Why Drivers Get Away with Murder in NYC

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Why Drivers Get Away with Murder in NYC

Postby Jillian » Wed Feb 15, 2012 3:22 pm

Gothamist
2/15/2012

This morning the City Council grilled representatives from the NYPD on why so few drivers face criminal charges after killing or maiming pedestrians and cyclists. The hearing room was so packed that it overflowed into a second room, which also swelled over capacity—the heavy turnout on a weekday morning suggests the NYPD's handling of crash investigations is an increasingly hot topic. The department has been widely criticized for failing to issue criminal charges to drivers after serious accidents, as well as withholding the most basic details about their investigations. Today Councilmembers tried to understand why so many drivers get away with murder.

More New Yorkers are killed every year by motor vehicles than guns, said Councilmember James Vacca, who kicked off the hearing by declaring, "We don't accept gun violence as a way to die, and we shouldn't accept traffic deaths either." Vacca's first question to Deputy Chief John Cassidy, the NYPD Chief of Transportation, was about speeding, and how often drivers caught speeding are charged with reckless endangerment. The answer came not from Cassidy, but from Susan Petito, an NYPD attorney, who politely explained that they simply don't know, because reckless endangerment charges "are not segregated in the database" and can't be easily found.

The NYPD reps frequently cited their inability to search for data during the hearing. At the same time, the department touted its TrafficStat data, which Chief Cassidy argued has enabled the department to reduce traffic fatalities by 39% over the past decade, through targeted enforcement of accident-prone areas. But when Councilmember Pete Vallone wanted to know how many drivers got criminal charges after non-fatal accidents, he was greeted with a long pause. "Not sure we can provide those numbers," said the NYPD reps. "That would require a hand search. Because reckless endangerment charges involve a narrative."

Here's what we do know, and it helps explain why so many drivers get away with murder:

The NYPD issued more summonses to cyclists than truck drivers last year: truckers got 14,962 moving violation summonses and 10,415 Criminal Court summonses, while cyclists got 13,743 moving violation summonses and a whopping 34,813 Criminal Court summonses. Priorities!
The NYPD Accident Investigation Squad [AIS] only has 19 detectives, three sergeants, and one lieutenant, but is responsible for investigating fatal accidents for the entire city. But don't worry, there's always at least one detective on duty at all times.
The AIS will only investigate accidents in which the victim dies or seems likely to die. If you get hit by a driver and end up in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, there's no AIS investigation. The patrol officers will fill out an accident report, and traffic tickets might be issued, but there will never be an in-depth investigation or follow-up.
241 pedestrians or cyclists were killed by drivers last year. Only 17 of the drivers responsible faced criminal charges.
Asked how many criminal charges were filed against drivers in non-fatal accidents, the NYPD reps said they were not aware of any.
Hayley and Diego's Laws were created to empower the NYPD to issue "careless driving" charges, but the NYPD says judges have repeatedly thrown out these charges on the grounds that an officer has to personally witness the accident in order to file the charge.

And because traffic court judges have been throwing out "careless driving" tickets, the NYPD says they've instructed patrolmen not to issue them. Only the AIS is currently authorized to file charges under Hayley and Diego's law, and since AIS only investigates fatal accidents, the law hasn't done much good. Councilmember Brad Lander was particularly galled by this, asking the NYPD reps, "More than 3,000 crashes last year led to serious injury, and yet patrolmen can't write a ticket [under Hayley and Diego's law]?"

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Re: Why Drivers Get Away with Murder in NYC

Postby Jillian » Wed Mar 28, 2012 2:07 pm

City Councilman Stephen Levin introduces bill to have the Accident Investigation Squad:
Respond when someone is seriously injured, not just likely to die. It refers to a state law requiring a thorough investigation in the event of "serious physical injury," including "serious protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ."

And a second bill:
To "greatly increase and decentralize the pool of trained AIS officers so that more accidents can be investigated in accordance with the law." Currently the AIS only has 19 detectives, three sergeants, and one lieutenant, but the division is responsible for investigating fatal accidents for the entire city. Levin wants all NYPD precincts to have five officers trained in preliminary AIS training, and these officers should be qualified to issue summonses for failure to exercise due care. His legislation, first reported by The Brooklyn Paper, would also require one such trained officer to be on call at all times.

Linky http://gothamist.com/2012/03/28/new_law ... ctuall.php
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Re: Why Drivers Get Away with Murder in NYC

Postby Jillian » Mon Mar 11, 2013 9:57 am

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/11/nyreg ... egion&_r=0
The New York Times
March 10, 2013
After Criticism, Police Change Policy and Begin Investigating More Traffic Crashes
By MATT FLEGENHEIMER and J. DAVID GOODMAN

In a marked shift of protocol, the New York Police Department has begun conducting robust investigations of traffic crashes that result in critical injuries but not certain or likely death.

