Running Down Five Children on a Sidewalk Is Legal in New York City

Warning: Graphic video

DNAinfo is reporting that the driver who jumped a curb and hit five kids in Maspeth this morning, an incident captured on video, probably will not be charged.

A surveillance tape shows a group of kids on a Grand Avenue sidewalk when the driver of a Honda SUV runs one of them over, missing the others by inches. Witnesses lifted the SUV off at least one of the victims. One girl reportedly suffered a broken leg and another a broken hip. One boy has a leg injury and another was treated for a swollen arm. The victims were age 12 to 14. From DNAinfo:

Sources said that the 40-year-old driver was going shopping and was trying to pull into a space when he accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake.

He remained on the scene and was not expected to be charged, sources said.

Council Member Elizabeth Crowley defended the driver. “He hit the gas instead of the brake,” said Crowley, as quoted by the Daily News. “This had everything to do with being an accident.”

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of  injury-related death for children in NYC, and an average of five kids are hit by motorists in the city each day. As a council member, Crowley should know that what happened today was not a freak occurrence.

Media reports emphasized that the motorist, whose name has not been released by NYPD, stayed at the scene and was “cooperating” with police. The Daily News downplayed the driver’s involvement, shifting blame to the vehicle: “[T]he SUV driver was trying to pull into a parking spot when his vehicle suddenly plowed into the students outside the school. The vehicle crashed into a parking meter and a nearby sign.” The Post, to its credit, led its updated story by assigning responsibility to an “out-of-control driver.”

“He is not expected to face criminal charges,” the Post said, “though it is unclear if he will be ticketed for any driving violations.”

Here is a driver caught on video slamming into kids on a sidewalk. Despite clear evidence of negligence, it appears that neither NYPD nor District Attorney Richard Brown considers this a crime — and possibly not a traffic violation.

As reader BornAgainBicyclist pointed out today, that the victims suffered mere “non life-threatening” injuries seems to have absolved the motorist, at least as far as authorities and the media are concerned. No reports that we’ve seen have questioned how this driver would face no repercussions for mounting a sidewalk and mowing down five children.

DNAinfo talked to schools chancellor Dennis Walcott, who visited the victims in the hospital. “The kids are kids,” Walcott said. “They’re resilient.”

  • Anonymous

    You are either a master of irony or I don’t know 🙂

  • Andy Trafford

    I see that the school’s principal has joined the “Idiot of the Week” race… http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130913/maspeth/principal-warns-students-not-walk-with-headphones-after-horrific-crash

  • Anonymous

    Wow. I think the principal might be shooting for Idiot of the Year, actually. Dream big!

  • FLYINGCHOPSTIK

    Wow. We have 54 commenters here. What if all of us were to contact the districts NYPD and Richard Brown’s office to voice our concerns about the sparse investigation and to demand that they press charges against this reckless driver?

    I already tweeted at Elizabeth Crowley and plan to contact her office soon. I just got off the phone with Richard Brown’s office. One person doing this won’t make much of a difference but if everyone here were to voice their outrage, Im sure that we can get justice for the kids.

  • FLYINGCHOPSTIK

    Richard Brown’s office

    Phone:(718) 286-6000

    Elizabeth Crowley District Office Phone (718) 366-3900 and ecrowley@council.nyc.gov

    Havent had time to look up that local precinct but if anyone else knows, please post. thanks!

  • carma

    i cant tell from the video that they have front windows tinted. the rear windows and quarter panels are tinted from factory for the Pilot. they are legal in NYC.

    having front windows tinted with light passing over 70% to the interior is legal, but i cant tell from the video if this is the case.

  • carma

    im very curious as to what charges you have in mind.

    this was a lousy driver, and certainly his license needs to be revoked, suspended, etc…

    the civil penalties will certainly start mounting up.

    but what criminal charges are you referring to?

  • AccountabilityANNIE

    In other places, the driver could be charged with reckless driving, assault, and perhaps criminal negligence.

    In other words, some of the same list as if the driver had used a baseball bat on those kids instead of a car.

  • Anonymous

    If this was a gun instead of a car, and the perpetrator had pulled the trigger when he meant to engage the safety, rather than hitting the gas when he meant to hit the brake, he would absolutely no doubt be charged with a crime. Why should this be treated any differently? It was an “accident” in the sense that the driver didn’t want to run those kids down, but he should still be responsible for his screwup.

