Tuesday, January 6, 2009

KILLED BY AUTOMOBILE

Just a warning, this one is a little long....

Today has been a pretty uneventful day at work, resulting in hours of my browsing the web for various things.

My attention was first grabbed by Ghost Bikes around town. I can only name 2 in Austin {on w. 6th, then on 360 @ Bee Caves}, but I pass by both of these memorials on a daily basis and never really knew what they were all about - I didn't know this is a world wide memorial. You can find more information on them at http://www.ghostbikes.org/.

Then I began clicking on different links from the Ghost Bikes website and came along an article published by a group known as Right of Way. They conducted research of automobile accidents in NY between the years of 1994-1997. This article was published in 1999, and it doesn't seem like much has changed since then. this article takes into account pedestrian, bicycle and skater deaths/accidents. I found most of this text appalling (based on the inhumanity of actions and the lack of reactions by our government or consequences for those at fault.)

Everyone knows Les has been seriously injured twice. The 1st time, the driver did not receive a ticket. The 2nd time, the driver was not initially given a ticket, but we were later told by the police office that a ticket would be issued for "failure to yield." We are not certain a ticket was ever issued, but for there to even be a question on the matter is preposterous to me.

Here are some of the things I found quite interesting from this study:

Top 10 findings of the study: (pay special attention to #10)

1 Motor vehicles killed 1,020 pedestrians and bicyclists in New York City during the four-year period 1994-97; this toll was 25 percent greater than the 800 motor vehicle users who died in crashes in the same period.

2 New Yorkers age 65 and older were more than twice as likely to be killed by an automobile as to be murdered during 1994-97.

3 Drivers were largely or strictly culpable in 74 percent of pedestrian fatalities and partly culpable in another 16 percent, meaning that drivers were at least partly culpable in 90 percent of fatalities.

4 The most frequent causes of fatalities were vehicles turning into pedestrians in crosswalks, followed by speeding, and driving through a red light or stop sign.

5 Buses killed 53 persons during 1994-97 — one for every 11.4 million miles, or over 5 times the rate for all vehicles driven in New York City, and triple the rate for heavy trucks.

6 Automobiles were equal-opportunity threats, killing New Yorkers of every income level and ethnic group roughly in proportion to the group’s share of population.

7 Motorists killed 50 pedestrians on sidewalks during 1994-97 (one pedestrian was killed by a bicycle on a sidewalk during the same period, out of a total of five pedestrians killed in collisions with bicycles in New York City during the four years).

8 Neighborhoods where officials clamored for crackdowns on bicyclists to safeguard pedestrians had unusually high rates of pedestrians and cyclists killed by automobile.

9 Drunk driving was known to be present in only 4 percent of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities (less than 3 percent in 1997 alone), suggesting that DWI is now a relatively small subset of a larger class of dangerous and aggressive driving, which is routinely ignored in law enforcement and media campaigns.

10 Drivers were summonsed for moving violations in only 16 percent of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities during 1994-97; police cited only 7 drivers, or less than 1 percent of those who killed pedestrians, for violating laws specific to pedestrian safety.

It is just sickening to hear that only 16% of drivers causing a death were issued a ticket, and that LESS than 1% received citations dealing specifically with pedestrian safety.

a little more on the topic:

Police issued moving violations in only 154 pedestrian or cyclist fatalities during 1994-97, or just 16 percent of the 947 cases studied. Almost all of these summonses were for driving without a valid license (absent, suspended, or revoked), leaving the scene, speeding, or driving while intoxicated. Only 7 drivers who killed were ticketed for violations that specifically endanger pedestrians and cyclists, such as violating right-of-way in crosswalk, unsafe backing, unsafe opening of a car door, and driving on the sidewalk. This pattern strongly suggests a marked lack of interest, on the part
of police officers, in the rights of pedestrians and cyclists.


...more.... not exactly cycling involved, but just as fucked up...

