S.I. Ped Killings Cause Some to Ask, What’s an “Accident?”

Rev. Lyle Guttu, a fixture at Staten Island’s Wagner College since 1972, was struck by an SUV in the West Brighton ATT00221.jpegneighborhood of Staten Island last Saturday. He died Sunday evening.

The Staten Island Advance reports:

Guttu was crossing Bement, heading east from Chase Manhattan Bank at
around 2:40 p.m. Saturday, when he was struck by a 2006 Nissan
Pathfinder driven by 47-year-old Theresa Totorelli of West Brighton,
according to a police report.

Tortorelli — who had been heading west on Forest Avenue and just made
a left onto Bement
— claimed she did not see Guttu in the road until
it was too late.

Guttu was conscious when police arrived and complained of "pain all over his body," the report said.

There were no tickets issued at the scene, though police say an investigation is ongoing. Reports say Tortorelli was not speeding and was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. According to NY1, the medical examiner "has ruled the death an accident, caused by the impact of the crash."

As Wagner faculty, alumni, and acquaintances and friends of Guttu pay their respects, SI Advance readers are debating who, if anyone, is responsible for the popular chaplain’s death.

Some want justice and safer conditions for Staten Island pedestrians:

If Rev. Guttu was just walking down Forest Avenue IN THE CROSSWALK, this then should be a vehicular homicide. Whenever a car makes a turn, the car MUST give right of way to any pedestrians in the crosswalk when the pedestrian has a green light or a walk sign!

While to others, c’est la vie: 

They call these situations accidents because thats what they are. The Reverend was loved by all who knew him but he also knew how to love. If he were here he would remind you to forgive. Rest in peace, Reverend Guttu. My families prayers are with you and the unfortunate soul who will forever grieve over this accident.

In other news, an unidentified woman was killed on Queens Boulevard Wednesday when she was hit by a cement truck. The victim, according the Daily News, "was walking north along Woodhaven Blvd. toward the Queens Center Mall about 1 p.m. when she tried to cross in front of the truck." Unfortunately, she "may have stumbled and fallen beneath the … truck’s wheels." A witness told the News the victim was trying to "beat the light." There were no such speculations regarding the actions of the driver, who reportedly wasn’t sure he had hit the woman lying in the street with tire marks on her clothing, and who was not charged. His boss described her death as "an unfortunate thing, especially at this time of year."

  • Obviously pedestrians need to look out for their own safety…you can’t trust the motorists to look out for you, so you have to be careful and exercise judgement when crossing the street.

    That said, it is the legal responsibility of motorists to NOT HIT anyone or anything. So many motorists do not seem to understand this! If you are making a turn, there is no excuse for not doing so slowly and making sure the crosswalk is clear before driving through it. Any action to the contrary is NOT an accident.

    I was almost hit by a cab recently while crossing north on E.79th St. in the crosswalk with the walk signal. A southbound cab making a left onto 79th nearly ran right into me as if I wasn’t there. I (stupidly) froze and luckily the cabbie slammed on his brakes and my demise was avoided. I don’t think his failure to yeild to my right of way is an “accident.”

  • Mark

    While we’re apportioning responsibility or blame to drivers and peds, let’s acknowledge a third party operating here, and that’s the DOT. Traffic signals that don’t allow peds adequate time to cross are a major cause of “accidents.” And let’s not forget inadequate or missing medians and the failure to use bollards and other protective barriers where they’re clearly needed.

  • I know this intersection well, but couldn’t comment on this particular incident since I don’t know the particulars.

    What I do know is most people walking and driving around this area are locals, similar to the victim and driver in this case.

    Both Forest and Bement at that intersection are both busy two way streets with lots of people turning there.

    Drivers are mostly running daily errands and not driving particularly fast or aggressive.

    What I have observed at this location and others are a high percentage of distracted drivers – eating, drinking, talking on cell phones.

    I really think in any “crash”, the police have an obligation to get any eyewitnesses or passengers to describe what was going on inside the car prior to the crash. Get detailed statements of any potential distractions that prevented the driver from correctly proceeding through an intersection.

  • DangerCrossing

    The city’s traffic signals seem to setup a dangerous race between peds and cars to the crosswalk. As WALK and GREEN come on in sync drivers & peds both see a visually clear crosswalk.

    I’ve always wondered if offsetting lights so peds would get a headstart would diffuse some of these crosswalk conflicts. In other words WALK would come on for a few seconds while all lanes are still RED.

    I think this would reduce the urge for drivers to accelerate into the crosswalk to try and beat foot traffic.

