Transportation Alternatives Launches Probe Into NYPD Crash Investigations

Transportation Alternatives today delivered over 2,500 citizen letters to Ray Kelly demanding that NYPD crack down on dangerous driving, and announced a comprehensive probe into how the department handles traffic crash investigations.

Flanked by dozens of supporters and victims of traffic violence at 1 Police Plaza, TA executive director Paul Steely White excoriated NYPD for what he called a “cavalier attitude” toward lawless driving. While hundreds are killed and thousands are injured by reckless drivers in the city every year, enforcement of traffic laws is relatively rare, and drivers who cause suffering and death are routinely excused by police and prosecutors without as much as a summons.

“It’s the NYPD’s job to keep dangerous driving in check by holding reckless drivers accountable,” said White, “but they are simply not taking that job seriously.”

Calling for a zero tolerance approach to a “public safety crisis,” TA will have attorneys review NYPD reports on recent crashes that resulted in serious injury or death. Evaluations will focus on whether police followed proper post-crash procedure and if victims were “guaranteed a full and fair investigation.”

Erika Lefevre, whose son Mathieu was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bike in East Williamsburg in October, said that her family is still waiting for definitive information about the crash. Initially, police told reporters that Mathieu ran a red light at Morgan Avenue and Meserole Street and was struck by the driver of a flatbed truck making a right-hand turn. The NYPD report, however, indicates that Mathieu was hit from behind, and makes no mention of either Mathieu or the driver running a light.

The report identifies the driver who struck Lefevre as Leonardo Degianni of College Point. Degianni, 48, was driving a truck registered to Imperium Construction of Ridgewood. After hitting and dragging Lefevre, Degianni left the scene. Police found the truck a short distance from the crash site but did not locate Degianni for days. He was not charged.

Erika Lefevre said police have video of the crash along with other evidence, none of which her family has been allowed to see.

“We appreciate that NYPD has a difficult job in trying to investigate this crash and determine what happened,” said Lefevre. “We want NYPD to take the time it needs to conduct an unbiased, thorough, professional investigation. But NYPD has caused us great pain with the mishandling and withholding of information, and their rush to clear the driver of any wrongdoing.”

Juliana Berger, former wife of Mathieu Lefevre, urged Ray Kelly to beef up the department’s accident investigation squad and to implement targeted enforcement of dangerous behaviors including failure to yield, speeding and failure to exercise due care.

Also speaking at today’s rally was Donna Ganson, whose husband was seriously injured in 2009 by a motorist as he walked his daughter to school in Park Slope. Though witnesses said the driver was traveling some 20 mph over the 30 mph speed limit, and though Ganson’s husband was crossing legally, no charges were filed and no summonses were issued. The collision put the victim in a coma and left him with brain damage.

“My life, his life, and the lives of our three daughters will never be the same,” said Ganson. “How can a speeding driver who hits a pedestrian in a crosswalk in broad daylight not get a ticket for anything?”

Though he was not present for the rally himself, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio sent over a statement, read by spokesperson Wiley Norvell, announcing that his office has asked NYPD for data related to the application of vulnerable user laws and information on when the department deploys the accident investigation squad.

  • Wondering

    If Michael Jackson’s Doctor can be convicted of involuntary manslaughter, why can’t these drivers?

  • Anonymous

    @5f3a774ff77fa040cc4baed7955a3a0f:disqus Maybe they can, as long as the victim is a celebrity of Michael Jackson’s caliber.

  • dporpentine

    For some reason the police opened up about the person who killed Marilyn Dershowitz, first giving the family access to the tapes and then charging the driver who killed her. Wonder what’s different in these cases . . . hmmmm . . . really have to think . . .

    I know it’s *not* because Dershowitz’s brother-in-law is a high-profile guy whose every sentence reaches the media. That I’m certain of.

    But really: it’s chilling to read these descriptions of police indifference and, I’d say, dereliction of duty.

  • Anonymous

    I am so glad TA is taking a stand on this issue. The press conference today was very compelling. I was watching the stonefaced officers assigned to the area throughout the event. The only time I saw them show any emotion — throughout countless devestating personal accounts — was when the phrase “dereliction of duty” was uttered. What exactly does this phrase mean to a cop besides “doing a bad job?” It seems to carry weight.

  • Last week a delivery cyclist was struck by a motor vehicle right in front of my bedroom window. The car that hit him was nowhere to be seen (it was dark, and it might have been stopped up the street, out of the way), but he had somehow retained one of the license plates. 

    I checked at the restaurant today and he was still unable to work because of his shoulder pain. 

    NYPD never showed up at the accident, despite myself and at least one other person calling 911.

  • Brooklynite

    This is a great campaign and is exactly what T.A. should be doing right now. Very important. A huge change of culture, procedure and policy needs to take place at NYPD when it comes to motor vehicle violence in NYC.

  • Kick ass! There seems to have been a considerable amount of pressure on the NYPD for some time now, but I hope this more formal step gets more results. It was good to see at least one hand-held sign in the video which also focused on Bloomberg and so I hope he is also put under a lot of pressure for this — after all he is the commander-in-chief of this NYPD “army”: http://www.politickerny.com/2011/11/30/mayor-bloomberg-i-have-my-own-army-11-30-11/

  • Cycler

    I think that this is really a gutsy move on TA’s behalf to take on this campaign.
    I think as an advocacy community we’ve been so focused on infrastructure, but need to start catching up on law enforcement and how liability is construed in this country. 
    I personally think that strict vulnerability (and the fact that everyone rides a bike sometimes) is more important to the ubiquity of bicycle culture in northern Europe than the actual infrastructure is.   I know it’s a chicken and egg thing (more infrastructure=more bikers= more pressure for law enforcement), but I think that this is the next big frontier for advocates.

  • Let’s document street crimes ourselves!  It will help enforcement & bring awareness: https://www.facebook.com/streetcrimesnyc

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