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Op-Ed on fairness of investigating traffic fatalities

Here is a great Op-Ed piece from the Drum Major Institutes, Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein about the recent case with killed cyclist Mathieu Lefevre. The author looks at why this tragic fatality was not treated in the same fairness as another accident involving a woman in midtown elevator and how to move forward in treating traffic deaths more seriously.

End the Culture of Accepting Traffic Deaths

by: Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein

In December, a horrific elevator accident killed a young executive named Suzanne Hart in Midtown Manhattan. The city’s response was swift and firm: the Department of Buildings quickly inspected all 650 elevators owned or maintained by the company involved, and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office also launched a criminal investigation into the botched maintenance work.It was a horrible incident necessary of a thorough investigation.

Two months earlier, another horrible incident resulted in the death of a young New Yorker. However, the difference between the city’s responses to both incidents is stark and shocking.

In October, Mathieu Lefevre was struck and killed by a truck while commuting home on his bicycle in an industrial part of East Williamsburg. The truck driver left the scene.

The NYPD tracked down the driver that struck Lefevre a few days later, the truck having been found parked a few blocks away. The driver claimed he never felt the collision and was unaware that the incident took place.

No charges were filed against the driver and the NYPD brought the investigation to a close, falsely concluding with the notion that Lefevre had run a red light.

It wasn’t until after being threatened with a lawsuit by the victim’s family that the NYPD released the file of the investigation. This is when certain facts of the incident became known: investigating officers were unable to take pictures of the incident because of a faulty camera (no camera phones, I suppose); and video footage from a private security camera captured the incident, showing that the truck driver struck Leferve while making a right hand turn without signaling. This video proved that Lefevre did not run a red light and makes it difficult to believe that the driver was unaware that the collision took place.

But one especially eerie detail stands out: the NYPD had taken pictures of the victim’s family while attending a rally in support of better enforcement of traffic laws. It was in the file.

Why was the city’s response to these two tragedies so different? There is a general culture that simply accepts traffic deaths as a way of life; this is a culture of acceptance. Traffic deaths are, after all, common. One New Yorker dies roughly every 35 hours in a traffic incident.

Read the rest here.

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