Despite Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious Vision Zero program to eliminate pedestrian fatalities in the five boroughs, New York City saw more than 38,000 hit-and-run accidents in 2015, 48 of which resulted in catastrophic injury or death. The New York Daily News reported that the bulk of the hit-and-runs, some 34,000, caused property damage, most of it minor. But 4,000 hit-and-runs have injured people, and that is roughly the same number injured last year, according to the NYPD Transportation Bureau.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer called the number “staggering” and is planning to introduce legislation to increase hit-and-run penalties for repeat offenders, creating “real consequences” for those he called “the worst of the worst.” Van Bramer’s bill is largely a response to incidents such as the Montelbano case, where a truck driver was convicted of a hit-and-run that killed a 69-year-old woman, years after he fatally struck another pedestrian and fled the scene at the very same intersection.
Mayor de Blasio has defended his Vision Zero program, noting several preventative steps the city has taken, including reducing the speed limit to 25 mph, redesigning 130 streets and intersections, doubling the number of speeding tickets, and tripling the number of citations for vehicles that fail to yield to pedestrians. Other initiatives include protected bike lanes, widened sidewalks, and calibrating traffic lights to give seniors enough time to cross the street.
Still, enforcement of hit-and-run crime remains very low. For the 4,000 hit-and-run injury accidents, only 480 drivers faced criminal charges, while another 475 were cited for a moving violation. For the 48 catastrophic accidents, only 28 drivers were ever found or arrested. This is a problem not only from a law enforcement perspective; it also means that the vast majority of injured parties cannot file a claim for damages, because they don’t know who was at fault. Justice for victims requires the city to take steps to address this problem.
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