Another 2-Year-Old Killed by SUV Driver Who Apparently Didn’t See Her

This Google street view reflects what the driver saw as she exited the Stop and Shop on Forest Avenue in Staten Island. Photo: Google
This Google street view reflects what the driver saw as she exited the Stop and Shop on Forest Avenue in Staten Island. Photo: Google

For the second time in a week, a tiny tot has been run down and killed by the driver of a massive SUV who could not see the small child over the gargantuan vehicle.

According to police, Autumn Garrison, 2, was walking with her mother eastbound on the north sidewalk of Forest Avenue at around 1:45 p.m. on Friday when the pair crossed in front of a Stop and Shop mini-mall whose exit spills cars onto what is often a busy sidewalk near a bus stop just east of the shopping center exit.

According to a police source, the girl was trailing her mother by about eight feet when the 69-year-old driver of a 2014 Ford Explorer SUV exited the parking lot with the light. The driver has a legal responsibility to not drive over pedestrians on sidewalks, but the official police put the blame elsewhere: “The 2-year-old female walked in front of the vehicle,” the agency’s public information office said in a statement. “The vehicle struck the child, knocked her to the sidewalk and subsequently drove over her.”

The driver remained at the scene, and she was not charged. Little Autumn was taken to Richmond University Medical Center, where she died.

It may be hard to understand how the driver did not see the girl, but such visibility flaws are common on SUVs. Indeed, Cars.com had criticized the 2014 Ford Explorer for having “thick [front] pillars that restrict sight lines.”

And just five days before Friday’s crash, another 2-year-old was run over by an SUV driver who never saw her. In that crash, Leilani Rosales had wandered away from her mother’s sight just as her mother’s boyfriend, who had just dropped off the family from a pumpkin-picking outing, was pulling away in his 2021 Nissan Rogue. The girl was crushed, and, apparently the driver never saw her.

“She walked in front of the car,” the girl’s grandfather told the Daily News. “She’s 2 feet. You can’t see her.”

Data: DOT
Data: DOT

Then as now, the driver was not charged. A police source called it an “accident.”

Design flaws, plus extreme weight, height and length, make SUVs particularly dangerous. And predictably deadly. According to city stats, roughly 25 percent of pedestrians killed in crashes between 2014 and 2016 were killed by SUV drivers. But by the 2017 to 2019 three-year period 38 percent of pedestrians who were killed died under the wheels of an SUV, an increase of 52 percent.

The Department of Transportation has said it is tracking SUV carnage as a result of the uptick.

It is well documented that SUVs are causing more death nationwide; A study by the Governors Highway Safety Association showed that between 2010 to 2019, the number of pedestrians killed by an SUV driver increased by 69 percent, while the number involving passenger cars was up 46 percent. But that disparity could also be explained by the fact that SUVs make up an increasing portion of the overall vehicle fleet.

More tellingly, the weight of SUVs is also causing more death: Last year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety   said the additional weigh of SUVs make them more lethal than cars, while researchers from Rowan University in New Jersey also blamed the boxiness of SUV design, which leads to victims being struck higher on the body.

“Not to diminish leg injuries, but serious head and chest injuries can actually kill you,” Hampton Clay Gabler, a professor at Virginia Tech, told USA Today.

Such crashes are one reason why Brooklyn State Sen. Andrew Gounardes is pushing a bill that would require automakers to create crash test ratings not simply for occupants of the car, but also for those outside the vehicle — road users who are increasingly victimized even as fatalities for drivers have decreased.

Regardless of the kinds of cars involved in crashes, the sidewalk in front of that Stop and Shop mini-mall on Forest Avenue is a particularly dangerous stretch of pedestrian infrastructure. Since January 2019, there have been 27 crashes on the one block of sidewalk comprising both car exits of the shopping center, injuring one cyclist, one pedestrian and two motorists, according to city statistics.

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