NYPD and Media Declare “Accident” as Another Child Killed by NYC Motorist

For at least the seventh time in 2013 and the second time in 10 days, a New York City motorist has struck and killed a young child.

Allison Liao, 3, was crossing Main Street in Flushing with her grandmother at around 5:30 p.m. Sunday when she was hit by the driver of a Nissan SUV, who was turning left onto Main from Cherry Avenue, according to reports. A witness told WABC that the driver hit Liao with the vehicle, then ran the child over. Liao was declared dead at New York Hospital Queens.

As usual, media accounts favor superfluous details — multiple stories emphasize that the driver was upset — while omitting information that could help prevent future fatalities. No coverage that we have seen indicates who had the right of way, nor is there any mention that state law requires drivers to exercise due care to avoid hitting people. Instead, the public gets more victim-blaming, with a helping of motorist absolution, from the Daily News:

A 3-year-old was killed by an SUV on Sunday after she broke free from her grandmother while they were crossing the street in Queens, police said.

Alison died on her way to the hospital, cops said. The devastated driver of the SUV stayed at the scene and was crying, witnesses said.

As is routine when the driver is sober and does not leave the scene, NYPD and the media appear ready to exculpate the killer of wrongdoing. “As of 11 p.m. Sunday night, the driver had not been charged,” said WABC’s Lucy Yang. “Investigators currently believe this may have all been an accident.”

Allison Liao is at least the seventh child aged 7 and under killed by a city driver this year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Sunday’s crash happened 10 days after another SUV driver fatally stuck Kiko Shao, 5, in Sunset Park.

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death for children in NYC. A recent WNYC study found that an average of five kids between the ages of 5 and 17 are struck by city motorists every day. By treating these deaths as isolated “accidents,” and refusing to hold drivers accountable, NYPD and the city press corps are helping to ensure that children will continue to die.

This fatal crash occurred in the 109th Precinct, where Michael Munoz was killed by a curb-jumping driver two weeks ago. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Brian J. Maguire, the precinct’s commanding officer, go to the next community council meeting. The 109th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 37-05 Union Street in Flushing. Call the precinct at 718-321-2268 for information.

The City Council district where Allison Liao was killed is represented by Peter Koo, who likes public plazas but has said be believes safe street infrastructure belongs in the suburbs. To encourage Koo to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7022 or pkoo@council.nyc.gov.

  • KillMoto

    This is a perfect case where black box data and cell phone records would tell a more complete story. Either to exonerate the driver of any wrongdoing, or to be probable cause for criminal charges.

  • Anonymous

    “Investigators currently believe this may have all been an accident.”

    “Investigators” are fucking retarded and in any event should not be leaking the conclusions of their “investigations” until it’s concluded.

  • Joe R.

    I recall during the early 1990s in NYC we had an epidemic of children getting killed by stray bullets. You would see pictures of kids killed nearly every week in the Daily News and Post. This problem caused enough outrage for legislators and police to take serious action to mitigate the problem. Where is the outrage here? It seems everyone other than Streetsblog is treating this as just the cost of business. People shouldn’t die regularly as a consequence of our transportation system. Things are seriously broke. Fix them already!

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Do you think this car hit this little kid hard enough to set off the airbags? Because if not there is no black-box data to be had.

  • Anonymous

    Cell phone records would raise the issue of distraction. Distracted driving is reckless.

  • Anonymous

    Which is a good argument for changing how so-called black box data in cars is recorded and thus how and why it can be accessed.

  • Guest

    I guess? What question would be answered by such data in this case? There doesn’t appear to be any question that the car ran over the girl. So it must have been moving. And then it stopped. The open questions here are not about the car’s acceleration (what a black box records), they are about the colors of the signals at the moment of impact.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see any reason to dismiss speed as a factor here. The car could’ve been moving too quickly for the turn it was in, for example.

  • Anonymous

    Where is “Vision Zero” Bill de Blasio? He is still the Public Advocate, right? Why is he not “advocating” for these kids getting run over?

