Village Voice: Why Won’t the NYPD Charge Motorists Who Maim or Kill?

An advocacy group, citing 14 such fatalities, is pressing the NYPD to change its policy on fatal accidents that involved reckless driving and demanding that police file criminal charges in those cases.

“[The police] are simply not taking that job seriously,” says Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives (TA), which is mounting the campaign. “Their cavalier attitude to the epidemic of lawless driving is absolutely unacceptable.”

In 2010, state legislature passed a series of laws—Hayley and Diego’s Law and Elle’s Law—designed to give the police more power using the Vehicle and Traffic Law in charging dangerous drivers. However, those laws, advocates say, aren’t being used by the police. “Despite being given more tools to combat dangerous driving, the police have not changed their enforcement behavior at all,” TA spokesman Michael Murphy says.

The family of Mathieu Lefevre, a cyclist fatally hit by a truck in Williamsburg last October, is suing the NYPD for access to the case file. The truck driver claimed he didn’t know he hit anyone, and police opted not to file charges against him.

The NYPD has refused to turn over the files and says the investigation was still open, even though the department also said no charges would be filed.

In a December 19 letter to the investigating officers, Lefevre family lawyer Steve Vaccaro alleged that police have made contradictory statements to them. Detectives told them that the driver didn’t know he hit anyone, but also told the family that blood and paint from Lefevre’s bicycle were found on the driver’s side of the front bumper. The accident report indicates the truck “rear-ended” Lefevre and dragged the bicycle 100 feet.

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