Running Down Five Children on a Sidewalk Is Legal in New York City

Warning: Graphic video

DNAinfo is reporting that the driver who jumped a curb and hit five kids in Maspeth this morning, an incident captured on video, probably will not be charged.

A surveillance tape shows a group of kids on a Grand Avenue sidewalk when the driver of a Honda SUV runs one of them over, missing the others by inches. Witnesses lifted the SUV off at least one of the victims. One girl reportedly suffered a broken leg and another a broken hip. One boy has a leg injury and another was treated for a swollen arm. The victims were age 12 to 14. From DNAinfo:

Sources said that the 40-year-old driver was going shopping and was trying to pull into a space when he accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake.

He remained on the scene and was not expected to be charged, sources said.

Council Member Elizabeth Crowley defended the driver. “He hit the gas instead of the brake,” said Crowley, as quoted by the Daily News. “This had everything to do with being an accident.”

Traffic crashes are the leading cause of  injury-related death for children in NYC, and an average of five kids are hit by motorists in the city each day. As a council member, Crowley should know that what happened today was not a freak occurrence.

Media reports emphasized that the motorist, whose name has not been released by NYPD, stayed at the scene and was “cooperating” with police. The Daily News downplayed the driver’s involvement, shifting blame to the vehicle: “[T]he SUV driver was trying to pull into a parking spot when his vehicle suddenly plowed into the students outside the school. The vehicle crashed into a parking meter and a nearby sign.” The Post, to its credit, led its updated story by assigning responsibility to an “out-of-control driver.”

“He is not expected to face criminal charges,” the Post said, “though it is unclear if he will be ticketed for any driving violations.”

Here is a driver caught on video slamming into kids on a sidewalk. Despite clear evidence of negligence, it appears that neither NYPD nor District Attorney Richard Brown considers this a crime — and possibly not a traffic violation.

As reader BornAgainBicyclist pointed out today, that the victims suffered mere “non life-threatening” injuries seems to have absolved the motorist, at least as far as authorities and the media are concerned. No reports that we’ve seen have questioned how this driver would face no repercussions for mounting a sidewalk and mowing down five children.

DNAinfo talked to schools chancellor Dennis Walcott, who visited the victims in the hospital. “The kids are kids,” Walcott said. “They’re resilient.”

  • Anonymous

    DNAinfo talked to schools chancellor Dennis Walcott, who visited the
    victims in the hospital. “The kids are kids,” Walcott said. “They’re
    resilient.”

    Effectively, that’s an argument for treating violence against children as *less important* than violence against adults.

    If someone had unintentionally shot those kids, Walcott would be outraged. But unintentionally mowing down children with a motor vehicle? It only brings out the best in them!
    Sian Green is barely more than a teenager. Maybe Walcott should go give her a pep talk.

  • Eric McClure

    Horrific. I hope all those kids will make a full recovery.

    But how could it be he hit the gas instead of the brake? He was moving down the street, and appears to accelerate onto the curb. So we’re to believe he had his foot on the gas, then hit the brake and then (accidentally) the gas again? Doesn’t make sense.

  • Outraged

    Liz Crowley, please, STFU.

  • Get the driver’s cell phone records, Richard Brown.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, the “oh well things happen” attitude from authorities and some in the press is why this keeps happening. Watch the video slowly (quickly starting and pausing, though it nearly makes you cry when you reach the impact). You will clearly see that the car comes from the Road at a sharp angle and never deviates from that angle as he goes onto the curb, flattens a steel parking meter and sign post like they were cardboard, slams into the girl and then passes out of frame without ever turning the wheel or slowing down. He stepped on the wrong pedal?? Ok, turn the damn wheel to avoid the kids and return to the street! Looks more like the driver was distracted at the beginning of the sequence and when he “accidentally” hit the wrong pedal, he became completely disoriented. Why are we blindly accepting these excuses when the video evidence suggests a different story? Subpoena the phone records and verify his story. That’s not hard to do. Pretty sure that is why we have detectives.

  • If you want to get away with murder in America…

    I know, nobody died, but it could have (and has) been worse.

  • Brad Aaron

    DNAinfo has the video at full speed. It’s much more telling, and horrifying.

  • Jesse

    I think he´s just saying that their resilience and youth are the silver lining here. That we have some reason to be optimistic about their recovery. I don´t think he´s giving anyone a pass.