  • Ian Turner

    Two items from his twitter feed today:

    “If you have seen Avonte Oquendo, photo here, missing since Friday, please call 800-577-TIPS. http://bit.ly/1bQjzQG pic.twitter.com/dxzByhLvSB”

    “Millions of people around the world lost a leader today in Rabbi Chacham Ovadia Yosef. His wisdom, charity and sensitivity were legendary.”

  • Kevin Love

    Investigators should not have any conclusions in the first place until the investigation is complete and all the facts are in.

    OOPPsss… Sorry. I forgot. This is an NYPD investigation. We start with the conclusion that the three-year-old child is the guilty one.

  • Joe R.

    And this makes the case for cameras at all intersections so police can instantly determine that facts of each case. The camera feeds should also be publicly available at all times so the police can’t “lose” the footage if one of their own, or some politically-connected “important” person, is involved in a collision.

  • Emily

    Here is a question for you that is related but peripherally, do you feel like the increase of biking in the city is making the streets more dangerous? I love the Citibikes. I love the bike lanes. I love that people are getting around town using their own two legs. But I feel like the majority of bikers are going the wrong way in the bike lanes, wearing no helmets, and/or carrying kids in unsafe ways (also without helmets!). When I am driving, I feel like it could be any day that I am the driver in a story like this. I do not want to kill a bike rider!! What can we do have biking commuters take their own safety more seriously?

  • Driver

    Every day I see pedestrians crossing the street through traffic without helmets and even carrying or walking their children without helmets!
    What can we do to make these pedestrians take their own safety more seriously?
    As a slightly more serious answer to your question, search the for all the articles about Citibike riders or even bicycle riders in general being injured or killed, or even worse, actually injuring or killing other people in this city.

    Then take some time to read back through this blog, paying special attention to the weekly carnage segments.
    After you complete this research, you can then reevaluate your question and possibly even answer it yourself.

    In the meantime, if you do not want to be that person who possibly kills a bike rider, you can drive at a reasonable speed, be aware of your surroundings and pay attention at all times (no phones!), use extra caution when in close proximity to or passing cyclists (and pedestrians for that matter, because even though you didn’t mention them, I doubt you want to kill any of them either), and in general be respectful and patient while driving.
    The reality is there is a lot more you can do as a driver to protect cyclists than any helmet can do. If you hit a cyclist with your car at significant speed, the helmet probably won’t do much except keep the news reporters from saying “and they were not wearing a helmet”.

  • Emily

    I appreciate your response and the openness to conversation here. I am new to biking in the city and finding myself nervous on both ends, as a rider and as a driver sharing the streets. Again, so happy about the increase of bicycle use for commuting.

    I have always equated helmet use to seat belt use in vehicles and am surprised by the feeling of the community here that helmets aren’t that useful. Please know that this is not an assault or an argument but an actual question. Where can I find data on this issue? Sounds like many of you are informed and I would love some resources. (Will definitely scan back through the blog too.)

    Racers wear helmets, no? Is the speed of the biker the issue? Or is the feeling that these are superfluous also? (And to your teasing above… maybe it is a parallel that pedestrians don’t wear helmets but football players do? Again, no aggression in my tone, just trying to figure this out.)

    Absolutely agree that drivers, myself included, need to follow every safety precaution available, to truly SHARE the road, and most importantly pay attention. But I still can’t help feeling like I’m being put at an unfair disadvantage when bike riders are not doing the same. There is a new bike lane on my street and a large percentage of folks who pedal past me as I walk back and forth from home several times a day are going the wrong way!

  • Sean Kelliher

    There are a couple of things you can do to improve safety. You can admonish bad behavior when you see it, not just among bicyclists, but among drivers and pedestrians as well. You can advocate for protected bike lanes, which would increase bicyclists’ safety and make your life easier as a driver. When you park your car, please look before you open your door. “Dooring” a bicyclist can result in serious injury. Dooring one and sending him or her into the path of a passing vehicle can be deadly. Lastly, you could stop thinking of a bicycle helmet as one of the most important safety items. As “driver” points out, its benefit in a crash with a motor vehicle of decent speed is debated. Also, it offers no protection if you are run over. There are other aspects of road safety such as improving infrastructure and curbing reckless driving that will offer much greater returns to everyone.

