Transportation Alternatives: Hit & Run — NYPD’s Crash Investigation Problem

The New York City Police Department can shoot an airplane out of the sky, it can operate a top-secret counterterrorism bureau with agents around the world, it can even partner with the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a body-scanning machine that detects concealed weapons from 25 meters.

What the NYPD can’t do, however, is find the time, resources or compassion to adequately investigate the traffic crashes that kill and seriously injure more than 4,000 people in the city each year. At least that’s the impression you’ll get if you can stomach keeping up with these things.

According to Steve Vaccaro, an attorney familiar with the NYPD’s crash-investigation procedures (as well as a Transportation Alternatives member and the Lefevre’s counsel), “There is every indication that the NYPD does not use the Accident Investigation Squad in anything other than a fatality.”

For crashes that result in injury—no matter how severe— the investigation usually involves little more than a cursory form known as an MV-104. The same document catalogs everything from fender benders to multi-car pileups that result in lost limbs and paralysis. According to Vaccaro, the MV-104 amounts to little more than a list of statements, the weather at the time of the collision and the incident’s location. “It’s just enough so that the people involved can get no-fault coverage or pursue a lawsuit,” he said. “It basically certifies that something happened to someone.”

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