  • Among the collisions and incidents we track here, this one, more than many, very well could have been just an accident.

    But it’s an incident that should not happen. A driver who isn’t careful enough with the two pedals on an automatic drive car should not be driving with unrestricted privileges. Curbs should work, not just serve as ramps for speeding vehicles. The police should fully investigate and collect surveillance video to rule out criminal activity on behalf of the driver before delivering confident proclamations to the press.

    It happens this way every time (except when it’s worse) and it’s wrong.

  • Eric McClure

    And the Event Data Recorder.

  • Joe Enoch

    The sad thing is that even if you do subpoena the records and he’s found guilty of texting while driving, it’s a mere misdemeanor. Even guilt of obvious negligence would yield just a slap on the wrist.

  • Ian Turner

    Sadly, this sort of thing happens all the time, especially while parking. Scarily, it’s so common, there is a name for it: “Pedal Misapplication Error”.

    http://www.nhtsa.gov/staticfiles/nti/pdf/811597.pdf

  • That’s if you buy the excuse that he hit the wrong pedal. That’s why getting the phone records and event data recorder is so important. How can we just take the driver’s word for it?

  • Steve S.

    There’s a solution to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strict_liability_(criminal) but but don’t hold your breath for elected officials to take it seriously.

  • Anonymous

    The driver stepped on the wrong pedal? Why was the car aimed onto the sidewalk? Did the steering wheel simultaneously malfunction also? There is absolutely no attempt to change course or speed over a period of about three seconds. There more here than a simple mistake as to which pedal to press. this guy completely abdicated control of the car.

    Whatever “investigation” NYPD claims to be making, is it being done conducted the CIS? Does it include a subpeona of the car’s EDR (“black box”)?

  • Anonymous

    It was an accident. Don’t judge. It could be your loved one who next time accidentally presses the gas, instead of the brake, and mows over a bunch of kids by mistake. Can you imagine how traumatizing that must be?

  • Anonymous

    And another thing…the guy appears to have an illegally tinted front window…so you can’t see what he’s really doing. I think it’s wrong that NYPD spends so much of it’s time on window-tint summonses, but that doesn’t mean there should be no window tint enforcement. Instead, there should be escalating fines assessed against the shops that apply the illegal tint. The shops know what the legal limits are, but they don’t care because they are never held responsible.

    As a lawyer I question drivers about the the tint on their vehicle windows in many cases, because often it’s relevant (especially in dooring cases). They always swear it’s within the legal limits. When we do a car inspection with a VLT meter, we find the tint is often illegally dark. Tinted windows are one of the ways drivers get away with reckless conduct.

  • BornAgainBicyclist

    I wrote her a long e-mail that didn’t say this, exactly, but did say it’s irresponsible for leaders to instantly exonerate drivers when people are seriously injured. Among other things. Won’t say I wasn’t tempted to use this shorter version, though.

  • Anonymous

    Driver: “Oopsie! I pressed the wrong pedal (all the way to the fire wall)”

    Police (in my fantasy world): “Oh, so you admit to criminal negligence. That was easy.”

  • Trorbmeister

    I just hope those two children injured the worst make a full recovery. 2 years after being in a crash, I still have daily issues. I know full well that something doesn’t need to be a “life threatening injury” to complicate living.

  • Anonymous

    We’d have better drivers.

  • Andrew

    [T]he SUV driver was trying to pull into a parking spot when his vehicle suddenly plowed into the students outside the school. The vehicle crashed into a parking meter and a nearby sign.

    Don’t you just hate it when your vehicle decides to plow into a bunch of students and a parking meter and a sign? I hope the unidentified driver recovers from the shock. (At 40, he may not quite as resilient as a kid.)

    From the same NYDN article:

    The vehicle stopped against a “Do Not Enter” sign.

    Well, that’s a relief. The sign did its job!

  • Driver

    Or cell phone records?

  • anon

    Thanks for the insightful comment. I really really bad for the driver who must be so traumatized that he mangled these kids. His life will never be the same. Oh, poor driver……We should probably pass a law preventing kids from walking to school. That will prevent drivers from being traumatized when they run down people on the sidewalk.

  • cc

    >>Council Member Elizabeth Crowley defended the driver. “He hit the gas instead of the brake,” said Crowley, as quoted by the Daily News. “This had everything to do with being an accident.”

