The Transportation Alternatives group and community members rallied alongside Clara Heyworth’s widowed husband, Jacob Stevens, on the steps of City Hall this morning, calling on the NYPD to reform their investigations into violent car crashes.
We recently reported on the case of Heyworth, a woman killed in a 2011 hit-and-run by a driver who was never charged due to an investigation and evidence collection breakdown by the NYPD. The NYPD only investigates ten percent of approximately 3,000 serious traffic accidents, despite the law stating that all serious injury crashes should be investigated, a press release on the rally states.
“We’re here today calling on Mayor Bloomberg to convene a Task Force to overhaul traffic enforcement procedures and bring justice to crash victims and their families,” said Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives Paul Steely White on the rally.
Stevens announced his plan to bring a lawsuit against the NYPD for its failure to investigate his wife’s case. “The NYPD made a conscious decision not to investigate the scene of Clara’s death. And we know that this wasn’t an isolated incident—it fits a pattern,” said Stevens.
The NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad (AIS) is only called to the scene of a crash where a victim is “dead or likely to die,” the release explains. Only officers from this squad are allowed to determine whether the law was broken. The AIS consists of only 19 officers.
Crashes deemed less severe than those investigated by the AIS receive a quick writeup, though state law dictates crashes which result in serious injury must still be investigated by police to the degree of those investigated by AIS.
The “Dead or Likely to Die” rule allows for victims of serious traffic incidents to remain in the hospital for extended periods of time, often in critical condition, with those who perpetrated the accidents going free due to a lack of investigation. In some cases, those not “likely to die” end up dying regardless, some time later. The designation is far too subjective, this policy has proven time after time.
“We must err on the side of caution and sensibility and dispatch the Accident Investigation Squad to the scene of any accident which results in injury and was caused by a reckless driver,” said Council Member Peter Vallone Jr.
“Being hit by a car is the number one cause of injury death for children ages one to twelve in our city,” said Council Member Brad Lander. According to the NYC Department of Transportation, between October 1, 2011 and December 31, 2011, drivers injured 14,608 and killed 71 New Yorkers.
Transportation Alternatives and elected officials are calling for a task force to step up the investigations into these cases, making drivers accountable and hopefully driving these numbers down.
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