No ROW Charge for Garbage Hauler Who Killed Woman in UES Crosswalk

The driver of a private sanitation truck fatally struck Jodi McGrath at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver, and the white arrow shows the path of the victim. Image: Google Maps
The driver of a private sanitation truck fatally struck Jodi McGrath at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver, and the white arrow shows the path of the victim. Image: Google Maps

A pedestrian was struck and killed by the driver of a private garbage truck on the Upper East Side yesterday. Police determined the driver failed to yield but did not charge him with violating the Right of Way Law.

The crash happened at around 4:30 Tuesday morning. According to reports, Jodi McGrath was crossing First Avenue west to east, in a crosswalk and with the signal, when the driver hit her while turning left onto the avenue from E. 92nd Street, which is one-way eastbound.

McGrath, 55, was conscious and responsive at the scene, Gothamist reported, with injuries to her head, leg, and arm. She later died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The driver was a 58-year-old man whose identity was shielded by NYPD. Police summonsed the driver for failure to yield, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog, but crash investigators did not file charges under the Right of Way Law. The law, which made it a misdemeanor for motorists to harm people who are walking and biking with the right of way, is supposed to deter reckless driving while providing a measure of accountability for crashes that injure and kill thousands of New Yorkers a year. It’s been on the books for 19 months, but NYPD and city district attorneys rarely apply it.

Speaking at last week’s Vision Zero Cities conference, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton didn’t know when the Right of Way Law took effect. “Everything new takes a while to get ramped up,” Bratton said.

Private sanitation trucks have the highest pedestrian kill rate of any type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF]. Data tracked by Streetsblog show private trash haulers killed a cyclist and two pedestrians in 2015.

Fourteen people were injured in crashes at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street between 2010 and 2015, according to the city’s Vision Zero View map. Several of the injured were motor vehicle occupants, a sign of collisions at high speeds.

“You have to watch how you cross the street there. You have to pay attention to the signs because once that light changes green they take off like [it’s] a race,” a man who works near the scene of yesterday’s collision told the Post. “The cars around that corner, they come flying.”

Motorists have killed at least seven people walking in the 19th Precinct, where Tuesday’s crash occurred, since January 2015. The fatalities happened in City Council districts represented by Right of Way Law critic Ben Kallos, where McGrath was killed, and Dan Garodnick.

Officers from the 19th Precinct ticketed 1,184 drivers for failing to yield in 2015 — an average of around three per day — and issued all of 148 speeding tickets last year. If history is a guide, maybe the precinct will respond to the death of Jodi McGrath by ticketing more cyclists.

  • J

    The NYPD demonstrates yet again that they are NOT on board with Vision Zero.

  • c2check

    Garbage trucks (and many trucks in general) are some of the most terrifying vehicles I see speeding down streets in New York. I often see them clipping down Central Ave (Bushwick) at 30+ MPH. They should be prime targets for speeding enforcement.

  • WalkingNPR

    The problem with private garbage haulers is similar to that with delivery cyclists: they have an impossible job. Covered well by Streetsblog here: http://www.streetsblog.org/2015/06/08/the-plan-to-cut-truck-traffic-by-changing-how-trash-haulers-do-business/

    The answer isn’t necessarily cracking down on the guys out doing this job as changing a system that’s rigged against safety for both the drivers and others on the street with them.

  • KeNYC2030

    The pedestrian refuge island should have provided a measure of safety for McGrath, forcing the hauler to make a wider turn than normal and providing no excuse for not seeing her in the crosswalk. It’s easy to imagine how this happened — a driver in a huge hurry at 4:30 am, barreling along at speed, not expecting a ped. Less easy to understand how law enforcement in this city can continue to excuse such lethal behavior, over and over again.

  • Michel S

    Earlier this month the GHSA released data on pedestrian traffic fatalities. Many of the findings were unsurprising, but what stood out to me was that 72% of fatalities occurred in the dark. This highlights (pun not intended) the enormous need to properly light sidewalks & street crossings for pedestrian safety.

  • Frank Kotter

    Funny, I see the same data and what it highlights to me is the enormous need to properly drive with caution and care when it is dark out and for these crimes to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of admittedly weak laws.

  • Michel S

    Why not both? Win-win! The driver is certainly at fault here, but we can also improve the lighting not only for safety but to make the urban environment more pleasant to be in, thus encouraging more people to walk instead of drive. I don’t see these two approaches as being mutually exclusive.

  • Bernard Finucane

    The pedestrian refuge, install in 2013 with the bike lane, is about 10 feet too short.

