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Reckless Driver and Poor Street Design Kill Skylar Perkins, Age 1, in Queens

12:11 PM EDT on March 24, 2017

Poor intersection design at 23rd Avenue at 94th Street in East Elmhurst contributed to the crash that killed Skylar Perkins. Image: Google Maps

A motorist in a pickup truck struck and killed a baby in East Elmhurst last night.

Skylar Perkins, age 1, was hit as she and her mother crossed 23rd Avenue at 94th Street at around 9 p.m., according to DNA and AMNY. Police said 44-year-old Wallace Ramirez was turning right from 94th Street in a Dodge Ram when he ran over Skylar’s stroller.

From DNA:

"She yelled at the driver because the driver didn't see her, and the driver rolled right over the front of the stroller," witness Philip Walker, 39, said.

The distraught mom ran right over to her baby, pulling the pink and black stroller out from under the truck once it stopped, he said.

"She just kept saying 'My baby, my baby, God no, you hit my baby.' And when the driver got out, she ran at him once he finally realized he hit the stroller," he said.

Skylar sustained severe injuries to her head and body. Police detectives who were near the scene took her to Elmhurst Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Her mother was not injured, reports said.

Ramirez, who is from Massachusetts, was arrested and charged with a Right of Way Law violation and failure to exercise due care.

The intersection where Skylar was struck has not been identified by the city as a priority under the Vision Zero initiative, but conditions there invite drivers to take turns at dangerous speeds.

Both 23rd Avenue and 94th Street are two-way streets with excessive asphalt, no traffic-calming, and no signal priority to give pedestrians a head start in the crosswalk. The sidewalks at street corners do not extend past the curb line, and the crosswalks are poorly marked and maintained. A skinny median divides the four lanes on 23rd Avenue but provides no refuge for pedestrians, because it doesn't extend through the crosswalk.

In a statement, Transportation Alternatives called Skylar's death "a moment of reckoning" for the city and street safety advocates:

Even now in the Vision Zero era, there are several proven safety enhancements that are still absent at thousands of city intersections. These include but are not limited to raised, high-visibility crosswalks and “daylighting” treatments that remove parking at and near the corners to ensure that motorists can have a clean line of sight and can see pedestrians as they are turning. At the intersection where Skylar Perkins was killed, there is a missed opportunity to extend the 23rd Avenue median to become a pedestrian island, and crosswalk markings are faded and patchy.

In addition to the curb extensions the DOT is installing around the city to keep drivers from making fast turns and lessen crossing distances for pedestrians, the city must install more crosswalk signals that give pedestrians dedicated time to cross safely, or, at the very least, a “Leading Pedestrian Interval” head start before drivers are able to enter the intersection. Policy makers, advocates and neighborhood activists across the city will need to look more seriously at other potential solutions, from “Barnes dance” signals that allow pedestrians to cross in all directions before drivers are allowed to proceed, to special traffic traffic light timing during nighttime hours, when pedestrians are particularly at risk.

This fatal crash occurred in the 115th Precinct, where an unlicensed driver killed eight-month old Navraj Raju on a sidewalk last year, and in the City Council district represented by Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.

Motorists killed at least two more New York City pedestrians yesterday.

At around noon, Danielle Leathers, 44, was struck on Bruckner Boulevard at E. 138th Street in the Bronx by an oil truck driver who amputated the victim's legs. NYPD told the media Leathers was "crossing against the light."

In the third fatal crash of the day, a driver in a Honda SUV hit an unidentified 58-year-old man on Harlem River Drive at W. 158th Street in Manhattan at approximately 11 p.m.

Police filed no charges in either case.

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