NYPD Blames Teen Killed by SI Motorist Before Completing Investigation

A motorist waits to make a left turn from Hylan Boulevard onto Bayview Avenue, the same turn taken by the driver who struck and killed Jenna Daniels on Saturday afternoon. NYPD blamed Daniels for the collision. Image: Google Maps
A motorist waits to make a left turn from Hylan Boulevard onto Bayview Avenue, the same turn taken by the driver who struck and killed Jenna Daniels Saturday afternoon. NYPD blamed Daniels for the collision. Image: Google Maps

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.

This fatal crash occurred in the 123rd Precinct. Jenna Daniels was at least the second pedestrian killed by a motorist this year in the City Council district represented by Vincent Ignizio, who joins fellow Staten Island reps Debi Rose and Steven Matteo in having the council’s worst records on matters of street safety. To encourage Ignizio to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7390, vignizio@council.nyc.gov, or @VincentIgnizio.

According to the Advance, motorists have killed seven pedestrians in Staten Island in 2014, and DA Dan Donovan has charged one driver for causing a death.

  • r

    Any comment from Mayor de Blasio? Haven’t heard anything from him on traffic safety since he voiced his support for the texting and cycling bill.

    It’s your city, Bill. Your Vision Zero policy. Own it.

  • BBnet3000

    The severity of the crash for the victim was likely exacerbated by the huge lifted monster truck that hit her and unfortunately probably rolled over her. When hit by a regular car, after the force of the impact itself you are at least not going to be ran over most of the time if the driver stops.

    Lifted trucks are dangerous on the road, and not just for pedestrians and cyclists. They ride up over other cars when they get in crashes.

  • J

    Blaming a pedestrian for not staying strictly in the crosswalks is like blaming a shooting victim for not wearing a bullet proof vest. It utterly removes the responsibility from the source of the danger in the first place.

  • J

    #Visionzero

  • Brad Aaron

    Right @BBnet3000:disqus. This tool is barreling around NYC in a tinted monster truck and NYPD considers him the victim.

  • Jason

    That dude was driving a ridiculous, “I’m an insecure man” truck in a dense, crowded city with a 24-hour mass transit system – and the NYPD starts the conversation by pointing fingers at the runner.

    Awesome.

  • Reader

    Mark Treyger could do a world of good if he introduced legislation banning trucks with these kinds of post-factory modifications from being street legal in NYC. No e-bikes, but you can drive around in one of these? It makes zero sense.

  • lop

    In general, when crossing midblock is permitted unless there is a marked crosswalk doesn’t the pedestrian have to yield to cars that have the ROW? You make it soud like it’s the opposite.

    Though I don’t think that could apply to cars that haven’t entered the road yet i.e. they have yet to turn onto the street, or leave their driveway etc…

  • alexblac

    Another great reason to raise the gas tax. Nobody drives those in Europe, here it’s a lifestyle choice (the lifestyle of being angry and fat that is).

  • qrt145

    It’s hard to yield when you are already in the middle of the street and the motorist just turned into it.

  • WalkingNPR

    I’m so tired of seeing these police reports: he wasn’t on a phone, he wasn’t drunk, he wasn’t speeding….so? He still wasn’t paying ATTENTION to the human in the path of his car. And that is also a responsibility of someone driving a (don’t even get me started on the unnecessariness of the style of) vehicle on the road as much as not being drunk or speeding.

    It makes about as much sense as investigating a shooting and declaring no fault because the perpetrator wasn’t kidnapping or bank robbing or committing mail fraud at the time.

  • In fact, at least as far as I understand the laws in Ontario, turning drivers in that type of situation have to yield to traffic in the road they’re turning onto. That includes crossing pedestrians.

  • Joe R.

    I’m pretty sure you’re right. When crossing midblock, or at crosswalks where there is no traffic signal or stop/yield sign (i.e. like some of the ones near me on 164th Street), motor vehicles have the ROW. That still doesn’t apply here as the motorist turned left onto the street, and Jenna wasn’t so far out of the crosswalk that he couldn’t have seen her.

  • Raising the gas tax won’t stop people driving those types of vehicles, the gas tax has zero effect on the size of one’s dick.

  • ZeroVision. 🙁

  • Joe R.

    SUVs should be banned in NYC, period, and pickup trucks should only be allowed if you have a business reason for needing them.

  • lop

    No, pedestrians have the ROW at a crosswalk, marked or unmarked, even with no stop sign/traffic light.