  • Daniel

    There is evidence that drivers can are more likely to hit you if you wear a helmet and cyclist are more likely to take risks when protected by a helmet. Unfortuntely, while it seems self evident that helmets should increase safety, the scientific evidence appears to very weak compared to the evidence for seat belts.

    Please be careful as a new road cyclist! While many drivers head traffic most laws, you’ll find that even the majority of drivers that aren’t sociopaths will treat you as a pedestrian and there are times this can be dangerous. Also a surprisingly large number of drivers are buried in their smart phones or reading a newspaper behind the wheel. You’ll also learn why cyclist sometimes take the lane causing you to hit the breaks. And I promise, riding a bike in NYC will make you a much better driver.

    PS Dr. Ian Walker who did a recent study on passing
    distances when wearing a helmet also found that if you have
    long hair drivers give you an extra 14 cm clearance, something to
    consider. 🙂

  • Driver

    “Unfair disadvantage” implies a competition. It is no such thing. You can drive safely despite however reckless others may seem to be around you, and although it doesn’t guarantee nothing bad will ever happen, the odds will be greatly reduced. One thing I can assure you of is that you are not at risk of hitting any bike rider with you car as you walk past them riding the wrong way.

    Please don’t take the teasing personally, and don’t take me as a representative of the Streetsblog community, I am just one commenter among the many here with varying views and opinions.

    Your parallel between pedestrians and football players is a bit off the mark. Pedestrians generally don’t line up and run into each other with the intent of making full force body contact like football players do.

    Think about it this way. Pedestrians do get hit quite often by vehicles both on the streets (and crosswalks) and on sidewalks. ,Again, search the blog for numerous recent examples. Would you think in most cases that the problem of pedestrian injuries and fatalities are a result of lack of helmet wearing, or a lack of safe vehicle operation?

    I would think most reasonable people would think it was the latter. There is not much reason for this reasoning to be much different for bicyclists. While you may perceive a cyclist not wearing a helmet to be dangerous, the reality is that they really don’t present any more danger to anyone around them than if they were wearing a helmet. Perhaps they subject themselves to an increased personal risk, which would be debatable by some, but the risk to anyone around them or to the general safety of the streets doesn’t get any worse. If anything unhelmeted cyclists are going to be even more careful to avoid a collision.

  • Alex Knight

    Emily, I would encourage you to take a different look at the streets around you. I hear a lot of people saying, much as you are, that bikes break traffic laws more frequently than anyone else. However, evidence suggests that it is cars that are the real menace on our streets. This isn’t to say there are not dangerous cyclists. But stand at an intersection and watch for a bit. Cars blow through red lights, turn in front of pedestrians, and speed constantly. It’s all so frequent that we barely even register it, but it’s right there in front of us. Cyclists are growing in numbers and becoming more visible than we once were. I believe this has led to a hyper-awareness of them. Again, yes their are dangerous cyclists out there. But they injure people far less frequently than cars do. And when they do, the injuries are much less severe. The bottom line is that it’s been years since anyone was killed by a cyclist in NYC. Meanwhile, cars and trucks kill hundreds each year.

    Now, in terms of the red light running and “salmoning” (riding the wrong way), take a different look at that, too. Are they blowing through red lights recklessly, dodging cars and pedestrians? Or are they slowing down, yielding, and then rolling through? Are the salmons riding as if they own the road, playing chicken with anyone who comes at them or are they riding up half a block to avoid a very busy and dangerous street in the other direction? (I did this when I lived up the block from the deadly 4th Ave in Brooklyn. I risked riding 1/3 of my block the wrong way to avoid having to ride at all on 4th Ave.) My belief is that bikes should obey the law and be punished when they do not and they put people in danger. But in cases like rolling through an empty intersection, I think it’s fair to treat them more like pedestrians and look the other way.

