Changes in the design of streets can go a long way toward saving pedestrians' lives. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration has done much to make streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians—often by reducing the speed of motor vehicles, which in turn reduces the number of people killed in crashes.
Nonetheless, 139 pedestrians and 22 bicyclists were among the 243 people who died as a result of traffic crashes in the city of eight million residents last year. And a report in The New York Times suggests that the police don't devote enough attention to such deaths.
The Times cites the case of Clara Heyworth, 28, who was struck by a car last July while crossing a street in Brooklyn. Because she didn't die immediately, accident squad detectives didn't begin a formal investigation of the crash until four days after it happened. By then, according to Ms. Heyworth's husband, Jacob Stevens, most of the evidence from the crash had been lost. She died in a New York hospital four days after being struck on Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood.
Stevens intends to file a lawsuit against the car's driver and against the Police Department for not fully investigating the crash; he says the lack of speedy investigation in his wife's case is indicative of the inadequate police response—at a time when more New Yorkers are killed by cars than by guns.
The scarcity of police investigation of such deaths was brought to public attention in a June 7 mass e-mail from Transportation Alternatives, a New York advocacy group. The organization called for people concerned about the situation to rally with the Heyworth family at City Hall June 11.
Theorganization said: "As many as 215 times a day, vehicles crash on New York City streets. But the New York City Police Department investigates less-than-one-half of one percent of those crashes. Before another New Yorker is left with debilitating injury and no evidence admissible in court, Transportation Alternatives is demanding the NYPD investigate the crashes that seriously injure thousands every year."
The Times article suggested that the small number of investigations may be a function of the limited number of trained investigators and limited government resources.
Though the specifics vary from one municipality to another, the underlying issue—the sometimes inadequate police response to crashes that ultimately leave pedestrians dead—is one that holds meaning for safety advocates in many cities and towns.
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