    I’m just confused by the claim that since mid block crossings are permitted that means the driver did not have the ROW.

  • Bobberooni

    …and in other news, Streetsblog blames the driver before completing investigation.

  • Joe R.

    The relevant section here is 4-04(b):

    (b) Right of way in crosswalks.

    (1) Operators to yield to pedestrians in crosswalk. When traffic control signals or pedestrian control signals are not in place or not in operation, the operator of a vehicle shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing a roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is in the path of the vehicle or is approaching so closely thereto as to be in danger.

    (2) Pedestrians shall not cross in front of oncoming vehicles. Notwithstanding the provisions of (1) of this subdivision (b), no pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the operator to yield.

    (3) Vehicles stopped for pedestrians. Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the operator of any other vehicle approaching from the rear in the same or adjacent lanes shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.

    Basically, at unmarked, unsignalized, crossings with no stop/yield sign the motor vehicle has to yield to pedestrians already in crosswalk. A pedestrian however can’t just step out into traffic according to subsection (2) and expect the right-of-way. What this means in practice is that pedestrians at such crossings have to wait for a gap in traffic. When such a gap appears, then may start crossing. If any vehicles turn onto the road, or exit parking spaces, while they’re crossing then those vehicles must yield the right-of-way.

    I didn’t find anything about midblock crossings but I would assume subsection (2) applies. That said, there’s also subsection 4-04(d):

    (d) Operators to exercise due care. Notwithstanding other provisions of these rules, the operator of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian.

    I would take that to mean if you see a person crossing in front of you it means you do whatever is in your power to avoid colliding with them, regardless of whether or not that person is complying with traffic laws.

  • BBnet3000

    I’d love to see you try to quote where in the story that happened, but given that its the responsibility of the driver to yield to a pedestrian, theres a certain logic to assuming they’re at fault.

  • Oh, jeez. That old trope. Asking the NYPD to refrain from blaming the victim reflexively pending the outcome of a thorough investigation does not equal blaming the driver. Streetsblog and most advocates I know only ever ask that the NYPD show some restraint before leaping to exonerate the driver in the press. We also ask that an investigation be made so that innocent drivers don’t get convicted unjustly, if drivers were getting convictions at all. But, hey, we’re just radical bike zealots and all that.

    This part isn’t hard to understand:

    “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.”

    Either they’re still investigating or they know definitively that the kid was at fault so it’s more or less over. Which is it? As we saw with the Allie Liao case, once the narrative is out there that the victim was at fault and the driver couldn’t have avoided killing someone, it’s awfully hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube.

  • SteveVaccaro

    When a pedestrian is making a legal mid-block crossing, she has a duty not to enter the path of a vehicle in a manner that leaves the driver no chance to stop. The driver has a duty to use due care to avoid striking the pedestrian under those circumstances. There is no applicable law I can find that gives one or the other the right of way, although one might be implied from custom. (There is a NY state law that gives the motorist the right of way in these circumstances–VTL 1152–but NYC has superseded that law and it does not apply within city limits, 34 RCNY 4-02(e)).

    And to be clear, I’m not “blaming the motorist before the investigation is done.” I’m trying to figure out what legal rules applied to this crash based on the fragmentary evidence available. There may be evidence (other than the driver’s story) that Daniels suddenly entered the path of the vehicle. But even if she did so, it is unlikely that the resulting collision would have caused her death–unless the driver was exceeding the speed limit that should have applied in this situation (below 20MPH, given (1) 25MPH default max; (2) no sidewalks (3) block allowing mid-block crossings and no thru traffic and (4) nothing apparent in the photos I’ve seen that would have blocked driver’s view of the presence of a pedestrian).

    The point is, whoever was at fault, the vehicle’s speed is the most likely reason that Daniels is no longer alive.

  • SteveVaccaro

    The section on mid-block crossing (and any other crossing by a pedestrian that is not in a crosswalk) is right below the one that Joe excerpts:

    “(c) Restrictions on crossings.

    (3) No pedestrian shall cross a roadway except at a crosswalk on any block in which traffic control signals are in operation at both intersections bordering the block.”

    There is no rule about where pedestrians must cross when not at an intersection on a block that is not bounded by traffic control signals. That means mid-block crossings are allowed.

  • Brad Aaron

    That’s your takeaway?