    The bottom line is that cycling as an accepted method of transportation is in its infancy in the US. For many decades it was seen as pure recreation. But that’s changing and people are often resistant to change. The notion that bikes are more dangerous and less obedient than cars is flatly false and a product of those who are not used to bikes being around them. That will change in time. For now, I encourage you to take a look at both cars and bikes from a different perspective.

  • Alex Knight

    OK, let’s say it WAS an “accident”. Last time I checked, “It was an accident” is not an acceptable defense. Isn’t that what the charge of involuntary manslaughter is for?

  • Anonymous

    Please show me evidence that that drivers are more likely to hit you if you wear a helmet. Also show me evidence that cyclists are more likely to take risks when protected by a helmet.

    Not that there’s any reason to ask, since you’ll fail to do either of these things. The most you’ll do is present studies showing that drivers give people without helmets wider berth when passing them; that is in no way equivalent to not hitting them, not least because that’s not the circumstances under which most cyclists are hit (from what we can tell from the shoddy data available).

    Meanwhile, the actual scientific evidence is very robust in support of the very great safety benefits that attend helmet wearing with regard to the one thing that anyone thinks they can actually do: reduce the severity of head trauma in cycling-related injuries.

  • Anonymous

    Like many hardcore motorcycle riders, many hardcore bike riders are against helmets. This is often dressed up with scientific claims that withstand not the slightest scrutiny.

    When anyone makes a claim about studies purporting to show that wearing a helmet is more dangerous than not wearing one, ask to see the study itself. I always do, and I’ve never seen a single study meaningfully supporting that very broad claim.

    But the literature supporting the idea that helmets reduce the severity of head trauma is quite robust.

    In advance of any counterarguments against this point, I’ll go ahead and recommend googling “selection bias” to find out what this really means.

  • Joe R.

    Racers wear helmets for the aerodynamic advantage they offer more than the protection. Helmets can’t be equated to seat belts in cars. Seat belts are proven useful in mitigating injury in a vast majority of collisions. Helmets at best can only prevent head trauma, and then only under very limited circumstances (i.e. at speeds under ~10 mph) due to their design. If you want an unbiased source on helmets see this site: http://www.cyclehelmets.org/0.html

    It’s worth noting that in the great cycling countries almost nobody wears helmets and yet the injury/death rates are far lower than in the US. Infrastructure is the main thing which makes cycling safer in these countries.

  • Joe R.

    I already linked to one study which concluded that wearing bicycle helmets ( http://www.cycle-helmets.com/elvik.pdf ). While this study didn’t reach the conclusion that wearing helmets is more dangerous, it did reach the following conclusion:

    When the risk of injury to head, face or neck is viewed as a whole, bicycle helmets do provide a small protective effect. This effect is evident only in older studies. New studies, summarised by a random-effects model of analysis, indicate no net protective effect.”

  • Anonymous

    Cyclehelmets.org is as unbiased on helmets as Americans For Fair Taxation is on taxes. But even the one study you link to below has to acknowledge that wearing helmets is safer than otherwise. The “no net benefit” business is fancy dressing for “we came up with some ways to blur the lines.”

  • Anonymous

    A) That study is just a re-analysis of someone else’s ten-year-old data.

    B) Even at that, it only concludes that the net safety effects are less than expected.

    C) In order to mitigate the safety effects of helmets, it has to pretend that people wear them to protect parts of their body that helmets do not cover: the neck and face.

    D) And yet it still concludes that there’s no question that helmets prevent head injuries: “Do bicycle helmets reduce the risk of injury to the head, face or neck? With respect to head injury, the answer is clearly yes, and the re-analysis of the meta-analysis reported by Attewell et al. (2001) in this paper has not changed this answer” (p. 4 of the PDF).

    E) And it also concludes that helmets provide a protective effect for one’s face, as well.

    F) And what startling conclusion does it reach about the protective effect helmets have on mitigating neck injuries? “The risk of neck injury does not seem to be reduced by bicycle helmets.” You’d have to be pretty desperate to see that as strong support for a claim that helmets don’t provide a safety effect.