    If somebody doesn’t know which pedal is gas, and which pedal is brakes, they have no business driving in the first place. This was no “accident”.

  • Nanter

    YouTube has removed the video as it contains “shocking and disgusting content.”

    My head just exploded after finally seeing maximum irony.

  • Anonymous

    There should be a mandatory suspension of a license anytime someone jumps the curb – if this were any other type of heavy machinery there would be no question about it.

  • ADN

    Steve Vaccaro should put on his best Bill Kunstler suit and hold a press conference at this very spot on Monday to talk about five action items that the NYPD and Mayor must implement immediately to prevent shit like this from continuing to happen. Put D.A. Richard Brown on the spot. Call out Ray Kelly and the local precinct captain. Insist that Mayor Bloomberg take action. Then go take the case to Erroll Louis and Brian Lehrer’s shows. Don’t stop.

  • ADN

    This is so obvious it goes without saying. And, yet, this driver could very well be driving around Queens right this very second. It’s insane. At minimum, his license should have been taken away and his vehicle impounded until an investigation is completed including black box and mobile phone records.

  • Alex Knight

    If anyone is interested, Elazabeth Crowley’s Twitter handle is @ElizCrowleyNYC in case you want to tweet her to tell her how disgusting her comments are. I already did.

  • Alex Knight

    It’s infuriating that you can run your car off the road and run people down and simply claim “it was an accident” to get out of any penalty. Meanwhile, cyclists are being ticketed for not using the bike lane. Never mind there was a vehicle (often a police car) blocking it. No excuse. You were still breaking the law. Here’s your ticket.

  • Anonymous

    Tell us all how this accident occurred.

  • Anonymous

    Someone should explain to her the concept of negligence. You don’t actually have to want to, ya know, run over a bunch of school children to justify criminal liability.

    Is it the fact that the pols relate to the driver’s and internally fear that, hey, maybe I could slip up and do something like that?

  • Anonymous

    “curbs should work”

    This brings up a really good point, and one that I never thought about. What is the purpose of a curb? Is it a safety feature, a stormwater device, what?

  • I know that he is on his way out, but Bloomberg – or “mayor” – is not mentioned here, and as I have commented repeatedly, is almost never mentioned* in relation to NYPD and car crashes. So… just how much power does a mayor have over a situation like this in terms of getting the police to investigate and also the actions of the DA?

    *My feeling is that this is because Bloomberg has his other lieutenant, Janette Sadik-Khan, whose dept. has more or less worked in the opposite direction of NYPD and the city’s legal apparatus — so many were reluctant to criticize him directly, especially as they were praising him regarding JSK and PlanNYC. This, it seems, is one of the typical outcomes of putting too much power in the mayor, both symbolically and otherwise.

    With the likely election of De Blasio, I hope that things change… that people get more mature in their critique of city administrations and their leaders, even if they do good things. (Seriously, Streetsbloggers, how many of you were reluctant to take Bloomberg to task for Stop & Frisk (very much related to the street, yes?) or – in relation to school kids which everyone is rightly concerned about – to take a dig at Rahm Emmanuel as he closed schools while opening bike paths?

    If people had publicly criticized Bloomberg more in relation to the NYPD and traffic, I would guess that it would have emboldened JSK to protest about Ray Kelly, at least internally.

  • Safety and directional feature, among other things. Look at any pre-automobile street and you won’t see raised sidewalks and curbs at all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curb

    Really, though, this vehicle was so heavy, and going so fast, that a substantial curb wouldn’t have stopped it. And most curbs in NYC are pitifully short from overuse/age.

  • Kevin Love

    This sort of heinous criminal atrocity is precisely what kicked off the Dutch campaign “Stop Kinderrmoord” (=Stop Murdering Children).

    See:

    We need to do the same.

  • Andrew

    I suspect so. Police too.

  • Anonymous

    Carelessness, stupidity, indifference, lack of accountability or consequences.

    Anyway, for the 50 feet distance from the curb cut to my door, I rode the sidewalk. I did. I rode on the sidewalk (with my bike) and some dude was cussing the shit out of me. “Get off the sidewalk!?!?! Get off your fucking bike!!!” It wasn’t crowded, he was the only person on the sidewalk and he wasn’t even close to me. I slow ride on the sidewalk. And some guy thinks it’s ok to cuss you out for that?

