Motorist Kills Kayshawn Whitick, 13, on 5th Avenue in Harlem, and NYPD Blames the Child

Drivers have killed at least 20 children age 14 and under since the 2014 launch of the city’s Vision Zero initiative.

Motorists have injured 22 people walking, and killed two, at Fifth Avenue and 135th Street since 2009. Fifty-six motor vehicle occupants were injured in crashes at the intersection during that time frame, a sign of drivers colliding at high speeds.
Motorists have injured 22 people walking, and killed two, at Fifth Avenue and 135th Street since 2009. Fifty-six motor vehicle occupants were injured in crashes at the intersection during that time frame, a sign of drivers colliding at high speeds.

A 13-year-old boy hit by a motorist in Harlem last week has died from his injuries. NYPD filed no charges and blamed the child in the media.

Kayshawn Whitick
Kayshawn Whitick

Traffic crashes consistently rank as the leading cause of injury-related death of children in NYC. Drivers have killed at least 20 kids age 14 and under since the 2014 launch of the city’s Vision Zero street safety program, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog.

Kayshawn Whitick was struck by a 42-year-old woman driving a Jeep as he crossed E. 135th Street at Fifth Avenue at around 4 p.m. last Wednesday, August 16. He sustained severe head trauma and died the next day.

According to NYPD, the driver, whose identity was withheld, was eastbound on E. 135th and Whitick was crossing north to south, on the east side of Fifth. NYPD told the press the victim ran into the driver’s path and was not in the crosswalk, and said the driver “had a green light.”

Police did not say how fast the woman who hit Whitick was driving, and downplayed her role in the collision. “The driver had already entered the intersection when Whitick ran into the street and did not stop in time to avoid hitting him,” unnamed NYPD sources told Patch. NYPD often accepts the driver’s version of events in cases where a crash victim is no longer alive to speak for himself.

Family members told DNAinfo Whitick was with his twin brother at the time of the crash, and that he was running away from another motorist who believed Kayshawn had thrown a bottle at his car.

“The driver got out of the car and started chasing after Kayshawn,” his aunt, Crystal Whitick, said. “By Kayshawn being so scared, he ran into the street to get away from the guy.”

The NYPD didn’t have any information on whether Whitick was being pursued when he was hit.

“Kayshawn was very talented,” the victim’s aunt said. “He was good at art. He was good at basketball. He was a good dancer. He was going to high school in September. Now he’s not gonna make it there.”

Where they intersect, Fifth Avenue and 135th Street are wide streets that lack bike lanes and other traffic-calming features, despite the close proximity to an elementary school and its playground. Motorists have injured 22 people walking at Fifth and 135th since 2009, according to city crash data. Fifty-six motor vehicle occupants were injured in crashes at the intersection during that time frame — an indication of drivers frequently colliding at high speeds. A motorist killed another person walking at Fifth and 135th in 2016.

“It’s a very dangerous corner, and it shouldn’t be,” Whitick’s grandmother, Diane Samuel, told DNAinfo. “They should have speed bumps. They should have lights.”

Samuel said she will push officials for traffic-calming measures at the intersection where her grandson was killed. “I don’t want him to die in vain,” she said.

  • AMH

    Of course the NYPD did not investigate the driver who chased the young man into the street.

    This area suffers from proximity to the Harlem River Drive, with heavy traffic and drivers speeding to get on and off the highway. Pedestrians constantly have to jump back as turning drivers violate their right-of-way. NYCDOT should absolutely tighten down the corners with sidewalk extensions, and add a dedicated left-turn lane on westbound 135th to cut down on high-speed lane changes. More bollards could help too–right now only the east side of the intersection has them.

  • Andrew

    “The driver had already entered the intersection when Whitick ran into the street and did not stop in time to avoid hitting him,” unnamed NYPD sources told Patch.

    In other words, the driver was approaching the intersection at such a high speed that, even after seeing Whitick and trying to stop, she still managed to strike him so hard that he was killed.

    Surely somebody out there is curious how fast she was going?

    (Hint: There’s a bank at the corner. Perhaps it has a surveillance camera? Many banks do.)

  • walks bikes drives

    I’m confused about the driver entering the intersection but the kid not being in the crosswalk. Does that mean that the kid ran diagonally across the intersection or that the driver was through the intersection before the kid entered the roadway? Either way, from the sound of things, and from them saying he was running away from someone, I would not be so quick to just put blame on the driver. Given that it was a Jeep, that is a heavy vehicle.

    And as a teacher, I see kids running out into the street all the time without looking and, luckily, cars have stopped in time.

  • Brad Aaron

    Children are never responsible for traffic crashes.

  • Albert

    On the rare occasions that I find myself a passenger in a car, I’m horrified at the high speeds that “regular” drivers take through residential areas (or pretty much any area, for that matter) — and, most frighteningly, through areas with narrow streets or where there are virtually no sightlines (parked cars, hills, curves). There’s absolutely no question that if anyone — child or adult, ped or cyclist — were to appear around one of those curves or over the crest of one of those hills, the driver would be unable to deal with it.