  • The Troglodyte Warrior, Part 3

    Would love to see a rule where reporters cannot assign blame in either direction until an investigation is complete. For goodness sake at least wait 24 hours so that all angles of any crash can be brought up. There is such a speed at which the NYPD wants to make some of these over as quickly as possible. We are talking people’s lives. Waiting 24 hours before saying anything to a reporter – and reporter’s respecting the right to try not and get an off-the-record quote (and then report it as fact) isn’t much to ask for.

  • You seem to have written a comment before completely reading the post.

  • lop

    I see, thanks for the clarification.

    Is there any data on pedestrian survival rate for different vehicle types at a given speed? I wonder if with a raised truck even 20 is likely to kill.

  • lop

    Go a step further, only permit their use for a valid business reason.

  • Keegan Stephan

    What do you mean “according to the Collision Investigation Squad report.” Has someone seen the CIS report?

  • Larry Littlefield

    To me this is remarkably similar to the most recent incident of a bicyclist killing a pedestrian. In each case the cause of death was someone going to fast for the conditions — in pedestrian packed Central Park, and making a turn onto a quiet, one-way street. To me that’s reckless endangerment.

    My guess is the driver wanted to make a turn before the arrival of high speed traffic coming in the other direction, to avoid being stuck at the light like the vehicle in the picture. He either cut the corner to get out of the wrong lane of Hylan Boulevard as fast as possible, striking the girl as she first started moving across, or whipped around the turn fast and hit her on the opposite side. Either way, my guess is his attention was on the oncoming vehicles, not the unexpected possibility of a pedestrian on Staten Island.

    There are other similarities. Both the bicyclist and the driver were using equipment that made a statement.

    The bicyclists outfit, track bars and time counter all make the statement “I’m trying to go as fast as possible, get out of my way.” Which made him a target. His name was released, and his equipment discussed extensively in the press (and on Streetsblog).

    The driver’s vehicle does not exactly send the message that he is likely to drive like a mother in a minivan carrying a bunch of girls to a soccer game. It screams “get the f__k out of my way or my testosterone-fueled machine will squash you!” Somehow his name was not released for a similar public shaming, nor was his vehicle much discussed in the press (except on Streetsblog).

    There is a difference of course. In one case you have someone on a bicycle running down a senior. And in another you have someone in a motor vehicle running down a teen.

  • Andrew

    Basically, at unmarked, unsignalized, crossings with no stop/yield sign the motor vehicle has to yield to pedestrians already in crosswalk. A pedestrian however can’t just step out into traffic according to subsection (2) and expect the right-of-way. What this means in practice is that pedestrians at such crossings have to wait for a gap in traffic. When such a gap appears, then may start crossing.

    I don’t think that’s correct. What this means is that motorists should be watching for approaching pedestrians at marked and unmarked crosswalks and are required to stop for any pedestrian in or about to enter the crosswalk, but that pedestrians should nonetheless not step in front of a vehicle that cannot possibly stop in time.

    What you describe is pedestrians yielding to motorists, not motorists yielding to pedestrians. That isn’t what the law calls for.

    (Not that this is ever enforced in New York. Ever. At all. In Fort Lee, however…)

  • Joe R.

    You’re right that I described pedestrians yielding to motorists, but think about this for a second on a practical (not a legal) level. If there’s a solid line of vehicles at a crosswalk with no traffic signal or stop sign then no pedestrian in his/her right mind will start crossing until a gap appears. By gap I don’t necessarily mean a gap long enough to cross the entire street, but rather one long enough so the next car coming is maybe at least a block away. If you do that, then that approaching car can easily see and should yield to the person who is now crossing, although chances are good by the time it reaches the crosswalk, the pedestrian will have already crossed the lane the car was in, and no yielding will be necessary.

    As for approaching pedestrians, thanks to cars parked right up to the crosswalk, plus the possibility of tall vehicles being parked, for practical purposes in much of NYC a driver can’t actually see a pedestrian until that person is in the crosswalk and nearly in a traffic lane. By then there might not be enough time for the motor vehicle to stop even if it was only going 25 mph or less. In light of subsection (2), it’s very important for a person crossing a street with no signal or stop sign to consider when they will be visible to motorists. That determines how far away motor vehicles should be before they start crossing. I typically use one block as a guide. If a motor vehicle is a block away or closer, I let it pass before crossing. If not, I cross. I do the exact same thing when passing red lights on my bike-a block away or less-no go, any further, go if nobody is crossing in front of me.

    If NYC really could do what Fort Lee does, and also eliminate parking to improve lines of sight, then in many cases we could have uncontrolled intersections instead of traffic signals. That’s actually something worth pursuing as I feel overuse of traffic signals is one of the key factors encouraging reckless driving here.

