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New York City Council Introduces Crash Investigation Reform Act

Councilmen Lander and Vacca, who introduced the act during a press conference on Wednesday, are calling for the NYPD to better investigate serious crashes between cars, pedestrians and cyclists.

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!

Parksloper July 30, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Who stops at red lights: bikes or cars? Who do you have to run across the road to get to the other side in the park from: bikes or cars? ( while being cursed out in the process) Who weaves in and out of traffic: bikes or cars? Who wants all access to streets, parks etc but doesn't want to be licensed or have insurance in case of an accident: bikes or cars? Who has better use of the road in carrying goods, food, people, the elderly, children, the poor ( who can't afford those expensive bikes or even bike rentals): bikes or cars?
James Usher July 30, 2012 at 02:57 PM
It is high time the NYPD start issuing traffic violation tickets to cyclists in the same proportion in which they issue them to motorist.
James Usher July 30, 2012 at 03:03 PM
The answer to the above are cyclist. Why are they so privileged? Let them pay for the roads if they want to utilize them.
Delmarys Beria April 06, 2013 at 03:58 AM
My sister Maria Beria died on dec.26.2012. Only 30 years old, Leaving three young children behind, according to this act cops are going to do more. Instead it's the basic filling out paperwork and nothing gets done for the investigation. It's been 4 months and no leads? Meanwhile it's a major intersection 1 block before this car comes speeding down.. But when we asked if they checked the cameras .. They just say.. Oh nothing was seen. Which is total bull!!
BRADY April 06, 2013 at 12:25 PM
What the hell are you talking about

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