  • fdr

    Giving pedestrians a head start before the light turns green is what the traffic engineers call “Leading Pedestrian Intervals”. DOT has installed them in some places, giving peds a few seconds head start. Of course, some drivers think they can go when the peds start crossing, and if the first car doesn’t move, the cars behind start honking. But eventually they get used to it.

  • Jonathan

    fdr, I think they have one of those on 9th Ave & 57th Street. I always see the walk light to cross 57th go on before the 9th Ave light turns green.

    How long can this thread go, BTW, before some troll brings up the idea of building tunnels for pedestrians to use instead of crossing streets at grade level?

  • Larry Littlefield

    I was told in driver’s ed 30 years ago that there are no accidents.

    There is one thing I worry about when driving –not seeing a cyclist or ped on a dark, rainy night. Very few cyclists have lights and bright, reflective clothing.

    Fortunately, because most of my auto trips are discretionary, I am generally able to avoid night driving, but during this time of year one cannot avoid it completely.

  • We should always say “traffic collision” instead of “traffic accident”…

  • What the seemingly unassailable “forgive” position (quoted in the post, and turning up in many comment threads on similar stories here) disguises is that seeking the truth is not a refusal to forgive. To the contrary, knowing the truth is a requirement for meaningful forgiveness. A whitewashed story and the expectation that a bereaved should immediately “work through” any desire for explanation or accountability, this well-worn path makes for good emotional theatre but doesn’t say much for appreciation of human life. That people are so eager to move on (in their cars) to the next unnecessary, fatal crash is the greatest tragedy.

  • Louis

    Hunter planning student living in paris says, “I think every crossing signal of any import in Paris, and possibly every one, has a leading pedestrian signal.”

  • The owner of a 5000 pounds of steel gunning down at 30 miles an hour is RESPONSIBLE for operating an inherently deadly tool. (think chain saw or gun )

    A recent study by Hunter college students http://multimedia.nydailynews.com/pdf/2007/11/14/Driving_distracted_study_Nov_2007.pdf
    show that 25% of automobilitss Drive While Distracted and these same people are in fact most prone to be distracted by more than one activity (cell phone , smoking , drinking, eating grooming ) an indication that they are fundamentally not disciplined and scornful of the law.

    The DWD need to be redefined as Driving While Distracted . Any crash where the driver has proper line of sight and claim not “seing ” a pedestrian should be under the same penalties as if driving while drunk .

    After a crash, they certainly should not get their license and car back until they have passed a very stringent medical test on attention deficit disorder and a test on rules of the road concerning pedestrians.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    How long can this thread go, BTW, before some troll brings up the idea of building tunnels for pedestrians to use instead of crossing streets at grade level?

    I hate that! But in fairness, all the people I’ve met who say things like that do it out of genuine concern for pedestrian safety. A friend of mine who doesn’t own a car even said it to me the other day. In my experience, it takes just a few minutes to explain why that won’t work to someone who actually cares.

  • What about insurance? Does someone get automatic points on their insurance if they are in a crash with a pedestrian? Aren’t they responsible for all the medical bills?

    I think any accident involving the injury/death of a pedestrian, cyclist or other motorist should automatically trigger a large increase in insurance rates to make driving almost unaffordable to the average person (like $20k+ per year) AND an automatic re-test of their driving ability to see if they should even have a license in the first place.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Does someone get automatic points on their insurance if they are in a crash with a pedestrian?

    Not if they’ve purchased accident forgivenness.

  • There was a constant stream of pedestrian (and motorist) injuries and fatalities at the intersection of York and 79th up until about 8 years ago, when the introduced leading pedestrian intervals. Now that intersection is probably a little safter than those at 79th and First or Second. There’s also an LPI on Madison and 96th, it makes the intersection much easier to cross, especially for slower pedestrians like kids and seniors. My impression is that the Weinshall administration would not install LPI’s until the death rate reached some outrageous number. What is the “new” DoT’s policy in this regard? Have any new LPI’s been installed since JSK took office?

  • response to glenn concerning points and medical bills.
    “Injuries and Fatalities Noted on Tickets: As of Aug. 1, 2007, traffic tickets include a space for issuing officers to note whether the violation resulted in a death or serious injury.” from AAA cr and travel mag,
    as fart as medical bills, no fault would be th insurarance, now if they happen to be driving one of those Pennsylvania fraudulent registered vehicles, you now are dealing with a uninsured motorist, a lawyer would be able to give a answer, but basically imo it means if your injuries are severe as defined by the no fault system you will be screwed , since there is no insurance company or usually any assets to collect from. if you are a driver with auto insurance you can protect against this by getting supplement under/uninsured protection. maybe a home owner /rental policy would help out here too.
    again i wish a local lawyer would clarify some of this, it may make peds to take action against the fraud penn plates.


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