Gothamist: It’s Still Not A Crime To Kill Someone With Your Car Door

A bill that would have penalized drivers who injure pedestrians and cyclists did not pass the state legislature. Even if it did, it would not have covered ‘dooring’.

Last week a bill that would give police officers unambiguous authority to penalize drivers who injure pedestrians or cyclists did not pass the state legislature. But even if the bill had been signed into law it would have failed to cover drivers who carelessly open their car doors, as was the case when 39-year-old cyclist Tskaka Cooke was killed last Saturday after striking a car door that was suddenly opened in his path on a busy road in Queens. “You can open a door and injure a pedestrian or cyclist and not trigger the law,” attorney Steve Vaccaro says. “You can door someone and run and it’s not a crime.”

“You have to show that the driver was doing something more than breaking traffic laws,” Vaccaro explains. “The blameworthy state of mind is not turned on the real world consequences of the act. It turns on the state of mind of the driver, their level of awareness.” Those factors are difficult to prove for prosecutors, especially given that the NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad is underfunded, undermanned, and only arrives at the scene when the victim is killed or expected to die.

“AIS has to do their job,” Vaccaro says, pointing to the case of 24-year-old Emma Blumstein, who was killed on her bike in Crown Heights two weeks ago after a delivery truck driver failed to yield to her while making a left turn. “Are there skid marks to show that he was going too fast? Are there witnesses who saw him speeding or crossing early into the opposite lane?” Last week’s failed bill would have given officers authority to charge the delivery truck driver in Blumstein’s case, but not in Cooke’s.

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