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Reckless Driver Plows Into Sunset Park Outdoor Dining Area, Injuring Patrons

Paramedics help a victim after a pickup truck plowed through an outdoor dining area in Sunset Park on Tuesday. Photo: Lincoln Restler

The driver of a pickup truck plowed into the outdoor seating area of a Sunset Park restaurant on Tuesday night, sending three people to the hospital with minor injuries, according to police and witnesses — a scary incident caught on camera that highlights again that no one is safe wherever motorists are allowed to drive.

"The speed at which the city rolled out Open Restaurants was pretty impressive, but clearly more ought to be done to keep people safe from those driving multi-ton machines at point-blank range. What's stopping the city from implementing a lower speed limit on streets with restaurant seating at the curb?” said Joe Cutrufo of Transportation Alternatives.

Police say the driver behind the wheel of a Ford pickup truck rammed into the seating area outside L’Wren on Fifth Avenue near 41st Street, where people were enjoying dinner and drinks at about 8 p.m.

The weight of the moving 5,000-pound vehicle shoved the heavy barricades, meant to keep cars, out into patrons, knocking one of them onto the floor, and scaring two kids who were eating dinner with their mom, according to a witness.

"All of a sudden this large truck veers into the barriers, knocking people from their chairs," said Lincoln Restler. "The mother in real time scooped up her two kiddos and pulled them away so fortunately they were fine."

Paramedics took three people to Lutheran Hospital for minor injuries. And the driver, who police say was not intoxicated, remained on the scene and was handed a summons for driving without a license, according to police.

Restler told Streetsblog that the terrifying moment underscored the need for restaurants to properly install adequate barriers, but more so the need for the city to crack down on reckless drivers.

"I love the activation of parking spaces into outdoor cafes, restaurants, and bars to have the opportunity to survive through this crisis," he said. “I think that reducing the speed of traffic on streets where there’s outdoor dining seem like prudent policy and there should be deliberate efforts to reduce traffic speed and volume in these areas.”

The block is part of the city’s open streets program for restaurants that Mayor de Blasio announced earlier this month to allow struggling eateries to operate in the roadway since indoor dining is still off limits due to the pandemic, but it’s only closed to traffic on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and weekends from noon to 11 pm, according to the Department of Transportation.

Restaurant consultant Henry Rinehart has long said that the limited weekend hours should be expanded to all week so that drivers can get in the habit of avoiding certain streets entirely.

And earlier this month, another driver rammed into the outdoor dining area of a restaurant in Queens, injuring four patrons and a waitress, according to NY1

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