    In fairness to the drivers at Fort Lee, the police should have made the duck cross once it stepped off the curb, not step on or off as if it wasn’t sure what it was going to do. While I favor laws protecting pedestrians, for their part pedestrians should behave predictably, look before crossing, and take no longer to cross than physically necessary. Obviously a 90-year old will take much longer to cross, but my point is anyone who intentionally confuses drivers as to their intent is violating the spirit of the law.

  • KillMoto

    How do we know where the victim was at the time of impact? The driver? I’ll suggest that without video, we should assume the victim was originally in the crosswalk.

  • Andrew

    If there’s a solid line of vehicles at a crosswalk with no traffic signal or stop sign then no pedestrian in his/her right mind will start crossing up a gap appears.

    Of course – because every pedestrian knows that those drivers are highly unlikely to yield, as the law requires. And those drivers don’t yield because even those who know that they are supposed to yield also know that the law is never enforced.

    To put it quite simply: although the law grants pedestrians the right of way in this case, motorists routinely claim that right for themselves by threatening to kill any pedestrian who dares to take it. Kind of like the way a mugger takes somebody’s wallet by threatening to kill him, except that the police take one situation very seriously while completely ignoring the other.

  • Cold Shoaler

    Right?! The list of non-infractions is both infinate and totally irrelevant. Thanks, ‘rule of two’. Tinted windows don’t count apparently. Curious that it was so quickly determined they weren’t a contributing factor. Why then are they illegal? #stopandfrisk

    I’m getting tinted windows for my bike so the coppers can’t see that I’m texting.

  • Cold Shoaler

    Reducing on-street parking that is practically in intersections in this city would do more good than a default 25mph speed limit, especially given the likely enforcement of each.

  • Andres Dee

    I’ve seen a lot of motorists take aggressive lefts on stroads like Hylan, scrambling people crossing and barely missing cyclists. The victim’s position on the road would probably not have made a difference and should not be the focus.

  • com63

    I always wonder how they determine this too. How do they know that the collision didn’t move the pedestrian? These reports should really be made public so we have a better idea of how the investigation is done.

  • com63

    Left turns in this city kill. I always prefer crossing one way streets, even when they are wide avenues in Manhattan because of this very issue.

  • com63

    Driver didn’t see a pedestrian, but the tinted windows didn’t contribute to the crash!!!!! That is just nuts.

  • Andres Dee

    “Further, there is no law in New York City prohibiting pedestrians from wearing headphones.”

    Sadly, I expect such a law to be passed eventually. No matter that cars are allowed to have hi-fi audio systems and can be soundproof. “We need to take away bicyclers’ and pededestrians’ earphones for their own good.”

  • MiklosMeszaros

    I understand the intent, but this isn’t even remotely enforceable. The legal implications and lawsuits would overthrow any legislature passed and likely have any politician out of office for supporting it. Its a poor way to approach the problem as you can’t restrict people from using their primary mode of transportation which isn’t illegal. A few roads are also federally funded, making a law like this be a potential conflict. In ending, this would never happen.

    More likely would be a higher cost tolls for SUV and light trucks. Just to dissuade people from using or purchasing vehicles as such, unless truly required.

  • MiklosMeszaros

    If the vehicle in question has been modified and the changes made reduce vehicle safety, what liabilities is the driver potentially open to? The vehicle pictured shows modifications that differ than any option provided by the manufacture. These modifications alter the vehicles safety equipment and reduce visibility to all objects immediately near to any of its sides, most particular to the front or back.

    If there are no laws restricting vehicle modifications that affect its safety performance or its ability to be safely operated without special license, should this be evaluated?

  • Guest

    Have you even been to Staten Island? The mass transit system is horrendous.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It’s very easy to do if you aren’t careful. You realize too late someone might be crossing, and you end up stuck in the road with someone coming at you.

    Better to chill out and wait it out than take a chance.

  • Andres Dee

    Has anyone taken a good look at this intersection via Street View? There’s no pavement on the Hylan “sidewalk” (that feeds the “crosswalk”) north of Bayview. Further, the north side of Bayview is even worse, with the “sidewalk” blocked by a guardrail and timbers. How, in NYC, can we have such “incomplete” streets? Where is a person supposed to walk and not be held responsible by the authorities for the inevitable injuries and deaths that will occur?

  • ddartley

    Close. Given the fact that more peds are hit IN crosswalks, I’d make that “a tinfoil bullet proof vest.”

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