Linda Douglas, a 67-year-old mother and grandmother, was struck and killed by the driver of a tractor trailer at the intersection of Flatbush and Nostrand Avenues on the early morning of April 3rd, 2019. The driver fled the scene, but has since been located and released by police without being charged with a crime.
Douglas was on her way to her job as a nursing assistant in Harlem when she was run down by the driver of the 18-wheeler. The driver then fled the scene, leaving Douglas lying unconscious in the crosswalk. Tragically, she was pronounced dead at around 5 a.m.
Police were able to locate and question the driver later that same day. They released him without charging him for a crime, however, because the driver claimed that “he didn’t know he struck the victim.”
When Gothamist asked police how they were able to clear the driver so quickly after the accident occurred, an NYPD spokesperson called it “good police work.” The spokesperson went on to explain that the name of the driver is not being released because “he’s not a criminal.” However, a spokesperson for Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said that “this incident is under investigation” when asked if their office is in favor of charging hit-and-run drivers who simply claim that they didn’t realize they hit anyone.
Our condolences go out to the family of Linda Douglas, who leaves behind a husband, two children and a grandchild, and who was reportedly only a few weeks from retirement when she was tragically struck down.
Unfortunately, Linda Douglas’s death is not an aberration but part of a larger and very disturbing trend. Douglas is the 49th pedestrian or cyclist fatality in New York City this year, a shocking 30% increase from last year within the same time frame.
Part of what makes this accident so frustrating is that this intersection is already known to be especially dangerous for pedestrians. New York City’s recently updated 2019 Pedestrian Safety Action Plans identify numerous “priority corridors” in each borough where traffic accidents are especially likely.
Sure enough, the intersection of Flatbush and Nostrand Avenue falls within an 8-mile stretch of Flatbush Ave that is identified as a priority corridor. On this stretch of Flatbush that starts at Grand Army Plaza and ends at Marine Parkway Bridge, there were 7.1 pedestrians killed or seriously injured per mile between 2012 and 2016, an average of more than 10 people a year. It is hard not to see Douglas’s death, and the increasing rate of traffic fatalities in New York, as a failure on the part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan.
It is also frustrating that the driver in this case will apparently not be charged for this accident. It can be hard to justify the trend of not charging hit-and-run drivers who simply claim ignorance. In 2018, there were 5,699 hit-and-run accidents in New York City, yet only 492 (not even 10%) of these drivers were actually arrested.
Recently, the truck driver who fled the scene after killing Chaim Joseph as he rode his bike in Times Square was also not charged with a crime. At some point, it is fair to wonder if criminal charges in hit-and-run accidents might inspire motorists to be more careful when they are behind the wheel.
There is nothing that can undue the trauma and grief that this truck driver caused when he struck and killed Linda Douglas. Whether or not he is ever charged with a crime, hopefully the family is able to secure as much compensation for the damages they have suffered as they can possibly get.
At Block O’Toole & Murphy, our attorneys have successfully litigated many cases involving pedestrians who are killed in traffic accidents, such as this $5,000,000 settlement after a mother of four was killed by a garbage truck while walking in Manhattan. Our lawyers work every case like it’s the only one in the office because it’s our job to provide all the help we can to our clients who have unfairly been put in tragic situations. If you would like a free, no obligation legal consultation, call 212-736-5300.