too oblivious and put themselves in harm’s way. I was biking, stopped at a red light and next to a cop car once when a girl on her blackberry crossed out of the crosswalk into my bike and yelled at me I was puzzled and the cops actually laughed and said ‘if she’d been hurt, they woulda given her a ticket.’ So yes, pedestrians can often be oblivious and put themselves in a place that a driver simply cannot avoid. Or, they can be extremely stupid and put themselves in a place that explicitly offers them no infrastructure like crossing the Harlem River Drive. So yes, you are right; many times the driver is 100% guilt free. However, when a person is hurt.. regardless of whose fault it is, is not not ‘just an accident,’ is it without doubt a crime. Very likely one without intent, but certainly a crime to maim or kill someone and I think traffic ‘accidents’ need to ALWAYS be investigated as traffic ‘crimes.’ Right now drinking and driving seems to be the only thing cops will ticket with regularity, and to a lesser degree ‘texting/cell phone use.’ However, not yielding to peds in a crosswalk and blatant speeding contribute to many, many unnecessary injuries and must be treated as evidence in determining guilt in the way too common vehicle ‘accidents.’

  • BicyclesOnly

    As a technical matter, most instances of traffic misconduct are deemed “violations” or “infractions,” while only the most serious trffic misconduct (DWI, “criminal” negligence”) are deemed “crimes.” The distinction carries significance in terms of the type of punishment (fine vs imprisonment), right to a trial, and other consequences. Some misconduct is neither a violation nor a crime, but can result in civil liability, which is totally separate from (and may be in addition to) a penalty applied by the government. And in the context of civil liability, there is the concept of comparative liability, such that a person hit while negligently crossing a controlled acess highway can nonetheless win a civil verdict againt a motorist, if the motorists’ negligence also contributed to the crash. When the police say no criminality suspected, that merely means “no crime”–not “no violation.” However, the line between violation and crime is not absolute–engaging in multiple types of traffic misconduct at once can amount to criminal negligence. So the police should not announce that “no criminality is suspected” when they have yet to determine what the motorist was doing when the crash occurred, even if intentional or reckless/drunken wrongdoing has been ruled out.

  • Superso

    Joydeep was one of the greatest people I ever knew. You can tell b/c i’m thinking of him years later and still feel such pain when I think about it. So kind and so friendly. Always so helpful and caring. To think that he didn’t even make it to 30 is very difficult. So much hard work, just getting married to the love of his life..and this tragedy happens. He was a great kid.

  • Sotome82

    I knew joy deep since I was 5, he was a great person. I am thankful to have had him as my friend. I pray for his family and will always cherish the good times we had. Until we meet again joydeep , love ya.

    Your childhood friend
    Melissa Neris

  • Elemento

    People that have your mentality are the one that drive the cars that kill people. Maybe someone should run you over for having said that stupid comment.

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