When Is NYC Law Enforcement Going to Use Hayley and Diego’s Law?

Sarah Parris
Sarah Parris

The driver who ran down 13-year-old Sarah Parris in front of Canarsie High School will apparently face no charges, despite indications in published reports that he disregarded a stop sign extended by a school bus driver.

Parris was killed while crossing Rockaway Parkway midblock to reach Canarsie High School, just before 8:00 a.m. Monday morning — the start of the school day. The Post reported that Parris’s friend, Akili Charles, was crossing with her and saw the motorist, Mohamed Diakite, drive past a school bus and ignore the stop sign:

The distraught pal said a passing school-bus driver had spotted the girls trying to cross the street, and put out its stop sign to help them make it safely to the other side, but the BMW “kept going.”

After striking Parris, Diakite then smashed into a car parked by the curb:

Photo: Daily News/
Photo: ##http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/11/01/2010-11-01_girl_13_killed_trying_to_cross_sixlane_roadway_in_front_of_brooklyn_high_school.html##Daily News##

The Daily News reported the next day that police had determined that speed was not a factor, and that Diakite passed the school bus on the right. The police sources in the story did not say the bus had come to a stop:

The 13-year-old from Brownsville crossed in front of a school bus that was driving in the left southbound lane, cops said. Diakite, driving in the right southbound lane, couldn’t see the girl until it was too late. 

If the driver did disobey a bus’s stop sign in front of a school zone and was exceeding the speed limit, criminal negligence would seem to be an option for law enforcement to pursue. Another option for police and prosecutors would be to file a charge of careless driving using the newly enacted Hayley and Diego’s law. Under the law, drivers who injure pedestrians or cyclists while failing to exercise due care are subject to mandatory drivers’ ed, and could be sentenced to fines of up to $750, jail time of up to 15 days, and a license suspension of up to six months.

Does killing a student crossing in front of a school bus right in front of a high school constitute a failure to exercise due care?

The office of Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes gave no indication that prosecutors will press charges either. “There have been no allegations of criminality,” a spokesperson told Streetsblog.

  • Chris

    Why are the police and prosecutors (not just in NYC) so afraid to charge drivers? What’s the deal with drivers being able to get away with reckless behavior? I just don’t get it.

  • Presumably, Chris, it has something to do with the jury system; nobody wants to put time and effort into prosecuting a case that a jury will not convict on. If that’s what the DA has decided here, we’ll likely never know.

  • Omri

    Okay, if he passed the bus on the right, he might not have seen the stop and lights.

    But that would mean he passed the bus on the right, at high enough speed to kill somebody.

    The DA is being utterly derelict here. it’s time to find out if the driver is well connected.

  • When is the Brooklyn DA’s office going to use Hayley and Diego’s Law? Sounds like not until January 2014, the same year that the Bronx DA’s office will start using it, if pedestrian safety advocates are ready the year before.

    Next year Dan Donovan and Richard Brown will be up for re-election.

  • paco

    Jonathan, I agree there may be some hesitant to charge because of fear what the Jury would think… but on the flip side…. perhaps a jury’s natural bias would work in favor of prosecution. You’d be hard pressed to find a group of 12 people anywhere in this city (or country) who had never either been in an accident or felt endangered crossing the street. Perhaps the jury can very much relate to the pedestrian and so the DA has a great chance. Of course, if the jury simply follows the letter of the new law… then without question, guilty!

  • Driver

    If it is indeed true that the bus driver stopped or slowed in the left lane to allow the girl to cross then the bus driver contributed to the dangerous situation. In this scenario the bus would have blocked the views of both the driver and pedestrian. Experienced bus and truck drivers know that it is dangerous to stop to let someone cross if there is another lane of traffic (in the same direction) next to you. Many pedestrians will just assume it is safe to cross and walk into the next lane without looking.
    I do not state this to defend the actions of the driver, but it should be noted that this could have been a contributing factor in the accident, and may have played a part in the decision not to press charges.

  • Ian Turner

    Paco, any person who has been in a serious car accident, or even knows someone who has been in a serious car accident, would be excluded from the jury. Any person who expresses a negative perception toward drivers, such as by feeling “endangered while crossing the street”, would also be excluded from the jury. Such is the way our jury system works.

  • @Driver, conceivably, had the bus driver not stopped, he/she would have run Sarah over him/herself.

    Do NYC school buses not have a stop sign on the right side, too? I have a feeling at least some of them might.

    And judging by the damage in the photo above, the car was traveling well above the school-zone speed limit, and certainly well above the threshold for the exercise of “due care.” I know that most of what we see on “CSI” is TV fantasy, but is the NYPD really incapable of ascertaining vehicle speeds after the fact?

  • Miriam

    Driver.. I agree with you.

    The poor kid was not crossing at a crosswalk. The bus driver blocked her view and also gave her a false sense of safety by putting on the stop sign.

    All in all, it sound like an accident.

  • Steven F

    If the bus’s stop sign was out on the left side, so were the bright red blinking red rear lights that signal all traffic must come to a complete stop. The car driver clearly ignored a clear warning to stop.

    NY State traffic law does not actually forbid passing on the right, but it does strongly encourage passing on the left. And even when overtaking on the right, the responsibility is supposed to be entirely on the overtaking driver to pass safely. To make things worse, this was a school bus, and even if the stop sign and red stop lights were not on, a driver has to slow and pass a school bus with some level of care – which he did not. The car driver was a total flaming idiot. This was not an accident.

    I agree with Eric, the damage in the photo far exceeds what would be expected below 30 MPH. The front car has had it’s entire trunk crushed, which it is designed to do, but not by that much unless the speed is well above 30. He didn’t even slow down at all while racing past the bus on the right side.

    If DA Haynes can’t come up with serious charges against this guy, there are two flaming idiots in Brooklyn.

  • Steve

    @Ian Turner: If everyone who knows someone who’s been in a serious car accident is barred from the jury, there won’t be any jurors.

  • Miriam

    If a bus stops, than all drivers should not only slow down, but drive extremely slowly and carefully because it means the bus is about to unload kids, or there are kids getting ready to board the bus.

    However, If the bus is in the middle of a major road, away from the curb on the left lane, than a car driver will think that the bus is not letting kids off or on the the bus, but is actually moving (albeit slowly) on the road. There are slow buses on the road all the time and most people pass them with normal speed.

    I actually think the girls parents might have a case against the school bus company (for blocking the view) and the school even.

  • Ian Turner

    Steve: I don’t know anyone who’s been in a serious collision.

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