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Elderly at Particular Risk of Pedestrian Accidents, Despite New Law

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Blaming the victim happens everywhere. But when it comes to pedestrian accidents in New York City, it seems more than occasional. Take the case of an elderly pedestrian killed on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The 89-year-old man was crossing E. 61st Street at First Avenue when he was struck by an SUV turning left from First Avenue. The NYPD said that the man was not in the crosswalk when he was hit. However, post-accident photos published in the New York Post showed the wheels of the SUV very close to the corner, suggesting that the victim was not as far from the crosswalk as the police indicated.

However, being in the crosswalk does not seem all that important except when NYPD declines to issue charges, as with the fatal pedestrian accident on First Avenue. Just a week before, an elderly tourist, whom police acknowledged was in the crosswalk, was hit by a cabbie also making a turn, this one from Madison Avenue onto 61st Street. Witnesses said that the cab was travelling fast and that cabs frequently speed through the intersection trying to make the light. The cabbie has had his license suspended, but unless he is charged and convicted of violating a traffic law, such as the Right-of-Way Law that gives pedestrians legally in the crosswalk the right of way over vehicles, he will soon be back on the streets.

The Right-of-Way Law, which took effect in August 2014, made it a criminal misdemeanor to harm pedestrians who have the right of way. It also allowed precinct-level officers to charge drivers based on the evidence rather than on actual observation of a traffic violation, which had been the case before the enactment of the new law. However, although originally hailed as a victory for pedestrians in the city, the law does not seem to be operating as intended and law enforcement has found a way to keep things simple. Blaming a victim for not being in the crosswalk seems to be a trend. Not being in the crosswalk means that the victim did not have the right of way and thus can be blamed for his or her own death.

Although year-to-date traffic deaths appear to be down over the same period last year, according to Streetsblog, the improvement may not have benefitted elderly pedestrians. Time will tell whether NYOPD will issue statistics broken down by ages of victims