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Distracted Driving

Judge Bars Woman Who Killed Cyclist From Driving in NY, No Thanks to NYPD

When Caitlin Venedam struck and killed Matthew Brenner on Sands Street on July 6, 2014, NYPD blamed Brenner and let Venedam off without so much as a ticket. Now, thanks to evidence that police failed to collect, an administrative law judge with the Department of Motor Vehicles has barred Venedam from driving in New York state, according to DNAinfo.

Caitlin Venedam killed 29-year-old Matt Brenner in 2014 while she was distracted by her cell phone. Photo courtesy Leslie Newman.
Caitlin Venedam killed 29-year-old Matt Brenner in 2014 while she was distracted by her cell phone. Photo courtesy Leslie Newman
Caitlin Venedam killed 29-year-old Matt Brenner in 2014 while she was distracted by her cell phone. Photo courtesy Leslie Newman.

Venedam, 25 at the time, struck Brenner, 29, as she turned from eastbound Sands onto the ramp for the northbound BQE at 9:35 p.m. Police said Brenner was biking against traffic trying to cross the ramp when Venedam struck him, an explanation that his friends and family found unlikely.

Video evidence later contradicted NYPD's account, showing Brenner was not on the roadway, DNA reports, fitting a recurring pattern of police erroneously blaming the victims of fatal crashes.

As recently as last November, DMV had informed Brenner's family that it would not hold a hearing to review Venedam's driving privileges. DMV is supposed to hold hearings for every fatal crash but doesn't adhere to the policy in practice.

Thanks to a civil suit filed by the family, information surfaced that NYPD never collected in its crash investigation. In her deposition, Venedam said she had gotten off the highway to call a friend and check her location on Google Maps, which remained open in her passenger seat as she merged back onto the highway.

The lawyer for Brenner's estate, Daniel Flanzig, told DNA that this information was critical to Judge Regina Rinaldi's decision and blasted NYPD for its "completely insufficient" investigation.

Venedam, an actress who appeared in the TV series "Gossip Girl," is still allowed to drive elsewhere, including New Jersey, where she is licensed. She was cited four times between 2006 and 2012 for unsafe driving, speeding, not wearing a seat belt, and blocking traffic, according to NJ Motor Vehicle Commission records obtained by DNA.

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