    A driver who doesn’t drive as if a “darting child” could appear at any time are at fault if they hit someone, regardless of street design. A driver is not *required* to drive at some arbitrarily chosen speed limit at all times and everywhere.

  • AMH

    Jeeps should be illegal in NYC.

  • William Lawson

    Seems like the NYPD could easily determine her probable speed from a combination of the kid’s injuries, any skid marks on the road, nearby surveillance cameras etc. And if she was going any faster than the 25mph speed limit then this could be used in a charge against her. If she had been within the speed limit, maybe the kid would’ve survived. But that would involve the cops actually doing a proper investigation and as we know, they’re quite prepared to take our tax $$$’s but not so keen on fulfilling their side of the bargain by actually doing their jobs.

  • Exactly. If a driver is cannot stop at the sudden appearance of a pedestrian, then that driver was either going too fast, not paying sufficient attention, or both. We need this basic fact enshrined in law.

  • I will bang this drum forever: In a crowded city, people – including kids – don’t come out of nowhere. They come out of everywhere.

  • There’s something about proximity to highways that brings out the worst in motorists.

    Maybe it’s time to tear some of ’em down.

  • AMH

    It really does. I was biking along 12th Av under Riverside Drive, and an SUV driver in a hurry to get on the Henry Hudson whipped to the left and accelerated directly at me (I was going straight and had the right of way). I screamed and she slammed on the brakes. I think that’s the closest I’ve ever come to dying. I couldn’t bring myself to ride for weeks after that scare.

  • UGH. Sorry you had that experience. We gotta get better transit/walking/biking infrastructure – and rules enforcement – in place before more lives are needlessly lost!

  • walks bikes drives

    If we were talking about a 4 year old who ran into traffic, then it wouldnt be the kids fault but the caregiver. It really erks me to hear people say that every time a child is hurt or worse in a traffic crash, it is the fault of the driver. Because that is simply naivety, ignorance, stupidity, or a combination of all three. The only way a driver could stop in time in 100% of situations is if the driver were driving under 5 mph. It is not possible for a cyclist to be able to stop in 100% of situations. It is not even possible for a pedestrian to stop in 100% of situations. When I drive down a residential street, I’m typically doing about 20mph. But even at 20mph, I won’t be able to avoid 100% of situations. And when someone runs in front of a moving vehicle, combining reaction time with stopping distance leaves a section of blacktop that a vehicle would just not be able to stop. Granted this is speed sensitive, but it will always exist unless the vehicle is not moving. And vehicles are not leaving our city streets. We can lower the number of vehicles, but we are not going to get rid of them. So people are going to have to accept that they are there and not act like they are not. A 13 year old running into the street is as in control of his own actions as you are. Pedestrians, even those below legal age, are just as capable of causing a crash as a driver and can be just as culpable. Arguing against that is just simply the polar opposite of windshield perspective. Reality is somewhere in between. But taking an extremist stance and immediately and without factual reason casting blame on a driver just because they were driving is no better than those that immediately cast blame on a pedestrian or cyclist, just because they were NOT driving a car. I am all for skepticism as to what NYPD puts out, but in this case the family seems to back up their version of events since the twin brother was there as well. Jumping to immediate conclusions that the driver was at fault because a 13 year old can’t possibly be, or even going right to the idea that speed was a factor is preposterous and just gets people who are not die-hard street safety advocates to think of those who are as total nutcases. Extremist views do not convince the unconvinced to side with you. Common sense prevails. All too often, there is just a lack of common sense abound.

  • walks bikes drives

    Case in point – my small son was with me on the side of the shared greenway path just north of the GWB when he “darted” across the path to look over the wall without looking both ways as we have been trying to instill in him. A cyclist coming down the path jammed on his brakes and stopped with his front wheel inches from my son at the same time as I grabbed him and yanked him back. Had my son made his move 4 seconds later, the cyclist would never have stopped in time (boy, am I glad for his disc brakes). Would that have been the fault of the cyclist had he hit him in the latter scenario? No. Would I have blamed myself if he had gotten hurt? Of course. Would I actually have been at fault? No, I was on the side of a shared path with my son at my side within reach, but his fast movement would have taken just a split second for me to react to at which point he was in harms way. The cyclist wasn’t travelling too fast, nor was I being a poor father. Sometimes shit happens. Now, had the cyclist been practicing for the TdF and been travelling down that path at 25+mph, I’d feel differently, but he wasn’t. He was travelling at probably 12mph. Same with cars. If a car is traveling over the speed limit, yes, it is a problem. But a vehicle even travelling UNDER the speed limit can be involved in a lethal crash. Chances of lethality are lower, but still existent.

  • The reality is that, if a driver or a bicyclist cannot stop at the sudden appearance of a pedestrian, then that driver or bicyclist was going too fast, or was not sufficiently paying attention, or both.

    This needs to be enshrined in law.

  • walks bikes drives

    In order for this to be the case, then it must be enshrined in law that drivers or cyclists must be stationary. But hey, even that doesn’t work sometimes. One of my students once ran out into the road and was knocked over by a car that was stopped at a traffic light. Kid had to be taken in an ambulance because she hit her head on the pavement. I wouldn’t have believed it had I not witnessed it with my own eyes.

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