Assembly Member Kellner Calls on Vance, Kelly to Enforce Street Safety Laws

On Tuesday, 21-year-old Jason King was killed by a truck driver while walking across Madison Avenue in the crosswalk. According to police, the driver overshot his destination, decided to back up, and ran over King in reverse, dragging him 30 feet before coming to a stop. NYPD decided not to charge the driver with anything more serious than a traffic summons.

The Daily News reported yesterday that police said the victim’s iPod may have prevented him from hearing the truck. It’s not clear whether the iPod factored into NYPD’s decision. But the very fact that police issued summonses to the driver indicates that they failed to pursue further options, because there are new laws on the books to suspend the driving privileges of motorists who injure pedestrians and cyclists through recklessness or negligence.

A sponsor of one of those bills, Upper East Side Assembly Member Micah Kellner, wants answers from New York City’s law enforcement agencies. Why aren’t police and prosecutors using the tools at their disposal to help keep pedestrians safe?

Yesterday Kellner sent the following letter to Manhattan DA Cy Vance and NYPD boss Ray Kelly:

Dear District Attorney Vance and Commissioner Kelly:

I am writing to you regarding an incident that occurred early yesterday morning, in which 21-year-old student Jason King was struck and killed by a dump truck that was illegally backing up the wrong way, as he was crossing Madison Avenue near 81st Street.  I have been informed by the Community Affairs Officer at the 19th Precinct that the driver of this truck was issued a summons for unsafe backing, but that he was not charged with any crime and no further action has been taken.

As the sponsor of Elle’s Law and a supporter of the Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez Law, I am greatly concerned that neither of these important pedestrian-protection laws has apparently been enforced in this incident.

Hayley and Diego’s Law provides that drivers who act in a manner that endangers a pedestrian and thereby causes physical injury or death shall be guilty of a traffic infraction, with punishment that may include a fine and/or a term of imprisonment of up to 15 days.  Elle’s Law provides that any driver who fails to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian, and in so doing causes serious physical injury to another person, will have his or her license suspended for a period of six months (with a full year suspension for second offenders).

Incidents like this one are precisely why we in the New York State legislature passed these laws; they are on the books for you to use as tools to punish reckless driving and remove dangerous drivers from the road.  I do not understand why the police failed to charge the dump truck driver under either or both of these laws.  While the driver’s actions may not rise to the level of manslaughter, it is certainly clear that his negligence warrants further punishment than a summons.  I urge you to use all available legal tools, including Elle’s Law and Hayley and Diego’s Law, to bring this driver to justice, and to ensure that he and future reckless drivers are prevented from causing further harm.

Very truly yours,

Micah Z. Kellner

Assembly Member