In an article last month in the New York Post, it was reported that fatal accidents and serious injuries suffered by pedestrians has become a significant problem, and NYC taxi drivers are often to blame. Early last month, 9 year old Cooper Stock was crossing the street while holding his father’s hand on the Upper West Side. They were struck by a cab driven by Koffi Komlani of Orange County, New York. Cooper was killed in the accident, his father Richard Stock suffered non life threatening injuries, and Komlani, who was making a left turn onto West End Avenue from 97th Street was cited for failure to yield to traffic, paid a fine, but was not criminally charged.
In the last five years, NYC cabdrivers have killed or seriously injured 21 pedestrians or bicyclists. However, unless there is evidence of intoxication or recklessness, generally no criminal charges are filed. Under the New York State Vehicle & Traffic Law, a driver is legally intoxicated if his or her BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is 0.08% or higher. Reckless driving is charged if the driver operated the motor vehicle in a manner which “interferes with the free and proper use of the public highway” or “unreasonably endangers users of the public highway.”
In the first two weeks of 2014, cars struck and killed seven pedestrians in New York City. Last April, cab driver Boubacar Bathily, 53, was charged with fleeing the scene of a personal injury fatal accident when he allegedly struck Taja Johnson at the intersection of West 133rd Street and Eighth Avenue. However, in other serious accidents over the last five years, including on November 9, 2011, when a cabdriver struck a bicyclist at the Hudson River Greenway near 43rd Street; April 14, 2012, in which a cabdriver fatally struck 5 year old Timothy Keith, in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn; and on February 27, 2013, when a cabdriver struck and dragged Amy Fass 40 feet on West 181st Street, no criminal charges were filed.
The same is true in non-fatal accidents, such as in August of 2013, when cabdriver Faysal Himon severed the foot of British tourist Siân Green in Rockefeller Center after he had been in a dispute with a bicyclist, and an accident in September of 2010, when Syed Nazir apparently rear ended a vehicle and then drove into a coffee shop in the East Village, breaking the leg of a 71 year old man.
In an effort to combat this spate of accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists, newly elected NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced a program called “Vision Zero.” As part of this initiative, there will be an increase in the number of traffic officers, the installation of speed cameras, and the creation of a more highly trained collision investigation team to investigate and come up with solutions to the traffic fatality and serious injury problem in the City.
However, Captain Michael Falcon of the 20th Precinct has a different perspective on the large number of pedestrian accidents and attributes much of the blame to the pedestrians themselves: “You see people, they’re not paying attention…they’re looking at their phones…You see people with babies and there’s two seconds [on the countdown clock], and they’re going…it’s mind-boggling the things that people do.”
There is no question that with the proliferation of cell phones and the unlimited variety of uses that pedestrians use them for, this is a problem with multiple factors which clearly must be addressed, with both drivers and pedestrians paying more attention to what is in front of them.