Local Politicians Attempt To Get More Traffic Accidents Investigated

A group of city councilmembers proposed a package of bills that would address inadequate NYPD policies and procedures for accident investigations and traffic safety notification.

The package comes five months after a February 15 oversight hearing that included NYPD and victim testimony revealed that only fatal accidents are investigated by a 19-member, citywide Accident Investigation Squad (AIS).

The AIS has faced increasing scrutiny in the last year after allegedly botching or ending investigations into the deaths of 30-year-old Matthieu Lefevre in East Williamsburg and 28-year-old Clara Heyworth in Fort Greene. Both were hit by cars — Lefevre while riding his bicycle and Heyworth while crossing the street — and in both instances, the driver faced no charges. In Heyworth’s case, the driver tested as drunk at the scene. However, the investigation was dropped because she was still alive when taken to the hospital.

In both cases, lawsuits have been filed by the families of the victims.

The package of bills aim to change the scope and the manner in which these investigations are conducted, as well as to provide public notifications about the circumstances surrounding accidents.

“Today, far too many crashes that cause either serious injury or death are not being investigated and reckless drivers are not being held accountable for their actions,” said Councilmember Stephen Levin, who was one of the politicians advocating the legislation. “It is clear that something is terribly wrong when, time after time, I hear the same story from victims who will never get to see justice.”

Brooklyn councilmembers involved included: Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, Letitia James, and David Greenfield.  Also in support was Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit pedestrian safety and alternative transportation advocacy group.

The bills include:

  • Resolution 1434 – A resolution calling on the Police Department to ensure that there are five officers assigned to each precinct who can investigate fatal and serious physical injury crashes. There are currently only 19 NYPD officers assigned these duties.
  • Resolution 1435 – A resolution calling on the Police Department to follow State Law and investigate not just crashes that cause death, but those causing serious physical injury.
  • Intro. 904 – A bill requiring the police to report whether a principle in a traffic crash was issued a violation for causing the crash, if a sobriety test was administered and whether it was investigated by AIS. The police would be required to maintain crash data reports for five years.
  • Intro. 903 – A bill by requiring the police to publish their traffic safety plan and the contact information for the precinct’s traffic safety officer on each precinct’s website.
  • Resolution 1436 – A resolution calling on the NYPD to revise the Department’s patrol guide to require officers to complete a crash report for all accidents involving motor vehicles regardless of whether there was vehicle contact.

A “Crash Investigation Reform Act” was also introduced by Lander and Bronx Councilmember James Vacca. The goal of this bill is to empower a task force to study and recommend substantive reforms.

“Crashes that result in serious injuries demand serious investigations,” said Lander. “But right now, they just aren’t getting them from the NYPD…. Thousands of crashes with serious injuries to pedestrians and cyclists happen with no real investigations, and no charges. The Crash Investigation Reform Act would set up a comprehensive review of NYPD policies regarding traffic crash investigations, and get us on the road to safer streets.”


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