    This picture shows the scene from the victim’s point of view. The truck came out from where the SUV was, and used the extension of the parking lane into the intersection to widen its turn radius and make a faster turn.

    The refuge should extend out to the yellow X on the pavement. In addition, the curb should be extended in front of the parking grey and red cars to prevent drivers from swerving as they enter the intersection.

    There are also noticeable tire marks on the curb of the refuge, suggesting that wide radius turns are common at this intersection. I wonder what state those flimsey plastic bollards are in now.

    There should be tall, metal, brightly colored bollards on the edges of the sidewalks and pedestrian refuges in places with traffic this dense. They would provide clear indicators to the drivers where they should go.

    I include an example of a bollard with a sign guiding drivers. Just about every intersection in Germany has these.

    http://www.lueft.de/fileadmin/DAM/wallpaper/10102_ref_a.JPG

  • Bernard Finucane

    Look at the relative size of the people and properly designed pedestrian infrastructure.

    http://www.lueft.de/fileadmin/DAM/wallpaper/10102_ref_b.JPG

  • Frank Kotter

    Yes, indeed. However, your suggestion places higher expectations on lawful user to protect themselves, and may improve things. My suggestion places the responsibility for those currently not obeying the law to do so and is a solution.

    It’s like suggesting putting on body armor in bad neighborhoods. Will it help? Maybe. Is it the job or citizens to protect themselves from the lawless? Absolutely not.

  • Miles Bader

    Keep in mind that there’s a point at which brighter lighting stops being pleasant, and that especially in residential areas, that point may be well before the point of “maximum safety.”

  • Michel S

    I’m not suggesting pedestrians wear strobe lights at night to make themselves more visible to negligent drivers. I don’t see how my suggestion of better street lighting puts the onus on individuals to prepare for every possible eventuality. Enforcement is necessary, but so is investment in street designs that benefit pedestrian activity as much as, if not more so, than the automobile.

  • Michel S

    Sure, that makes sense. For the most part streets today are lighted with “cobra lights”, which are more appropriate for highway applications and provide very uneven coverage at ground level. Better lighting at night would involve street lamps better scaled for pedestrians and shorter crossings so brighter lights won’t be necessary to cover the distance.

  • Frank Kotter

    oh, if you put it that way, I agree one hundred percent. I just start to get very itchy at even the slightest deflection away from the responsibilities of individual drivers who, for all intents and purposes, are allowed to kill and maim at will as long as they are not drunk and utter the exact words, ‘I never saw them’.

    I have driven for years in places with atrocious infrastructure and I could drive for hundreds more without ever even coming close to making contact with a pedestrian.

  • Miles Bader

    The thing is, changing the system is hard, and until you do, there’s very real benefit from cracking down on the current abuses. Currently there’s a strong financial incentive for unsafe practices, so huge fines to the associated companies for unsafe behavior might be a good idea.

  • The only fool proof solution is split phase signals at all dangerous intersections .
    . In 1922 engineers figured that letting cars conflict with each other at intersections generated too many crashes. So they invented the traffic signal to allocate exclusive time Slots to separate various vehicles at intersections.
    Meanwhile we still let turning vehicles use the same time slot as pedestrians ….. Who do you think is going to die? Either we let everyone conflict with each other, or we separate everyone, and in particular vulnerable users.
    JSK says it well in her book : our streets are designed for conflicts.

    Letting cars conflict with pedestrians is a fundamental defect of our streets. If DOT was a car company , there would be a class action lawsuit , they would be guilty of having known for 100 years , and would be subject to a massive recall.
    lets focus on the real culprit : DOT.

  • Philips lighting attended VZ conference. They were explaining that the current street lighting is ineffective in revealing pedestrians to vehicles… Because pedestrians need to be lit sideways….another aspect of the streets entirely designed with cars in mind… Sigh!

  • Patricia Sullivan Moran

    Pls contact me asap. A nice lady sad past. Terrible shame. 15 hits on 92 st..but NO LEGAL punishment? Make the company pay for her services. I need their name. idk if the 19th pct will be ever so kind.

  • Patricia Sullivan Moran

    what is the NAME of Garbage co. and where now is Jody? We all want FUNERAL ARRANG & a CHURCH MASS. Sure the city doesnt rec this, as the Garbage companies who run ppl over are getting a kickback? They KILLED HER..YOU WATCH where YOU drive! Now give her a beautiful sendoff. Im happy to take on tasks, including chosing a funeral home,casket, and all else she deserved!

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