Judge Bars Woman Who Killed Cyclist From Driving in NY, No Thanks to NYPD

When Caitlin Venedam struck and killed Matthew Brenner on Sands Street on July 6, 2014, NYPD blamed Brenner and let Venedam off without so much as a ticket. Now, thanks to evidence that police failed to collect, an administrative law judge with the Department of Motor Vehicles has barred Venedam from driving in New York state, according to DNAinfo.

Caitlin Venedam killed 29-year-old Matt Brenner in 2014 while she was distracted by her cell phone. Photo courtesy Leslie Newman.
Caitlin Venedam killed 29-year-old Matt Brenner in 2014 while she was distracted by her cell phone. Photo courtesy Leslie Newman

Venedam, 25 at the time, struck Brenner, 29, as she turned from eastbound Sands onto the ramp for the northbound BQE at 9:35 p.m. Police said Brenner was biking against traffic trying to cross the ramp when Venedam struck him, an explanation that his friends and family found unlikely.

Video evidence later contradicted NYPD’s account, showing Brenner was not on the roadway, DNA reports, fitting a recurring pattern of police erroneously blaming the victims of fatal crashes.

As recently as last November, DMV had informed Brenner’s family that it would not hold a hearing to review Venedam’s driving privileges. DMV is supposed to hold hearings for every fatal crash but doesn’t adhere to the policy in practice.

Thanks to a civil suit filed by the family, information surfaced that NYPD never collected in its crash investigation. In her deposition, Venedam said she had gotten off the highway to call a friend and check her location on Google Maps, which remained open in her passenger seat as she merged back onto the highway.

The lawyer for Brenner’s estate, Daniel Flanzig, told DNA that this information was critical to Judge Regina Rinaldi’s decision and blasted NYPD for its “completely insufficient” investigation.

Venedam, an actress who appeared in the TV series “Gossip Girl,” is still allowed to drive elsewhere, including New Jersey, where she is licensed. She was cited four times between 2006 and 2012 for unsafe driving, speeding, not wearing a seat belt, and blocking traffic, according to NJ Motor Vehicle Commission records obtained by DNA.

  • Geck

    “With her phone still open to Google Maps sitting on the passenger
    seat, Venedam drove down the street and veered across a safety triangle
    in order to make it back on to the BQE, according to the report.
    ***
    A video of the crash shows the actress trailing close behind a car
    that veered out of the way to avoid Brenner, then she smashed into the
    cyclist in the safety triangle as he tried to make his way to a bike
    path on the other side of the entrance ramp.”
    Yet the NYPD blamed Brenner.

  • AnoNYC

    Is this the first time that someone has been banned to drive in NY state indefinitely after killing someone?

    This should be the standard.

  • Daniel Flanzig

    This is very rare absent use of Alcohol, Drugs, leaving the scene or other circumstances. It is not an indefinite ban. It appears that she she can re-apply for her license once the time of the revocation is over.

  • AnoNYC

    So she got a rare slap on the wrist then.

    Madness how she will be able to re-apply. Once you kill someone due to reckless driving, your driver’s license should be revoked indefinitely. We have plenty of alternative modes of transportation to get around on in NYC.

  • BrandonWC

    According to the DMV’s website, it has revoked the driver license or driving privileges of 137 people after fatal crashes. https://dmv.ny.gov/org/completed-fatal-crash-hearings?respondant_case_number=&page=1&order=field_findings&sort=desc

  • Bluewndrpwrmlk96

    NYPD did not do their due diligence and when family and friends took it upon themselves to do the work intended for the police, an ALJ found and banned driving privileges statewide for the accused motorist. I find this disturbing, know that there could a countless potential others.

    New Police Commissioner O’Neill should be made aware of this.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Is it just me, or is this fatality not marked on the Vision Zero Map? Am I using this thing right? http://www.visionzeroview.nyc/

  • ahwr

    Police said Brenner was biking against traffic
    trying to cross the ramp when Venedam struck him, an explanation that
    his friends and family found unlikely.

    Video evidence later contradicted NYPD’s account, showing Brenner was not on the roadway

    Where was he?

    A video of the crash shows the actress trailing close behind a car that veered out of the way to avoid Brenner, then she smashed into the cyclist in the safety triangle as he tried to make his way to a bike path on the other side of the entrance ramp.”

    Where were these two cars that they weren’t on the roadway? They can’t have been, because a car swerving to avoid someone not on the roadway can’t be on the roadway, and a car that hits someone not on the roadway can’t be on the roadway.

    Is the video available somewhere? Or is there a sketch of what happened? I’m a little confused.

    Venedam drove down the street and veered across a
    safety triangle in order to make it back on to the
    BQE

    Did she drive over the paint or the concrete? Look at the angle, how fast could someone swerve over the concrete? Is the painted triangle not par of the roadway?

    http://i.imgur.com/Px4NttP.jpg

    Was he biking down the sidewalk, then planned to ride or walk across the uncontrolled entrance ramp that has no traffic light or crosswalk or stop sign or anything, then jump the jersey barrier to get into the bikeway? And the driver tried to switch lanes at the last second to go onto the highway, drove over the paint and hit the guy with his bike in the middle of the highway on ramp? Then where was the car that swerved to avoid Brenner?

  • Daniel

    I’ve noticed other fatalities don’t show up on that map.

  • Daniel

    I think it gets even more complicated. I read had swerved to avoid being hit by a different car. Which is how he ended up in that safety triangle. There is a lot of red light running at the traffic signal right before that BQE entrance. There is also poor lighting under the bridge and stop line and crosswalk that are completely faded away. It’s really atrocious how poor the conditions are at an intersection that sees 6000+ cyclist a day.

  • AnoNYC

    That’s it huh.

  • rao

    The signage and design of the painted markings leading to the protected lanes in that area are piss-poor. Matthew should never have been in that triangle–he should have been safely in the protected bike lane that runs down the middle of Sands Street or on the dedicated bike ramp to the Manhattan Bridge.

    I suppose it’s possible he knew better and was being a daredevil, but the fact that he was in such an exposed position when safer alternatives were readily available, plus my own experience of getting confused in this area, says to me that there is a serious design flaw here. The local CB should press for a study.

  • rao

    It’s totally unclear that cyclists should head onto the sidewalk as they proceed under the bridge here.

  • Frank Kotter

    In its investigation, NYPD determined that no one died and no foul play existed. Despite there being clear evidence to the contrary a spokesman reiterated, ‘Whatcha gonna do abot it?’

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Just like with Canal on the Manhattan side of the bridge, if you want to continue on *past* the bridge rather than getting on the bridge the design is completely bunk.

  • Geck

    From what I understand, he was on the zebra-stripes when she swerved into him from the travel lane to get onto the ramp at the last minute. I can’t say I fully understand the prior car swerving around him.

  • Brian Howald

    Not only that, but no signage directs cyclists from north on Jay Street onto the sidewalk at the intersection as is intended. However, two metal poles, one with driver signage pointing towards JFK and another blank, are there. Great priorities there…

  • neroden

    Thank you DMV administrative judge Rinaldi for doing the just thing and for protecting public safety. THANK YOU

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