This blog has frequently alluded to the seemingly light penalties for motor vehicle drivers who kill or injure pedestrians and bicyclists in New York City. One example of this, reported last week by Gothamist.com, is the accident in East Williamsburg three years ago in which a truck driver struck and killed a cyclist in Brooklyn. We reported on the incident when it occurred in 2011.
According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the truck driver had not done anything more egregious than fail to signal his right turn, the maneuver that killed the bicycle rider. The driver said that he did not notice that he had hit the cyclist.
Initially, he was issued a summons by NYPD because he did not signal his turn, but the charges were dismissed. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office declined to charge him.
Because he was unaware that he had hit the cyclist, the truck driver left the scene, but was questioned the next day after nearby surveillance video allowed investigators to identify the truck. However, the driver has not faced any criminal charges, and the DMV recently announced that they would suspend his license for six months, one of the most severe penalties issued to a driver who was not drunk.
The pressure to impose some penalty on the driver came primarily from the man’s parents, who mounted an aggressive campaign in search of justice for their son and transparency in the way such deaths are handled. Streetsblog.com has reported on the results of this campaign, which has resulted in the DMV scheduling safety hearings to determine what happened in several fatal accidents, including the East Williamsburg truck-bicycle accident.
The suspension of the truck driver’s license reverses a miscarriage of justice in the death of the cyclist. But is this enough? Advocates for safer streets think it is a good first step.