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Election 2013

Three People Killed in Traffic This Weekend. What Will NYC’s Next Mayor Do?

4:31 PM EDT on July 29, 2013

In the span of little more than 24 hours, drivers killed three pedestrians in New York City this weekend.

At 4:45 a.m. on Saturday, Latrisha Been, 31, was struck and killed by a northbound truck driver on a Van Wyck Expressway service road in Jamaica. The driver fled the scene and was charged with manslaughter after being apprehended, according to Gothamist.

That evening, a motorist struck and killed Jose Santiago, 43, as he crossed Nostrand Avenue at Avenue W less than a block from his home in Sheepshead Bay. The driver will not face charges, according to the Daily News.

Sunday morning at 5 a.m., Theresa Ilardi, 49, was struck and killed as she crossed 32nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue in Midtown.

These are preventable deaths. In a New York where every neighborhood has more humane streets -- where drivers don't travel at speeds that could kill the un-armored human beings walking nearby -- traffic would not claim the lives of more than 150 pedestrians each year.

So, one question that comes to mind after such a violent weekend is: Why don't we hear the candidates talk about how they'll prevent these deaths?

Some candidates have planks about street safety. If you look, you'll find material about complete streets and better traffic enforcement in a few platforms -- and some of that material is excellent. But no candidate has raised street safety to the level of an urgent priority -- the kind of issue that must be addressed, publicly and repeatedly, given the persistence and pervasiveness of vehicular maiming and killing.

Would it be perceived as cynical to link these specific tragedies to policy proposals for safer streets? Some people might think that, but look around -- tying events in the news to policy positions is what candidates for elected office do. This weekend, Bill Thompson linked George Zimmerman's prejudice to NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices. Bill de Blasio's signature campaign moment, so far, was his arrest protesting the closure of Long Island College Hospital.

It would not be cynical for a candidate to note, after a bloody weekend, that the NYPD can do much more to prioritize street safety than what the department has done under Ray Kelly.

When tragedy strikes, public officials should discuss how they plan to respond. If the candidates don't talk now about how they'll address vehicular violence on NYC streets, we can't expect them to make street safety a priority after the election.

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