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Details Scarce on First Reported Pedestrian and Cyclist Deaths of 2013

We have updates on the year's first reported pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, which occurred in Manhattan and the Bronx on January 4 and 5.

The speeding driver responsible for the first reported pedestrian fatality of 2013 was not charged for taking a life. Photo: Daily News

NYPD was not ready to release the identity of either victim as of Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile, it remains unclear what caused last Friday's collision between a cyclist and a private sanitation hauler on E. 23rd Street near Madison Avenue.

Though the Post made sure to point out that the victim was not wearing a helmet, as if a styrofoam shell strapped to her head might have offered a significant measure of protection against a multi-ton truck, media accounts were short on basic details, such as whether she was sideswiped or struck from behind. If past patterns hold, it will take a successful freedom of information request, a rarity when attempting to obtain public records from NYPD, to determine what happened.

"NYPD's information blackout underscores the need for legislation to demand a cadre of trained crash investigators at each precinct," says Charles Komanoff, referring to one facet of the Crash Investigation Reform Act, now in limbo in the City Council.

Komanoff produced the 1999 report "Killed by Automobile" [PDF], which found that private dump trucks kill more city pedestrians than any other type of vehicle.

Also needed, says Komanoff:

    • Public reporting of all available info within a tight time window -- "say, 48 hours" -- with the possible exception of the driver's identity, which could be released later;
    • AIS or AIS-level analysis available within two weeks;
    • an annual compilation of all traffic fatalities, including proximate-cause coding and assignment of culpability.

"Obviously, current 'practice' is a million miles away from this," Komanoff says. "It continues to embody the mindset that traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities are acts of God and are impervious to analysis and prevention."

After the crash that killed a 55-year-old man at East Tremont and Mapes Avenues in the Bronx, 21-year-old James Ruiz was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation, failure to exercise due care and criminal impersonation, according to NYPD.

The crash occurred In broad daylight last Saturday afternoon. From the Daily News:

Horrified witnesses said the unnamed victim flew 20 feet after being hit by a red 1995 Honda shortly after 1 p.m.

"He landed twisted," witness Cosmic Jones, 49, said. "His feet were up, but his face was down toward the pavement with blood coming from the head."

The Honda, which had a smashed windshield and a human-sized indent on the driver's side, was left on Tremont Avenue as investigators inspected the scene.

"The car was flying down the street," said Dion Brannon, 26. "The guy was crossing the middle of the road, but by the time (the car) slowed down, it was too late."

Ruiz, who lives in the Bronx, is reported to have slammed into the victim so hard that he sustained a laceration to the head, possibly from the car's shattered windshield. Though speed was clearly a factor, Ruiz was not criminally charged for taking a life.

The first known pedestrian fatality of 2013 happened in the 48th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Thomas J. Connolly, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on January 29 in the precinct conference room, 450 Cross Bronx Expressway. Call 718-299-3900 for information.

The City Council district where this crash occurred is represented by Majority Leader Joel Rivera, who on Twitter yesterday boasted that he has introduced a bill "to allow parents to double park when picking up their kids from school [and] not receive a parking ticket." To encourage Rivera to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-6966 or @BronxPad.

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