  • guest

    While evidence is good to have, keep in mind that methodology and human bias inform the results of “scientific” inquiry as much as anything. And since there’s a strong bias that helmets are safety tools, I think it’s reasonable to take *all* of these studies with a grain of salt (though I personally find Walker more trustworthy because he’s more up front about these issues).

    What we know more about is that first-class infrastructure and real enforcement are the most important factors not in reducing just head trauma, but in reducing death and serious injury overall for everyone who uses streets. So I really hope we can all focus on that instead of retreading the helmet argument. Another child died this week because we have crappy infrastructure, lax enforcement, and a culture that thinks an adult driving an SUV in a dense urban environment has less responsible to be cautious than a 3-year old crossing a street.

    (This is @BornAgainBikist, btw…troubles posting)

  • Ian Turner

    Cyclists take more risks when wearing helmets: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21418079

  • Ian Turner

    Cycling is less dangerous per mile than walking; do you think pedestrians should also wear helmets?
    http://policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/pucher/ajphfromjacobsen.pdf
    http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0050606

    Per hour, cycling is comparable to the danger of driving, do you think drivers and their passengers should also wear helmets? http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/1212/06122012-cycling-risk

    If your answers to these questions are “no”, then why not?

  • Joe R.

    Let me ask you this then-if you think helmets are so great, do you wear one when you walk, drive, or take a shower? You should if you feel this way because the risk of head injury when doing all of those activities is higher than it is while cycling.

    It also seems like you didn’t understand what you read. Older studies show a small protective effect while newer studies show no net protective effect. Both conclusions are far removed from your assertion that “the actual scientific evidence is very robust in support of the very great safety benefits that attend helmet wearing with regard to the one thing that anyone thinks they can actually do: reduce the severity of head trauma in cycling-related injuries.”

    The larger issue here though is that head injury isn’t a common type of injury for cyclists to incur. I’ve been riding for 35 years and I’ve never hit my head. For that matter, I’ve never injured any part of my body other than my knees or elbows. Point of fact, the last time I fell while riding for any reason was back in 1996. Perhaps I should wear a lead blanket while riding to protect me against radiation from solar flares. After all, statistically this can occur, even if it’s very unlikely. That’s the issue here. Even if helmets were 100% effective at preventing head injury, to me and many other cyclists wearing them is like wearing protection from falling tree branches. People generally don’t benefit in the aggregate by protecting themselves from highly unlikely events, especially if that protection comes at a cost. You can pretend all you want that helmets have no downside, and they may not for you personally. That doesn’t mean they don’t have serious downsides for others, including blocking vision, interfering with hearing, discomfort, overheating, even just the inconvenience of having to carry it around. In short, for many people helmets fail a cost-benefit analysis, particularly people who have gone decades between mishaps.

  • Joe R.

    This is an interesting study. I like that they used heart-rate variability to measure risk, as opposed to less objective measures. Everyone has their individual comfort zone. It’s human nature to tend to operate outside your comfort zone if you perceive the risk to be less. I’ve heard of similar studies which show antilock brakes don’t make driving safer because drivers eventually learn to compensate for the shorter stopping distance by following more closer or braking later.

  • The proliferation of bike lanes has had a noticeable effect, in that many more drivers now expect us bicyclists. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we are completely free of drivers who are oblivious; such drivers still constitute the majority. But, compared to when I was a kid 35 years ago, the climate for bicycling in the streets of New York is a whole lot better.

    The advice that you have already received about avoiding collisions with bicycles (pay attention — no phones; use caution when passing cyclists; don’t open your door without looking) is good. I would add the note that you should always leave room on your right; that is, never hug the curb in places where there is no parking lane.

    I must sadly concede that the problem of bicylists abusing the bike infrastructure and of ignoring the traffic laws is considerable. So even the most conscientious driver who is doing the utmost to operate his/her car safely can strike a bicylist who rides in a reckless manner.

