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Two More Queens Pedestrians are Killed By Drivers (Neither of Whom Has Been Charged)

9:04 AM EDT on March 16, 2022

File photo: Dave Colon

Two more Queens pedestrians have died as a result of being hit by automobile drivers, including a 75-year-old woman who was backed over on Tuesday night and a senior who died of wounds incurred last week. Neither driver has been charged.

In Tuesday's back-over crash, police said Georgiana Belfiore, 75, was walking in a rear parking lot of a housing complex along 217th Street in the Oakland Gardens section at around 3:35 p.m. when an 83-year-old man, backing out of a garage in his new Mercedes Benz sedan, struck her and pinned her under the luxury car. She died on the scene.

The driver, whose name was not released, remained on the scene and was not charged. Belfiore lived in the same complex as the man who killed her.

And also on Tuesday, the NYPD announced that an 88-year-old man who had been struck on Northern Boulevard on Friday night had died.

In that case, police said that the 52-year-old driver of a Honda Fit made an illegal left turn out of a parking lot on the westbound side of Northern Boulevard near 147th Street and struck Thomas Soong, a pedestrian, who was crossing the roadway and likely did not see the car making the illegal turn. Soong, who lived nearby in Flushing, was taken to New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Queens, where he died on Monday night.

Police confirmed on Wednesday that there was no arrest in that case, despite the illegal turn, but said the investigation is "ongoing." Back-over crashes are almost by definition worthy of a charge of failure to exercise due care and, when on the sidewalk, failure to yield.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than half a million backing crashes happen each year, causing 30,000 injuries and roughly 300 deaths. Many of these crashes could have been avoided if the drivers were more aware of the dangers of driving in reverse and knew the appropriate techniques to offset the hazards, said Tony Douglas, president and CEO of Smith System, a driver training course.

“Backing crashes are one of the most common because drivers tend to let their guard down when driving in reverse,” said Douglas said in 2018. “Since they’re not traveling at a high rate of speed, drivers often lose their focus, and focus is always critical for safety. Backing and parking are moments when drivers need to focus their full attention on the driving environment.”

Chart: DOT
Chart: DOT

This year continues to be an exceptionally violent year in the Vision Zero era, with 26 pedestrians killed through March 14 of this year, up from 23 over the same period last year, which ended up being the bloodiest year since 2013. Neither of the deaths just announced by police are included in the Department of Transportation's chart, right.

Over the same period, 55 people have been killed on city streets, also the most since 2013.

The latest deaths come on the eve of the DOT's first budget hearing of the year before the City Council on Wednesday. Hours before that hearing, 60 civic groups — including Transportation Alternatives, Riders Alliance and Open Plans — released an open letter to Mayor Adams demanding that he allocate $170 million per year towards implementing the Streets Master Plan, which requires 30 miles of dedicated bus lanes, 50 miles of protected bike lane, and the creation of many pedestrianized plazas per year.

Late last year, the outgoing de Blasio administration suggested that it did not have the money to carry out the plan. But Mayor Adams has said he is committed to it.

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