In the past, investigators from a specialized unit, the Accident Investigation Squad, were sent only when at least one victim had died or was deemed by first responders to be “likely to die.”

The new policy was outlined in a letter sent last week from the police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, to the City Council. Under it, the department’s crash investigators will be summoned “when there has been a critical injury or when a Police Department duty captain believes the extent of the injuries and/or unique circumstances of a collision warrant such action,” Mr. Kelly wrote.

Though the change had not been made public, Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said on Sunday that the police “had already begun to respond to instances where the injuries were serious but not fatal.”

Dozens of investigations stemming from the new rules have been conducted since September, law enforcement officials said, including one involving a crash that nearly severed a woman’s leg in Manhattan in February and another after a multicar, nonfatal pileup on the Whitestone Bridge last year. In many of these cases, including the Whitestone crash, criminal charges have resulted.

Mr. Kelly said in his letter that the department would also increase the size of the investigation squad and revise its Patrol Guide to reflect which crashes warrant investigations.

And in a symbolic semantic change that some advocates for crash victims have long requested, the department will begin using the term “collision” instead of “accident” to describe crashes, Mr. Kelly said. The squad itself will soon be renamed the Collision Investigation Squad.

“In the past, the term ‘accident’ has sometimes given the inaccurate impression or connotation that there is no fault or liability associated with a specific event,” Mr. Kelly wrote.

The increase in investigations could be important for both prosecutors, who expect to build better cases from the more frequent collision reports, and transportation engineers eager for a deeper trove of crash data.

“I think it will give us more information about what we can do when we design our streets,” Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner, said in a phone interview. She noted, as Mr. Kelly did in his letter, that the changes were made possible, in part, because the streets had already become safer in recent years. In 2011, the city recorded 237 traffic deaths, a 40 percent drop from a decade earlier, though preliminary 2012 figures suggest an increase.

Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, suggested in an interview on Saturday that understanding the causes of a greater number of crashes “is going to help us see what flow works.”

Mr. Kelly’s letter followed hearings last year in which City Council members were critical of the department’s response to crashes. The Council has introduced several bills calling for some of the changes addressed in Mr. Kelly’s letter, and in December, the district attorneys for the city’s five boroughs sent a joint letter to the Police Department supporting the policy shifts.

“Prosecutors rely on this crucial unit to gather evidence to determine whether criminality exists,” said Daniel R. Alonso, the chief assistant to the Manhattan district attorney. “As such, we greatly support the commissioner’s efforts.”

Recently, a spate of grisly and high-profile traffic deaths has heightened public concern about traffic safety. On Feb. 28, a 6-year-old boy, Amar Diarrassouba, was fatally struck by a truck as he walked to school in East Harlem. Three days later, a hit-and-run crash in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, claimed the lives of two newlyweds and, the next day, their son, who had been delivered prematurely after the collision.

Mr. Browne said the plans to overhaul investigation guidelines were discussed before the recent fatal crashes.

Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a cycling and pedestrian advocacy group that has been sharply critical of the city’s enforcement of traffic laws, hailed the changes as “a very significant step toward a safer, more humane city.”

He recalled a 2011 crash that killed Clara Heyworth, a 28-year-old marketing manager who was fatally struck by a car while crossing a Brooklyn street. An investigation into her death was initially halted because she was still alive at the time and not deemed likely to die by emergency room doctors, the previous standard. The Accident Investigation Squad did not begin its formal investigation until three days after she died from her injuries.

“While the A.I.S. team was waiting to see if the patient dies or not, the crash scene was going cold,” Mr. White said.

In a recent case of a woman whose leg was nearly severed after a car smashed into her on a Manhattan sidewalk, the squad’s investigators responded rapidly to the scene despite an initial assessment that she would survive. An investigation, still continuing, had already begun when the woman died at the hospital hours later.

Mr. Kelly said in his letter that the threshold for investigating crashes would draw in part on existing guidelines that emergency responders used to identify critically injured victims: anyone receiving CPR, in respiratory arrest or requiring a ventilator or circulatory support.

The amendments, including the decision to banish “accident” from the department’s traffic-crash vocabulary, showed how far the city had come, Mr. White said.

“An accident is when a meteor falls through your house and hits you in the head,” he said. “Collisions can be prevented.”
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Re: Why Drivers Get Away with Murder in NYC

Postby jerlbaum » Mon Mar 11, 2013 10:56 am

That is great news!
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