No ROW Charge for Garbage Hauler Who Killed Woman in UES Crosswalk

The driver of a private sanitation truck fatally struck Jodi McGrath at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver, and the white arrow shows the path of the victim. Image: Google Maps
The driver of a private sanitation truck fatally struck Jodi McGrath at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver, and the white arrow shows the path of the victim. Image: Google Maps

A pedestrian was struck and killed by the driver of a private garbage truck on the Upper East Side yesterday. Police determined the driver failed to yield but did not charge him with violating the Right of Way Law.

The crash happened at around 4:30 Tuesday morning. According to reports, Jodi McGrath was crossing First Avenue west to east, in a crosswalk and with the signal, when the driver hit her while turning left onto the avenue from E. 92nd Street, which is one-way eastbound.

McGrath, 55, was conscious and responsive at the scene, Gothamist reported, with injuries to her head, leg, and arm. She later died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The driver was a 58-year-old man whose identity was shielded by NYPD. Police summonsed the driver for failure to yield, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog, but crash investigators did not file charges under the Right of Way Law. The law, which made it a misdemeanor for motorists to harm people who are walking and biking with the right of way, is supposed to deter reckless driving while providing a measure of accountability for crashes that injure and kill thousands of New Yorkers a year. It’s been on the books for 19 months, but NYPD and city district attorneys rarely apply it.

Speaking at last week’s Vision Zero Cities conference, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton didn’t know when the Right of Way Law took effect. “Everything new takes a while to get ramped up,” Bratton said.

Private sanitation trucks have the highest pedestrian kill rate of any type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF]. Data tracked by Streetsblog show private trash haulers killed a cyclist and two pedestrians in 2015.

Fourteen people were injured in crashes at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street between 2010 and 2015, according to the city’s Vision Zero View map. Several of the injured were motor vehicle occupants, a sign of collisions at high speeds.

“You have to watch how you cross the street there. You have to pay attention to the signs because once that light changes green they take off like [it’s] a race,” a man who works near the scene of yesterday’s collision told the Post. “The cars around that corner, they come flying.”

Motorists have killed at least seven people walking in the 19th Precinct, where Tuesday’s crash occurred, since January 2015. The fatalities happened in City Council districts represented by Right of Way Law critic Ben Kallos, where McGrath was killed, and Dan Garodnick.

Officers from the 19th Precinct ticketed 1,184 drivers for failing to yield in 2015 — an average of around three per day — and issued all of 148 speeding tickets last year. If history is a guide, maybe the precinct will respond to the death of Jodi McGrath by ticketing more cyclists.

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