Time’s Up’s Testimony to City Council Joint Committee Hearing
February 15, 2012
250 Broadway – Committee Rm, 16th Fl.
Committee on Public Safety & Committee on Transportation
More than 150 pedestrians and cyclists are killed by automobiles in NYC every year. In the vast majority of these cases, the NYPD never releases the accident report to the public or the family of the victim. Many family members and attorneys have filed Freedom of Information Law requests for these accident reports, only to be told they cannot have them because the matter is under investigation. Yet consistently, years have gone by, no one has been charged for these deaths, and the accident reports have not been released
Time’s Up! has long suspected that this is because the NYPD is hiding the facts that they have not done a thorough job investigating pedestrians and cyclists killed by automobiles, and that they have not prosecuted motorists for killing these more vulnerable road users.
The case of Mathieu Lefevre proves that our suspicions were correct. Mathieu was struck and killed by a flatbed truck on the corner of Morgan and Messerole the night of October 18th, 2011. The NYPD refused to give the grieving family the accident report so they could know what happened to their child. The Lefevre family filed a Freedom of Information Law request to get the accident report. The NYPD denied their FOIL on the grounds that the case was still under investigation. But in the midst of unimaginable grief, the Lefevre family persevered. They attended public hearings and staged rallies, and their indomitable spirits overcame the NYPD’s bureaucracy and obtained the information they sought. They found out that not a single photo was taken of the scene of the crime. The NYPD claims that this was because their camera was broken despite the fact that police carry phones and nearly every phone has a camera. The Lefevre family found out that the forensics team was not called to the scene of the crime. They found out that the flatbed truck that killed their son had not been inspected or taken into evidence. They found that their son’s cracked helmet was left at the scene of the crime instead of being taken into evidence. They found that the police had not even issued the driver of the flatbed truck a summons for operating a motor vehicle “without due care,” so why was their FOIL request denied due to a pending investigation. The Lefevre family also found out that although the NYPD had not taken a single picture of the scene of the crime, they had done background checks on their family members and taken dozens of photos of them at rallies and hearings that they had attended to find out the truth about what had happened to their son and what the NYPD was going to do about it. This is a clear example of the NYPD’s modus operendi around pedestrians and cyclists killed by automobiles – to withhold the accident reports from grieving families, fail to prosecute motorists, and independently investigate anyone who seeks the truth. Well, the Lefevre family is here to tell the NYPD that they are not going to do this to their family or any other family that is victimized by the actions of motorists and the NYPD. And Time’s Up! is here to support them.
We are here to call on the city council to pressure the NYPD to fully investigate cases in which pedestrians and cyclists are killed by automobiles, to release those investigations to the families of the victims, and to prosecute motorists who kill more vulnerable road users to the full extent of the law.
This city council, and especially it’s Transportation Chair, have spent the last year opposing the implementation of bike lanes which are proven to save the lives of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike. We are imploring you to reevaluate the focus of your work, and to fight to save lives instead of put them in jeopardy. Every cyclist knows that we are treated like second class citizens when we use streets in NYC. Automobiles do not behave with due care. They often jeopardize our lives, and all to often, they take them. We believe this is largely because their behavior is nearly condoned by the powers that be by not investigating and prosecuting motorists who violate traffic laws, especially when those violations kill pedestrians and cyclists.
Lastly, we would like the council to consider writing new legislation for motorists who do kill pedestrians and cyclists while driving “without due care.” This is currently only a summons-able offense, not a criminal one. If killing a pedestrian or cyclist is considered driving “without due care” than clearly more care needs to be given. Drivers need to be more aware of the consequences of their actions, and they will not do so if the law continues to consider their deadly lack of care some kind of mistake. Besides driving without due care, there is no other means by which someone could accidentally kill another human being and only be given a summons. We need to close this deadly loophole in the law for the safety of all road users.
In many other countries and even in other states in this country, there are much stricter laws for automobiles. Motorists are required to anticipate the presence of pedestrians and cyclists and are held accountable for any collision with these more vulnerable road users. These laws eliminate the idea that any deadly action while behind the wheel of a car can somehow be considered a non-lethal accident. If people are going to operate a vehicle that has the ability to kill, they should do so responsibly enough that there is no chance they ever will kill another human being. And if they don’t operate those vehicles responsibly enough, and a life is lost, the law should hold them accountable.