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Garbage Truck Driver Admits to Causing Crash That Killed Cyclist Hoyt Jacobs

The truck driver who killed cyclist Hoyt Jacobs in Long Island City last year admitted to causing the crash and pled guilty to violating the victim's right of way.

Hoyt Jacobs was cycling lawfully when he was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver who failed to signal a right turn.
Hoyt Jacobs was cycling lawfully when he was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver who failed to signal a right turn.
Hoyt Jacobs was cycling lawfully when he was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver who failed to signal a right turn.

Jacobs was riding north on Vernon Boulevard at around 7:15 p.m. last January 17 when Frank Alibrandi, also northbound, hit him with a Mack truck while turning right onto 41st Avenue, according to the NYPD crash report [PDF].

Jacobs was killed on a segment of Vernon Boulevard where DOT elected to install sharrows rather than a bike lane in order to preserve curbside parking. If DOT had installed a continuous two-way protected bike lane on Vernon Boulevard, Hoyt Jacobs might still be alive.

The crash report says Jacobs was dragged by the truck for 25 feet, and that Alibrandi kept driving for another 237 feet before stopping. Jacobs, a writer who worked as a tutor at New York City College of Technology, died at the scene. He was 36.

NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown charged Alibrandi under Section 19-190, also known as the Right of Way Law. In addition, Alibrandi was summonsed for careless driving and failing to signal.

The truck Alibrandi was driving was owned by Manhattan Demolition, a private sanitation company. Private trash haulers kill more pedestrians per mile than any other type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF].

Last month Alibrandi acknowledged in court that he did not signal before turning, and that he struck Jacobs, who was following traffic rules at the time of the collision, according to Steve Vaccaro, the attorney for Jacobs's family. Alibrandi also admitted to failing to use due care, and entered a conditional guilty plea to the Right of Way Law violation.

Under the terms of the plea, if he pays fines totaling around $1,000 and completes a driver safety course, the misdemeanor Right of Way Law charge will be vacated and Alibrandi will be allowed to plead to a Section 19-190 traffic infraction.

Vaccaro said the DA's office negotiated the plea agreement in consultation with Jacobs's family after the judge indicated she might be inclined to dismiss the case.

Because of the misdemeanor provision of Section 19-190, Vaccaro said, the DA's office was able to pursue all charges, including the traffic infractions, "as a package in criminal court." Otherwise it would have been up to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which has let drivers off the hook for fatal failure to yield collisions, to penalize Alibrandi.

Vaccaro credited Assistant District Attorney Suzanne Bettis for pursuing the case.

"Had there not been the unclassified misdemeanor charge under the Right of Way Law, none of this would have happened," said Vaccaro. "There would not have been an admission of guilt to the traffic violations."

The outcome of the criminal case should be a factor in civil court proceedings and at Alibrandi's DMV hearing, which will determine whether his driving privileges will be affected. Vaccaro said Alibrandi's license was suspended for a time, but it's unknown if he is currently permitted to drive.

Alibrandi's next court appearance is scheduled for September.

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