    I can remember one frightening incident at the complex intersection of S. 3rd St., Marcy Ave., and Borinquen Pl. in Williamsburg when a bicyclist going east on Borinquen blew the light, and forced a driver who was going south on Marcy to swerve in order to miss him. While I defer to no one in my detestation for automobiles (especially in the urban setting), and for car culture in general, I will repeat here what I told that bicylist: if that cyclist had been hit, it would have been his own fault; it would not have been the fault of the driver, who had the light and who was not speeding.

    Even I, as an unapologetic car-hater, find it unreasonable to ask drivers to expect cross-traffic at green lights, and to ask them to look in the opposite direction of traffic before opening their doors. While driving and cycling are fundamentally different (in that driving is an inherently violent, dangerous, and filthy practice), it’s not wrong to say that bicylists have a responsibility — a responsibilitiy which we are, by and large, not fulfulling.

    Just today, at a corner a few blocks away from the one I mentioned earlier (Borinquen Pl. and S. 2nd St.), a westbound cyclist on Borinquen going through the red light nearly collided with me as I was turning from S. 2nd onto westbound Borinquen. And the guy then had the nerve to tell me to shut up when I reminded him that we need to stop at red lights. Of course, he also ran the red that we both encountered, at the corner of S. 4th and Roebling. This sums up all that’s wrong with bicycists in our city.

    So the disregard that so many bicylists show for the traffic laws is as infuritating as it is dangerous. And then there is the tragic irony of riding in a bike lane while behaving in such a way that has the effect of eroding public support for those very bike lanes which have so improved our quality of life.

    Anyway, thanks for your willingess to pay attention to us while you are driving. And I hope that you yourself will take to the bike and thereby replace some of your car trips with bike trips.

  • Joe R.

    I certainly can’t or won’t defend cyclists who run red lights when there’s cross traffic, as was the case with the two morons you mentioned, but for our own safely it’s good to get into the habit of looking before passing intersections regardless of the color of the light. About a week ago I would have been hit squarely by a car running a red light had I not been looking. Incidentally, this wasn’t a case where the driver passed the light just as it turned red, but a situation where I came upon a light which was already green for about 15 seconds, and he was treating the red light like a yield sign (i.e. he didn’t even bother to at least stop or nearly stop before going through). I stopped well short of his path, and ironically he stopped also once he saw me, but I think had I not slowed then stopped he wouldn’t have had enough to avoid me.

    On another note, I don’t get cyclists who pass red lights when there’s either vehicular or pedestrian cross traffic. Do these people have a death wish or something? I’ve been riding for 35 years and can state unequivocally that there’s NO safe way to pass red lights when there’s cross traffic in or near the intersection.

  • Name

    So what is the name of the DRIVER? Its time to start naming names, shaming these people. Holding drivers accountable. The story says “A 3-year-old was killed by an SUV on Sunday a” Actually, the girl was hit by the driver of a machine. That driver should be NAMED.

  • chekpeds

    Emily , could we all focus for a second on the death of pedestrian killed by a driver and stop talking about bike lanes and bikes.
    this is about how come drivers who kill by negligence do not go to jail? how come their name is not published on a website like child molesters?
    If a reckless/ negligent drivers is moving in my neighborhood I want to know about it… and how come we do not have split phases at each intersections?

  • Qnsb

    I live in Flushing, a few blocks from where this happened. Another pedestrian got plowed into about an hour ago. Having lived here several years now, I can say this about Flushing: the drivers AND pedestrians are atrocious and it boggles my mind that people aren’t killed every 50 seconds. I’ve seen parents with their toddlers in tow run out into the middle of Main street during rush hour nowhere vaguely near any crosswalk, folks on their cell phone completely unaware of what color the traffic light was, old folks stepping out into the street with their backs to oncoming traffic, looking at the ground. And the driving? Let’s just say red lights are viewed as a vague suggestion and aggression always trumps courtesy or responsibility. Basically, everyone seems to have something more important to do than exercising anything resembling caution. But do me a favor: don’t take my word for it. Come hang out here, drive or walk around, ideally on weekday mornings between 7:45 and 8:30. It’s a free-for-all.

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