    I’m so sick of the bike-hate in this damn city.

  • Anonymous

    Frankly, I don’t walk anywhere unless I’m incased in 5,000 lbs of steel. It’s called assumption of risk. These kids knew what they were doing and risks they were assuming by walking in public on a sidewalk.

  • Brad Aaron

    Streetsblog criticizes Mayor Bloomberg and DOT regularly, as do our readers.

  • Alex Knight

    I think the general auto-dependence in the US creates precarious and often dangerous mentalities about traffic violence. First, people see driving as essential to mobility in the US. And if something is deemed “essential” then we must accept the negative impacts of it. So when something like this happens, people think it’s terrible but then think, “Well, what can we do? We have to get around!” Which leads to the next mentality.

    Second, the notion of denying someone a driver’s license is equated to house arrest in many places in the US. So people view it as much too harsh a punishment, even when someone is clearly a bad or even dangerous driver. This also leads to very lax standards for earning and keeping a license. Many people never have to take a driving test of any kind through their entire lives once they earn it as a teen. It’s insane.

    Now, that NYC is NOT dependent on driving makes it at least a bit puzzling that this mentality exists even here. But I suppose there are enough people in the city who DO depend on it (most of them by choice) that it allows the prevailing American wisdom to live on. It’s infuriating.

  • Steve Faust

    God Forbid this had been a bicyclist riding on an empty sidewalk!
    Thank God the New York City Police address cyclists on empty sidewalks with the serious attention they deserve.

    (Warning – Strong Sarcasm Alert) | 🙁

  • I didn’t just make this up and I am not talking about the readers or DOT… in fact a search from today going three weeks back http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/08/21/reforming-nypd-crash-investigations-whats-next/ finds a comment along similar lines from none other than Charles Komanoff, but this is dismissed. I saw reports of demonstrations at 1PP but everything is about Kelly and little to nothing about his boss.

    I missed your good report a week before that http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/08/13/personal-security-and-livable-streets/ but, sorry, this relative hardline seems the exception, and is also very recent. I did some more searching – also for stop and frisk – and found nothing.

    Perhaps it is my approach, but other lead actors tend to ignore this line of questioning.

    Anyway, I mainly want to encourage people from the day the new mayor gets into office to except him to get criticized directly but to not take it personally, or to get defensive and interpret it as criticism of everything in his administration’s platform.

    If I get really cocky… no, liberated… I will ask Sadik-Khan at one of her future paid speaker appearances if she felt she felt she was the good lieutenant to Kelly’s bad…

  • Daphna

    It’s too bad YouTube removed the video. When a video gets lots of hits and goes viral that helps towards putting pressure on the NYPD to take some action against the guilty party.

  • Joe R.

    Look at all the charges this guy faced, and he didn’t even hurt the person he hit:

    http://www.eonline.com/news/458374/nicole-kidman-knocked-to-the-ground-allegedly-by-paparazzo-on-a-bike-see-the-pics

  • Anonymous

    I think you summarized his *intent* well, but the intent of one’s speech is not the same as the effect. And here he effectively undermine’s the importance and severity of what happened by (so far as we know; based on the very little bit that was reported) giving the kids a pat on the head and not recognizing the systemic problem behind this event. There’s just no way his response to a school shooting, “accidental” or otherwise, would be reported as limited solely to “Gosh darn it, those kids are strong.”

  • Ian Turner

    If it’s only 50 feet, then it shouldn’t take you so long to just walk your bike.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Sources said that the 40-year-old driver was going shopping and was trying to pull into a space when he accidentally hit the gas instead of the brake.”

    The driver was trying to pull in head first at speed, perhaps not wishing to upset the ready-to- honk drivers behind him, rather than pulling up and backing into the space at 3 miles per hour, the way you are taught. I barely have to hit the brake when I pull into a parking space.

  • Anonymous

    I assume you were being sarcastic, but downvoters apparently assumed the opposite. Poe’s law in action!

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Driver Jumps a Curb and Hits Five Children Near Queens School

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A motorist dropping his child off at school jumped a curb and injured several students in Queens this morning, according to officials and published reports. The driver of a Honda SUV drove onto the sidewalk at Grand Avenue and 71st Street in Maspeth at around 7:49 a.m., striking five people. The victims were all age 12 or […]