About 100 people gathered outside NYPD headquarters this morning to call on the NYPD to hold reckless drivers accountable, instead of routinely letting them cruise off into the sunset with "no criminality suspected." Many of those in attendance identified themselves as cyclists—or relatives of killed cyclists—but others turned out to represent pedestrians, including one Park Slope resident who was nearly killed while crossing Carroll Street in 2009. Witnesses, including a reporter for the NY Times, said the driver was speeding when he ran over Hutch Ganson at the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Carroll, but no charges were filed.
"I lost half my head," Ganson told us, adding that he sustained traumatic brain injury, a broken leg, all his ribs were broken, as well as the bones in his face, he was in a coma for a month, and wasn't released from the hospital until four months after the accident. Formerly an executive at AIG, he has been unable to work since the accident, and he now suffers from aphasia. Ganson and his wife Donna said they attended the rally because they want reckless drivers to face consequences for their actions.
Relatives of deceased artist Mathieu Lefevre, who was killed by a flatbed truck driver while biking in Williamsburg last month, were also at the rally, once again demanding an explanation from the NYPD about why the man who ran over their son and left the scene wasn't charged. Lefevre's mother Erika Lefevre told reporters, "I never expected to be standing in the same spot today where I stood over a month ago, asking the NYPD to please release the information it has about the death of Mathieu. In that month, we have made many, many requests to the NYPD for information, including Freedom of Information requests. But we've gotten almost nothing." (FYI, here's the accident report.)
Mathieu Lefevre (Courtesy Lee Brunet)
Lefevre's family is seeking a copy of the coroner's report, the videotapes that the NYPD says they have, and any other evidence. As previously reported, the detective at the NYPD's Accident Investigation Squad has not been responsive, and Lefevre's mother only learned that the driver—who was not found for several days—would not be charged by reading it in the media. Last month, an NYPD spokesman told us simply that the driver "did not know that he hit the cyclist." Lefevre's former wife, Juliana Berger, also spoke, and said that after the driver parked his truck two short blocks away, he drove past the scene of the accident in his personal car. "Why didn't he stop then?" she asked.
Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White announced this morning that the group would launch a comprehensive investigation into the NYPD's traffic crash investigation practices. The investigation will "closely review and evaluate" the NYPD's reports on scores of recent crashes that resulted in serious injuries or deaths. The group, which brought almost 3,000 letters from New Yorkers demanding "traffic justice," hopes the probe "will uncover whether police investigators followed proper procedures." The NYPD's "cavalier attitude to the epidemic of lawless driving is absolutely unacceptable," White said.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio also announced that his office is looking into the NYPD's Accident Investigation Squad. Spokesman Wiley Norvell told reporters, "To New York State’s credit, recent laws enacted in Albany have put new tools in the hands of prosecutors to hold accountable people who kill or seriously injure others through negligence behind the wheel. One such law—Elle's Law—serves the critical purpose of taking dangerous drivers off the road. But we must ensure those laws live up to their potential and intent. To do so, today my office requested data from the New York City Police Department on its enforcement relating to Elle's Law and regarding the circumstances under which it deploys its Accident Investigation Squad."
Transportation Alternatives announced that between 2001 and 2010, 1,745 pedestrians and bicyclists have been killed in New York City traffic and 142,485 have been injured. According to an analysis of 80 contributing factors associated with crashes tracked by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, 60 percent of fatal pedestrian and bicyclist crashes with known causes are caused by driver’s dangerous and illegal behavior. Yet the NYPD routinely declines to charge drivers involved in these accidents, and today the group released this heavy tally of carnage, from 2011 alone:
- January 10, 2011: Jerrold Chaleff, 71 years old; run over in a mall parking lot in the Bronx. No charges filed.
- February 27, 2011: 27-year old victim; car broke down on the BQE. Got out and was in front of his car when a driver slammed into the broken down vehicle, killing the owner. No charges filed.
- March 21, Margaret Choberka, 82 years old; crossing at the intersection of 70th Street and 32nd Avenue in Jackson Heights, a driver ran a red light, hitting the back of another driver’s vehicle which ran over Choberka. No charges filed.
- June 2, 2011: Leonia White, 89 years old; run over after a driver collided with pickup truck. No charges filed.
- June 28, 2011: Aniya Williams, 13 years old; crossing at the intersection on her last day of school, Williams was killed by a tractor trailer driver who stayed at the scene. No charges filed.
- July 17, 2011: Eric Bryant, driving 112 miles per hour, careens off the FDR and lands on a taxi below. Eight people are injured, several seriously. No charges filed.
- August 2, 2011: Chris Doyle, 29 years old: struck and killed by a truck driver while riding his bicycle in Williamsburg. No charges filed.
- August 30, 2011: Erica Abbott, 29 years old; struck and killed by a driver after trying to avoid debris in the road and falling off her bike on Bushwick Avenue. No charges filed.
- September 2, 2011: Nicholas Djandji, 24 years old; Killed by the driver of an SUV while riding on Borinquen Place in Brooklyn. No charges filed.
- September 12, 2011: Steven Reese, 58 years old; struck by a van driver as he tried to cross 125th St. Driver stayed at the scene. No charges filed.
- October 4, 2011: Jack Vanleuvan, 61 years old; Vanleuvan was driving a van in Chelsea that was part of a multi-vehicle crash that was started by a police officer driving a marked cruiser that gave “little to no warning” before running a red light. Vanleuvan died after spending a month in a coma.
- October 18, 2011: Mathieu Lefevre, 30 years old; struck by a flatbed truck driver on Morgan Avenue. Driver left the scene and had to be tracked down. Said he was unaware he hit Lefevre. No charges filed.
- October 24, 2011: Ronald Simpson, 43 years old; struck by a livery driver. After the cabbie fled the scene, Simpson was run over by a private sanitation truck driver. This driver stayed on the scene. No charges filed.
- November 4, 2011: Rev. Theauther Love, 87 years old; crossing Eastern Parkway and was struck and killed by an NYPD traffic agent. No data about speed or right of way has been released. No charges filed.