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Three Pedestrians and One Cyclist Dead in Weekend of Vehicular Violence

1:36 PM EDT on October 1, 2012

Three pedestrians and one cyclist have been killed in the city since Friday night. Two drivers fled the scene, and two were reportedly exonerated by NYPD.

Police conduct a traffic checkpoint in Morningside Heights, but may or may not be looking for a hit-and-run killer. Photo: Columbia Spectator

At approximately 11:30 p.m. Sunday, Mary Gater was on the sidewalk on Jamaica Avenue near Sutphin Boulevard when an 85-year-old motorist, eastbound on Jamaica, "lost control" of a Chrysler sedan, jumped the curb and struck her. Gater, 60, died at Jamaica Hospital. NYPD issued no charges or summonses, according to DNAinfo.

At around 3:45 a.m. Sunday, 26-year-old Ken Baker, a Massachusetts native who lived in Binghamton, was hit by the driver of a Peterbuilt semi truck as he walked with his girlfriend on Sixth Avenue near 47th Street in Midtown. The driver, who was not hauling a trailer, was turning left from Sixth onto 47th. Baker was "sitting on the sidewalk, conscious and alert, with cuts on his arms and torso" when police arrived, according to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette, but was pronounced dead on arrival at Bellevue.

The driver of the truck was unaware he had hit someone. He stopped after he was flagged down and remained on the scene.

Police said no alcohol was involved, and no criminal charges or citations were issued.

“It was just an unfortunate accident,” the police spokesman said.

A little over 24 hours before Baker was killed, at 11:45 p.m. Friday, a hit-and-run driver struck and killed 75-year-old Arnold Slater as he walked on 114th Street at Broadway. CBS 2 reported that the driver was northbound on Broadway, and Slater was crossing east to west. NYPD is reportedly looking for the killer, who was driving a black Honda Civic. From DNAinfo:

Robert von Gutfeld, 78, a research scientist at Columbia, said the intersection is dangerous.

"When you're crossing that intersection, you have the right of way and the drivers don't look to see you crossing," he said.

"Very often they almost hit me. I curse at them, I scream at them but I see it getting worse."

Finally, Gothamist reports that an unidentified cyclist, believed to be the victim of a hit-and-run, was found with head trauma at Metropolitan Avenue and Stewart Avenue in Bushwick at approximately 5:15 this morning. The 26-year-old man died at Woodhull Medical Center. A second cyclist, a restaurant worker, was critically injured by a motorist at W. 104th Street near Central Park Saturday night.

As was astutely noted by a Streetsblog reader, failure to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian, which appears to have precipitated the death of Ken Baker, is not "just" an accident. "It is failure to exercise due care, and it is illegal," wrote our commenter. "[T]here was an extensive legislative process that was recently concluded to reinforce the responsibility of drivers to stop killing innocent pedestrians."

Nor is it an accident that since Hayley and Diego's Law took effect, as officers ticket more drinking pedestrians than speeding drivers, NYPD continues to issue careless driving citations in only half of crashes that kill a pedestrian or cyclist. Even in cases where a motorist careens onto a curb and kills a person on a sidewalk, police declare "no criminality suspected" before enough time has elapsed to conduct an investigation. With the extremely rare exception, city district attorneys remain AWOL except in cases of DWI and hit-and-run.

Meanwhile, legislation to stiffen penalties for hit-and-run motorists and prod NYPD to fully investigate traffic injuries and deaths continues to languish in Albany and at City Hall.

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