February 20, 1998

Dear Speaker Vallone:

I am writing to you because my family needs your help. Our father was killed in an auto accident 18 months ago, and the NYPD is stonewalling us and ignoring our pleas for justice. Dad was crossing Lafayette Street in front of his auto repair shop in SoHo on Aug. 9, 1996. He was looking in the legal direction of traffic, so he didn’t see a 1985 Chevy Suburban racing toward him in reverse. The impact broke several ribs and threw Dad’s stout 200-lb. body 15-20 feet in the air. He landed on his head. Surgery didn’t help. Dad suffered unimaginably for nine days and died on Sunday, Aug. 18. He was 57.


You would think that someone who drove in reverse that fast would be judged to have been operating at “a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation,” and thus meet the criteria to be charged with Criminally Negligent Homicide.

You would think that if the same individual had received two speeding tickets in a 3-month period prior to killing my father (not to mention another three tickets in the ensuing 16 months), that prosecutors would find a pattern of continuing recklessness.

But you would be wrong in each instance. The driver has not even been issued a summons. The police Accident Investigation Squad has yet to call witnesses.

Mr. Speaker, we need you to put pressure on the NYPD and the Manhattan DA to seek an indictment and let a jury decide if the driver who killed my father violated the norms of civilized society and should be held accountable for his actions. We also need the justice system to send the message that pedestrians are not equipped with airbags and heavy metal frames, and cannot defend themselves against lawbreakers like the one who killed Dad.

Excerpted from a letter to New York City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone, by Mr. Regina’s daughter, Marianna. Speaker Vallone contacted the Manhattan District Attorney, who declined to prosecute.

Six months earlier, on April 2, 30-year-old Jill Solomon was cycling down Second Avenue in Manhattan en route to work. As she was passing the 59th Street approach to the Queensboro Bridge, she came alongside an 80,000-pound tractor trailer.

The police report states:
Witness states vehicle #1 [the truck] was southbound on 2nd Ave. and turning left onto bridge entrance ramp when bicyclist also south bound on 2nd Ave. struck left rear side of vehicle #1. Witness states bicyclist fell under truck …


In this narrative, Jill Solomon gets the only verbs that denote acts rather than states of being. She “struck” the truck and “fell” under its wheels. Behind this surreally twisted language is a clear picture: The truck turned left in front of Ms. Solomon and ran over her with its rear wheels (a “recurring” crash scenario; see sidebar, p. 57).Yet the computer “abstract” of this case compiled by the State Dept. of Motor Vehicles cited “Bike’s Error-Confusion” as the primary “apparent factor” in causing the crash, in effect blaming the lawfully proceeding cyclist. (The same document coded the driver’s “pre-accident action” as “going straight ahead,” contradicting the witness’s account.)

Jill Solomon violated no law, but was nevertheless written off as “confused.” In effect, she was pronounced guilty of her own death.

We take a different view: In these cases, the driver egregiously failed in his duty to exercise caution commensurate with his power to harm. We regard the drivers as fully culpable in the death of Jill Solomon. Under this changed paradigm of responsibility, analysis of our data reveals that in 90% of cases where culpability could be ascertained, the driver was entirely or partially culpable, in the sense of having committed (or omitted) some action without the due care required of a driver, that contributed significantly or partially to the fatal crash.

If you would like to read the entire report (which is very interesting) go here http://rightofway.org/research/kba_text.pdf

All of this is just very very sad. Not much has changed since 1999 regarding pedestrian & bicycle safety. We don't yet have the lawmakers on our side, and this needs to change.

If you find yourself in a similar position one day, please take it upon yourself to demand consequences to at-fault motorists. This isn't saying bash someones car's headlights in, or pass your aggression on to another motorist, just be mindful of your situation and make sure our elected officials are doing what we ask them to.

Ride safely.


1 comment:

Jim Phillips said...

if i recall correctly...there's one on south 1st a little ways south of the river...


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