  • carma

    reckless driving does carry a criminal component.

    however the definition of reckless would be hard to prove in the case of parking a car in this case. reckless usually involves weaving in out, extreme high speed driving, and such. example, afroduck who sped around manhattan recklessly.

    while i can certainly understand the anger over why this horrible driver is not charged criminally. it would be hard to prove in this case.

    negligence, yes certainly can apply. criminal negligence? not so sure. ask the lawyers and not the numerous commenters pretending to be lawyers.

    as i said, the best “penalty” for this driver is a massive amount of civil lawsuits against this driver, which will certainly happen.

  • Anonymous

    Civil penalties only go so far–almost certainly well below the cost of hospitalization and medical care for five people. And they may not happen at all if the driver is uninsured and doesn’t seem like he has enough assets or a high enough income to go after. Then there’s the reality that, even the kids’ parents are insured, the kids will end up in the state’s hellacious no-fault mill of rip-off physical therapists, etc. Both the civil and the criminal sides of this are rotten for victims.

  • FLYINGCHOPSTIK

    Even if criminal charges aren’t brought against the driver, my point he should be held responsible for his negligence. As of right now, he’s not even receiving as much as a summons.

  • Anonymous

    Ian,
    I will not be shamed by my half-block of sidewalk riding. it’s a very wide side-walk. Only one ped was within 50 feet. My sidewalk riding isn’t remotely comparable to what this car driver did. I’m sorry but that’s just battered spouse syndrome mentality or something. If I’m not remotely putting anyone in danger, then that’s the type of infraction that shouldn’t be ticketed pursuant to a police officer’s discretion. Just like jaywalkers should almost never be ticketed.

    To submit would be to acknowledge that we live in a police state. I’m sorry dude. But there’s nothing wrong with a little sidewalk riding. There’s something very wrong with sidewalk riding in crowded areas or where it’s dangerous. But I’m not going to try to mentally trick myself into thinking I did anything wrong.

  • Anonymous

    WHAT?!?!?! You can see people getting executed in Syria on youtube?!?

  • Anonymous

    Riding without a helmet?!?! That old tix. I mean, he should get a tix for riding on a narrow sidewalk on the crowded UES.

  • Daniel Winks

    Especially on a sidewalk that’s well known for having 5,000 lb vehicles careening down it at high rates of speed!

  • Joe R.

    One penalty we can enact in cases like this is to revoke driving privileges permanently. There would be no grounds for appeal here because driving is a privilege granted by the state. That privilege can be terminated at any time for any reason at all, or even for no reason at all. In my opinion it would make the most sense to push for legislation that permanently revokes the licenses of anyone who kills or seriously injures someone through recklessness, negligence, or incompetence. Perhaps also add DUI to the list of offenses which result in mandatory permanent license revocation. For the law to have teeth, anyone caught driving unlicensed would have their vehicle confiscated. Criminal penalties and jail time are great if you can get them, but as you mention it’s unfortunately a high bar to jump. Mandatory license revocation just requires legislation. Once passed, if you kill or seriously injure someone, and it’s determined that you were primarily responsible, your driving days are over.

  • carma

    exactly my point. its going to be very difficult to prove any criminal intent in this case. this driver ABSOLUTELY needs to be fully accountable. the state should look into what it can to revoke his license.

    and regarding civil penalties. the families can sue the driver whatever monetary damages he imposed in medical bills and suffering.

  • Joe R.

    It’s entirely possible he might have been trying to beat someone else who was aiming for the same parking spot. The laundry list of stupidities drivers engage in to get a spot are endless. I’ve seen people zip into spots while another vehicle was trying to back in the proper way. I’ve seen people make reckless u-turns to “claim” a spot while another vehicle was trying to do the same thing. It just goes on and on. Curbside parking causes a whole host of issues, which is why I feel it shouldn’t be allowed. Have designated pickup/dropoff zones functionally similar to bus stops on streets but don’t allow drivers to park and leave their vehicles. If parking is important to the patrons of any establishment then let that establishment build off-street parking at their own expense.

  • JK

    Is the NYPD competent to lead investigations like this? Is it time for civilian investigators attached to the Health Department or DOT or DA’s to conduct these investigations? Maybe the CIS investigators themselves are competent. But the NYPD’s habit of telling the press immediately whether a motorist will be criminally charged casts doubt on their professionalism and objectivity. How can PD investigators possibly determine criminality before examining cell phone and black box records, and alcohol and drug test results? The problem with these statements to the press is that they amount to a public proclamation that the case is closed. This has got to bias the ongoing investigation and tells DA’s and other PD investigators, and certainaly publicly officials, that there is nothing more to be done here.

  • Joe R.

