The New York City Council and Transportation Alternatives are aiming to decrease the number of people killed and seriously injured in traffic accidents with a new bill that calls for a task force to overhaul the NYPD’s traffic enforcement and crash investigation procedures.
On Wednesday, Councilmembers Brad Lander, D-Park Slope, and James Vacca, D-Bronx, presented The Crash Investigation Reform Act at a press conference, which will assess the NYPD’s traffic safety enforcement and accident investigation protocols, which they believe are not keeping the streets safe enough.
After the assessment, the Act will help implement the most effective ways to lower the number of fatalities and injuries in the streets and bring justice to those injured or killed.
There are 19 police officers in the NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad citywide, who are called to accidents, , only if “a person dies or is likely to die.” Otherwise, they are not investigated.
Transportation Alternatives, a transportation advocacy organization that strives to make better biking, walking and public transit throughout the five boroughs, reported that 21 cyclists died in vehicle crashes in New York City in 2011, but only two drivers were arrested.
“Crashes that result in serious injuries demand serious investigations,” said Council Member Brad Lander on Wednesday. “But right now, they just aren’t getting them from the NYPD. As we learned at the City Council’s February hearing, thousands of crashes with serious injuries to pedestrians and cyclists happen with no real investigations, and no charges. The Crash Investigation Reform Act would set up a comprehensive review of NYPD policies regarding traffic crash investigations, and get us on the road to safer streets.”
According to TA, there were 237 people killed in New York City traffic last year, compared to 270 in 2010. So far, this year between January and May, there have been 113 people killed in traffic accidents.
According to The Brooklyn Paper, cops from the 78th Precinct did not issue one speeding ticket to motorists this past June, cops at the 77th Precinct in Prospect Heights/Crown Heights also did not issue a single speeding ticket, and police at 88th Precinct in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill gave out two speeding tickets.
The City Council said that 60 percent of fatal pedestrian and bicyclist crashes with known causes are due to illegal driving behavior, like speeding and distracted driving. But with low numbers of speeding tickets issued, like the ones in the 77th, 78th and 88th precincts, the City Council believes the NYPD is not doing its job to enforce the speed limit, hold dangerous drivers responsible for breaking the law and help to prevent deadly accidents.
The NYPD did not immediately return a request for comment.
On July 10, 2011, Clara Heyworth, 28, was struck and killed by an unlicensed motorist while she was walking across the intersection of Dekalb and Vanderbilt avenues. This past June, Heyworth’s husband, Jacob Stevens, filed a civil lawsuit last year's crash.
The suit alleges that despite Heyworth's life-threatening injuries and the fact that the driver, Anthony Webb, was driving with an expired license and was suspected of being legally intoxicated, that the NYPD's Accident Investigation Squad failed to launch any serious inquiry into the crash.
“The unfortunate death of Clara Heyworth was yet another wake-up call that NYPD must overhaul their crash investigation procedures to thoroughly analyze traffic incidents that cause serious injuries,” said Councilmember Letitia James. “This legislation would go far to improve the response of such incidents by the police department’s Accident Investigation Squad (AIS). Those who drive dangerously must know that they will be held accountable for their actions.”
At Wednesday’s press conference, Councilmember Levin announced a package of companion legislation with The Crash Investigation Reform Act:
- A resolution calling on the Police Department to ensure that there are five officers assigned to each precinct who can investigate fatal and serious physical injury crashes. There are currently no officers assigned to these duties in local precincts and only 19 NYPD officers assigned these duties citywide.
- A resolution calling on the Police Department to follow State Law and investigate not just crashes that cause death, but also those causing serious physical injury.
- A bill requiring the police to report whether a driver in a traffic crash was issued a summons for causing the crash, and if so what type of summons was issued; if a sobriety test was administered; and whether the crash was investigated by AIS. The police would be required to maintain online crash data reports for five years.
- A bill requiring the police to publish a traffic safety plan and the contact information for the precinct’s traffic safety officer on each precinct’s webpage on the NYPD’s website.
Do you think the NYPD needs to improve their crash investigation procedures? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!