NYPD Does Not Apply Vision Zero Law in Fatal Elmhurst Crosswalk Collision

Melania Ward was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Astoria Boulevard in Elmhurst. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to NYPD. Image: Google Maps
Melania Ward was struck by an MTA bus driver as she crossed Astoria Boulevard at 80th Street in Elmhurst. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to information released by NYPD. Image: Google Maps

An MTA bus driver killed a pedestrian in Queens last night. As with a fatal August crash in Manhattan, NYPD did not apply charges against the driver under a new Vision Zero law, despite information that suggests the victim had the right of way.

Melania Ward, 55, was hit by the driver of the Q47 she’d been riding after she exited the bus at Astoria Boulevard and 80th Street, according to the Daily News. The crash happened at around 10 p.m. NYPD told Gothamist the victim was “crossing Astoria Boulevard, south to north, in the marked intersection, when a Q47 MTA bus, traveling north on 80th Street, proceeded to make a right turn onto eastbound Astoria Boulevard.”

From the Daily News:

The woman was apparently run over by the front tire of the bus, witnesses said.

“She was sitting next to me on the bus,” said Jan Lim, 27, who ran over to the woman as she lay under the midsection of the bus.

“She was crying. I said don’t fall asleep, keep breathing,” Lim said.

Ward was pronounced dead at Elmhurst General Hospital.

Unless the bus driver had an exclusive signal phase, based on NYPD’s account of the crash, Ward would have had the right of way. NYPD told Gothamist the department “could not say” if this was the case, and no charges were filed.

A new city law makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists who have the right of way. Intro 238, now known as Section 19-190, took effect on August 22, but 60 days after the bill was signed by Mayor de Blasio, a spokesperson for the mayor said NYPD wasn’t ready to enforce it.

On August 29, a yellow cab driver struck and killed a woman on the Upper East Side. NYPD filed no charges, and a police spokesperson told Streetsblog, “Preliminarily, both of them had the right of way.” Since the motorist would have been required by law to yield, only the victim would have had the right of way.

Since Section 19-190 became law, New York City motorists have killed at least six pedestrians, and injured several others. To date, no drivers have been reported charged under the new law.

Melania Ward was at least the fourth pedestrian or cyclist killed by an MTA bus driver in 2014, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. By this time last year, MTA bus drivers had killed at least five pedestrians, and one man riding a skateboard.

This fatal crash occurred in the 115th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Michael A. Cody, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 115th Precinct council meetings happen at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at the precinct, 92-15 Northern Boulevard. Call 718-533-2010 for information.

The City Council district where Melania Ward was killed is represented by Costa Constantinides. To encourage Constantinides to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-6963, costa@council.nyc.gov or @Costa4NY.

  • Daphna

    This is so sad. It is mind boggling how Mayor de Blasio allows the police to refuse to enforce applicable laws, especially when the NYPD refusal to enforce the laws is directly counter to de Balsio’s stated goal of lessening deaths from traffic.

  • JamesR

    MTA bus drivers are some of the most aggressive drivers on the road. I get that they have a tough job, but still, this is now a pattern. Couple the ‘law of the jungle’ traffic environment with the inherent navigational difficulties of locomotive-sized vehicles in a pedestrian rich environment, and this is what you get.

  • In what other area of law enforcement would anyone tolerate the NYPD not enforcing the law?

  • Morris Zapp

    NYPD can’t wrap its collective brain around charging sober drivers for killing.

    They virtually never enforced Hayley and Diego’s Law while hiding behind a supposed loophole that they waited over a year to say anything about. Now that the city has given them the tool they need, after 60+ days we’re supposed to believe they still can’t figure out how to use it.

    If Vision Zero was a priority for Bratton, NYPD would have been ready to go with this on day one. Instead of apologizing to cyclists for “following orders” while writing out bogus tickets, officers would be apologizing to drivers while slapping on the cuffs.

    If Vision Zero is a priority for de Blasio, he’ll order Bratton to enforce the damn law, or he’ll find a police commissioner who will.

    On the other hand, congratulations to the MTA for lowering the kill rate by 33 percent. Clearly your driver safety program is paying off big-time.

  • scofflaw_cyclist

    Have you never met the NYPD? Our place got burglarized almost two years ago. Thankfully the insurance company gave up on waiting for the police report because I still don’t think the detective has gotten around to filling it out yet.

  • Gi Yan

    She’s the mother of my friend. This is a fucked up law!

  • Brad Aaron


    The law is intended to punish drivers for hurting and killing people, but NYPD is not enforcing it.

    I’m sorry this happened to your friend’s family. I can be reached at brad@streetsblog.org if your friend would like to speak to a reporter about how NYPD handles the crash investigation.

  • Gi Yan

    Thank you very much! I will tell him about you.

  • walks bikes drives

    I have to disagree with the generalization about MTA drivers. While some definitely are, from personal experience, I have found a dichotomy of aggressive drivers based on what they drive: 1) luxury cars, especially BMWs, 2) taxis and livery drivers 3) school buses 4) SUVs 5) pimped out non luxury cars 6) Bus Drivers 7) non-luxury cars like Toyota sedans and then, in last place, or least likely to be aggressive 8) Hybrids (Prius, Volt, etc) and Smart drivers.

    While these are also generalizations, this matches my anecdotal experience walking, biking, and driving, in Manhattan.

    As for the MTA drivers, I ride down 5th avenue every day on my bike commute, this crossing the paths of well over a dozen buses during that stint. Usually, the drivers of both the local and express buses are curious to me and will let me pass before pulling into the bus stop. About once a week, I’ll get a driver that cuts me off.

  • nycbikecommuter

    MTA bus and Access-A-Ride drivers think they are above the law, simple as that.

  • JamesR

    Access-A-Ride drivers are flat out scary – when I see one of those things bombing down the street behind me, I move the hell out of the way. The behavior of a livery cab in a vehicle 3x the size.

  • Bolwerk

    Have you never met any police department? The so-called law-and-order crowd, which ironically hates both order and rule of law, has been removing oversight, accountability, appeals, and limits on police, while giving them ever more expansive powers and ever more powerful weapons, for probably as long as anyone here has been alive.

    From Eric Garner to Michael Brown to Kang Chun Wong to Cheye Calvo to what @scofflaw_cyclist:disqus is talking about, the results have been predictable. Police in Georgia are all totally like “hehe, oops!” about throwing a grenade into a baby’s crib. The police get to set their own agenda, and don’t hesitate to dictate it to politicians who should be accountable to the public. Most of what I mentioned is from this year, but none of this is new, either. It should have been obvious by the WTO protests in 1999, and it has only escalated since 9/11.


  • Andrew

    It was an accident that the driver neglected to yield to Ms. Ward as she was crossing in the crosswalk with the light in her favor?


  • Luke Skywalker

    And then you get fired for that mistake. The driver needs to go to jail for this “mistake”.

  • Andrew

    I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but none that have resulted in the death of an innocent bystander.

    I didn’t say this wasn’t a mistake. I said it wasn’t an accident. There’s a difference. It is absolutely and unequivocally illegal for a motorist to turn through a crosswalk, with the signal in the pedestrians’ favor, without first ascertaining that one is not about to turn into the path of a pedestrian.

    Your caps lock key is stuck.


The Weekly Carnage

The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage. Fatal Crashes (7 Killed This Week; 139 This Year*) East Elmhurst: Melania Ward, 55, Killed by MTA Bus Driver on Astoria Blvd.; No Charges (Streetsblog) UWS: Cydney […]