NYPD says it's still investigating the death of a teenage jogger who was struck by a motorist on Staten Island, but that didn't stop the department from publicizing a "preliminary" finding claiming the victim was at fault. Based on NYPD investigations into this crash and others, it's open season on pedestrians who cross streets on a diagonal and don't stay within the precise confines of a crosswalk.
The driver of a pickup truck hit 15-year-old Jenna Daniels as he made a left turn from Hylan Boulevard onto Bayview Avenue in Prince's Bay at approximately 2:39 p.m. Saturday, according to the Staten Island Advance.
Police said Daniels was on Hylan, crossing Bayview from west to east, when she was hit. She suffered severe head trauma and was declared dead on arrival at Staten Island University Hospital, the Advance reported. A photo from the scene shows a black Ford F-150 with a raised chassis, oversized aftermarket wheels, a blacked-out grille and front bumper, and tinted headlights.
True to protocol, NYPD did not release the name of the 38-year-old motorist, who was not charged by police or Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan. NYPD ticketed the driver for tinted windows, the Advance said, though according to the Collision Investigation Squad report, "the windows did not contribute to the crash."
The collision investigation squad's report notes that his license and registration were valid, that he passed a Breathalyzer test and that he was not on his cell phone when he struck Ms. Daniels. His speed at the time of the collision was not recorded as part of the CIS report, police said.
While disclosing nothing about the driver's speed -- the single most important factor in the severity of a crash -- NYPD said Daniels was jogging "outside the crosswalk … with headphones in her ears," according to the Advance. NYPD said the motorist "had the right of way," a claim refuted by attorney Steve Vaccaro, who said city traffic rules permit mid-block crossings on Bayview Avenue, which has several unsignalized intersections.
"On most every block in Manhattan, you have to cross at a crosswalk," Vaccaro told the Advance. "That is not true on a block like this where there is not a traffic signal at both ends."
Daniels appears to have been just barely outside the crosswalk when she was struck. If Daniels was jogging west to east on Hylan, as police say, she may have been headed for a desire path on the east side of Bayview (out of frame to the left in the above Google Maps image), which leads to an apartment complex and is a short diagonal from the northwest corner of the Hylan intersection. Photos published by the Advance indicate that a makeshift memorial was installed for Daniels near the spot where the desire path begins.
Further, there is no law in New York City prohibiting pedestrians from wearing headphones. But regardless of traffic laws, according to the Advance, NYPD cited "'pedestrian error: crossing outside marked crosswalk' as the preliminary cause of the strike."
A police spokesperson "stressed that the findings were preliminary and that the collision investigation is still ongoing," the Advance reported. If that's the case, why did NYPD tell the public that Jenna Daniels caused her own death?
Motorists have killed at least three pedestrians in the last month who were blamed by NYPD for being outside a crosswalk at a marked intersection. A dump truck driver hit 77-year-old Winnifred Matthias at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues in Brooklyn, an intersection where where taking a direct path can be safer than using its long and indirect crosswalks. NYPD said Edgar Torres “appeared to be walking in the street, outside the crosswalk” when an MTA bus driver ran him over at Myrtle Avenue and Palmetto Street, on the Brooklyn-Queens border, though a subsequent report said Torres was in a crosswalk and crossing with the signal when he was struck.
Brad Aaron began writing for Streetsblog in 2007, after years as a reporter, editor, and publisher in the alternative weekly business. Brad adopted New York's dysfunctional traffic justice system as his primary beat for Streetsblog. He lives in Manhattan.
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