A deadly weekend that claimed the lives of five pedestrians throughout the city has shown that although last year was called the safest year on New York City streets, there is still more that needs to be done.
Police are investigating three fatal hit-and-runs that occurred on Sunday in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx during which three men were killed. Later that same night, another pedestrian was fatally struck in the Bronx but in that case the driver remained at the scene.
Then at about 8:34 a.m. on Monday 77-year-old Carol Dauplaise was killed as she attempted to cross Madison Avenue in Manhattan, allegedly by livery cab driver Buddhi Gurung — who was later charged with failure to yield to pedestrian and failure to exercise due care.
"The NYPD is aggressively pursuing the perpetrators. Investigators are examining video footage from the area of each crash to identify those responsible to hold them accountable,” said Wiley Norvell of the mayor’s office on the hit-and-runs. “The mayor will work closely with the State Legislature to enact tougher penalties for leaving the scene."
According to the NYPD, a total of 21 pedestrians have been struck and killed as of Feb. 28 — compared to 20 in the same time frame in 2015.
For Cristina Furlong, co-founder of advocacy group Make Queens Safer, in order for reckless behavior behind the wheel to change, the NYPD must follow through on stronger enforcement and hold drivers accountable.
“Crimes are being committed with fatal results,” Furlong said. “NYPD has impact areas for drugs, prostitution, cell phone theft but hit-and-run victims’ families barely get a detective to return a call.”
Furlong added that authorities should look into already existing dangerous conditions on certain streets.
She also asked that insurance companies and auto body shops report any suspicious damage they find on vehicles to the NYPD.
“NYPD enforcement would be the fastest route to changing reckless driving behavior,” Furlong said. “Drivers disregard other road users with no fear of consequences.”
According to Caroline Samponaro, deputy director for nonprofit Transportation Alternatives, these recent fatalities just shine a light on an issue that still needs to be tackled and a message that all drivers still need to learn.
“I think right now we aren’t on track to have a more dangerous year but I think its just a reminder of how steadfast our focus has to be on sending the message to all New Yorkers, all drivers, that reckless driving is not tolerated on New York streets,” Samponaro said.
She believes that city and state officials must come together to come up with an action plan to deal with reckless driving and also renew the focus and bring resources to the NYPD investigation collision squad when it comes to dealing with hit-and-run cases.
Samponaro added that just as changes in culture has created a social stigma against drunk driving throughout the years, reckless driving in general should be seen in the same light.
“Those are five families that are broken as a result of drivers not only doing something wrong, but doing something so indecent as to leave the scene,” Samponaro said.
And for drivers, Samponaro added that they all should think about everyone else and the responsibility they each hold when getting behind the wheel.
“The decision that those drivers made to leave the scene obviously they didn’t have in their heads the faces of the victims and the families,” Samponaro said. “The simple and powerful message…Drive like your family lives there.”