    I totally agree. I generally avoid the sidewalk but if road conditions are really bad I’ve been known to take to the sidewalks for short stretches. I generally ride at a speed inversely proportional to pedestrian density. I also avoid riding on really crowded sidewalks altogether (although frankly where I live I need to go to downtown Flushing or Jamaica to find really crowded sidewalks).

  • carma

    thats the best penalty in this case.. Thank you.. rather than criminally trial this driver, in which i highly doubt there would be any conviction. and instead just waste a bunch of taxpayer money. the best punishment is a PERMANENT revocation of your driver’s license. and if he does decide to be behind the wheel of a public road, then we can pursue criminal charges.

  • Anonymous

    No way to be sure about the tint without actually testing it with a meter. But on the earlier version of the video which has been pulled, there was a split second just as the front windshield passed through the bottom of the frame and disappeared, where the ambient light was focused on the windshield and it looked like it had an illegal tint.

  • Daniel Winks

    Riding at walking speed is safer than walking the bike. I’ve had someone walking a bike catch my shin with their pedal, which wouldn’t have happened at all if they were riding it at a walking speed. There’s nothing wrong whatsoever with riding on a sidewalk, provided the speed is at or near walking speed. I think the fastest I ride a sidewalk at is about 6 MPH, and that’s on empty ones with my hands on the brake levers. If anyone is around at all, it’s more like 4 MPH or less.

  • Anonymous

    “im very curious as to what charges you have in mind”

    Criminal neglidgence

  • Anonymous

    Exactly. That was not an accident. This person is not fit to drive. End of story.

  • Anonymous

    “Look at any pre-automobile street and you won’t see raised sidewalks and curbs at all.”

    Wanna bet? 🙂

    http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mill_street_almonte_1890.jpg

  • LOL. Yes, forgot about wagons and such.

    Amazing how we never had this problem back then, and now we’re actually much less safe simply because the government has been bought off

  • Anonymous

    Well, at least we don’t have horse manure lying all over the place to sicken us now.

  • Anonymous

    BINGO

  • Anonymous

    I’ve noticed that whenever a road is repaved, the pavement gets higher on the curb. So the curb itself gets shorter.

  • Nathanael

    To be fair, police who have “accidentally discharged” their guns into innocent bystanders have not been charged with crimes.

    Yes, I knod this doesn’t make it better.

  • Nathanael

    It’s generally impossible to back into parking spaces in traffic; the incompetent drivers behind you always pull forward and block your movement.

    That said, it’s really easy to slow down to next-to-nothing and *then* pull into the parking space forward.

    I use curbside parking a lot becuase I’m ferrying a handicapped person around. I think it’s rather valuable for that.

    Speaking of incompetent drivers: there are way too damn many of them on the road. We could improve things a lot by revoking the licenses of lots and lots and lots of people.

    I was illegally passed and then *cut off* (dangerous merge in front of me waaay too close) by 7 people in a row on the expressway not long ago, while I was going at the speed limit. Every last one of those people should have their license revoked permanently, but I don’t even know how to start a program to do this.

  • Nathanael

    YouTube needs to get a firestorm of anger for removing the crime scene evidence here.

  • Nathanael

    Those tickets are, of course, illegal. They get dismissed as fast as the cyclists go to court. Unfortunately, the fake policemen issuing the tickets don’t get arrested. And that’s the problem.

    Who watches the watchers? When the police are the criminals, who arrests them?

  • Nathanael

    A negligence conviction should be sufficient grounds for license suspension, at least.

  • Driver

    Just out of curiosity, were you driving in the left lane?

  • Alex Oconnor

    Well we do have tort law.

  • Anonymous

    The driver is a fricking i-d-iot and this is gross negligence or reckless actions. Hitting people on a sidewalk, let alone accelerating into them, is more then a mistake. It shows driver lacked the fundemental necessary skills required of “all” drivers. He should be charged and he should have his license suspended or revoked. Driving while asian is NO excuse (and I am asian). Check the cell phone and texts; multi-tasking should elevate this guys punishment.

  • focus503

    that’s the same argument that people say when a cycilst hits a pedestrian.

    “If it was person driving an automobile, they’d be arrested on the spot.”

    A fact which, as illustrated by this story, is patently false also.

    “Dad Who Accidentally Shot Son, Craig, Outside Gun Shop, Won’t Be Charged: DA”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/16/joseph-loughrey-craig-dad-shoots-son-outside-gun-shop_n_2489451.html

  • focus503

    Except it’s not bingo. You’re fantasizing.

    “DA won’t prosecute Oregon City man in accidental shooting death of 9-year-old girl”
    http://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-city/index.ssf/2013/05/da_wont_prosecute_oregon_city.html

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