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Another Queens Pedestrian is Dead — And Massive, Legal SUV is to Blame

The scene of the crash was near a school — in a 15-mile-per-hour zone. Photo: Google

A Queens pedestrian who was run down and critically injured by the driver of a 5,000-pound SUV on Sept. 16 died of her injuries a few days later — though the NYPD only revealed the death this morning.

Police said that the 44-year-old driver of a massive 2002 Chevy Tahoe hit Luz Ortega, 74, at around 7:30 a.m. on Sept. 16 as she allegedly crossed the residential 49th Avenue in Corona at midblock. She as knocked to the roadway and suffered head trauma. She died four days later at Elmhurst Hospital, police said in a statement.

Streetsblog called the NYPD for more information — including whether the driver was speeding or was distracted by his phone — but was told such information was not available, despite the fact that the crash was more than one month ago.

speed crash chart

But a police spokesman added one detail: The driver had just dropped off his child at a school on the block. That school, St. Leo's Catholic Academy, is indeed located midblock on the roadway, which has a speed limit of just 15 miles per hour.

Statistics show that a 70-year-old person has about a 94 percent chance of surviving a crash if hit at 15 miles per hour — a number that drops precipitously as a driver's speed increases (see chart, right).

Police would only say that the investigation is "ongoing." A call to the school was not immediately returned.

A Chevy Tahoe is one of the biggest SUVs available to the public. It weighs approximately 5,000 pounds, and its size and bulk contributes to its killing power.

On Thursday, Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg specifically called out these massive machines as a major factor behind the city's double-digit increase in pedestrian and cyclist deaths this year.

“When an SUV has a collision, it tends to be going at a faster speed, harder stopping distance, and it’s a much weightier vehicle and the center of gravity is higher,” she testified. “When it hits a pedestrian or cyclists, it’s much likely to do serious or fatal damage.”

Such vehicles are not banned, or even restricted, on New York City streets, though there is a growing movement in other cities to restrict them. In Berlin, where a child was killed over the summer by the driver of an SUV, there are mounting calls to ban such vehicles outright.

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