Protecting Pedestrians
February 24th, 2010

The hit and run accident that critically injured mayoral aide Errin Phelan early Sunday morning and hurt her friend Alma Guerrero points up how dangerous it can be to simply cross a street in New York. And while on the face of it, the conduct of the driver seems completely egregious, if past cases are any indication, there is no guarantee anyone will be convicted of a major offense for the crime.

As Gotham Gazette reported late last year, people who kill with their vehicles usually get off with a slap on the wrist — unless it can be proved they were drunk at the time of the accident. Since the driver who struck Phelan has not yet been apprehended, there is no way to determine whether she was drunk, stoned or high when she mowed down the two young women on Flatbush Avenue. (Police questioned the owner of the car, Cindy Jasmin, who says her sister Frances was driving. Investigators reportedly are skeptical.)

Citing figures from Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group, Wayne Barrett writes, “Between 1994 and 2008, thousands of pedestrians and cyclists were killed by vehicles (160 in 2007, for example), but only 29 drivers were indicted for criminally negligent homicide.”

Example abound. Isaac Chehebar in 2001 raced his Porsche down Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway at twice the speed limit, colliding with two teenage sisters walking along that boulevard’s median strip. Although he killed both of them and seriously injured their mother, Chehebar served only four months in jail.

In January 2009, Chao Fu left his delivery van idling on a Chinatown sidewalk. He did not realize it was in reverse until the truck moved, plowing into a group of children on a school outing and killing two of them. Chao did not face any criminal charges.

Then there was limousine driver James McGrantham, who after realizing he had headed the wrong way on the Belt Parkway, decided to make a three-point turn in the middle of the highway. As he performed this maneuver, his car stretched across traffic. A motorcyclist, unable to stop, crashed into that barrier and died. The courts threw out McGrantham’s homicide conviction because he “was sober, not speeding, and not morally blameworthy.”

Deaths caused by reckless drivers — sober ones — “have not receive the grassroots consciousness raising” that alcohol related accidents have gotten, said Maureen McCormick, chief of Vehicular Crimes in Nassau County, said last year. Getting the criminal justice system to deal with them seriously, she said, is ” like turning around a battleship.”

Barrett and others say police and the courts all too often all but ignore the kind of behavior that leads to traffic injuries and fatalities. Assuming Cindy Jasmin was at the wheel Sunday, she could be a case in point. The Daily News reports today that Jasmin had been driving without a license last year. Yesterday she paid a $155 fine for that. And in 2001 she struck a Westchester woman with her car. The woman’s husband told the News that Jasmin “was going too fast.”

While the details of Sunday’s accident remain murky, the Times reported the section of Flatbush where it occurred “was popular with speeding drivers.” “I cant remember how many times I almost got run over there,” a local bartender said.

“Though speeding fatalities rose by 11 percent to 75 between 2001 and 2006 (the first six years of Bloomberg), NYPD-issued speeding tickets plummeted by 22 percent,” Barrett writes. He notes that the police department’s Highway Division has suffered staffing cuts.

In recent months, a number of proposals have been put forth to make streets safe. A week before the Brooklyn accident, City Councilmember Jessica Lappin introduced legislation to create a new Office of Road Safety within the Department of Transportation. It would provide a citywide response to unsafe streets, including design improvements, better enforcement, education and research.

Transportation Alternatives has urged police to determine New York’s most dangerous intersections and focus on them, much as it does with high-crime areas. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has called for installing speeding and red light enforcement cameras. And new Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, has pledged to pay greater attention to the issue.

By on February 24, 2010, 9:09 am
In category: Crime & Safety,Health,Transportation | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “Protecting Pedestrians”

  1. Stephenie Summons Says:
    July 31st, 2013 at 9:55 am

    There are some fascinating points in time on this article however I don’t know if I see all of them middle to heart. There may be some validity however I’ll take hold opinion until I look into it further. Good article , thanks and we would like extra! Added to FeedBurner as effectively

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