In 2010, the last year the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA) published such figures, a startling 4,280 pedestrians were hit and killed in traffic and 70,000 were injured. For many states, this past year was one of the most deadly in a decade, ending a general decline in pedestrian fatalities. Even still, there is a disturbing cultural willingness to accept these deaths as a necessary evil. The public increasingly blames the victims. The police rarely prosecute, and if they do, the courts are often lenient. In 2012, 136 pedestrians were killed and another 11,621 were injured in New York City alone—and in all that time, only one sober, unacquainted driver was charged.
As a fan of alternative forms of transportation, I try to follow news on the subject. From Korea, and even more appropriate for a cycling advocate, comes news of this ‘accident’:
Seoul – A truck driver who killed three South Korean professional cyclists in a road accident has admitted he was watching a television mounted on his dashboard at the time, police said Thursday.
The LAPD issued a directive instructing officers that a motorist can be held responsible for causing a bicycle accident even if he or she did not make direct contact with the rider — and can be arrested for fleeing the scene, Box said.
In other words, striking a bike with your car is “causing a bicycle accident.”
Salon.com Asks “is it time for the NYPD to investigate bicycle accidents?”
Advocates for pedestrians and cyclists have long argued the NYPD should dedicate more resources to collision investigations. For Stephan, the issue hits close to home. A year and a half ago, two good friends were struck and killed by motorists in the same week, and Stephan was struck by a vehicle earlier this year while biking along Kent Ave in Brooklyn. He said the NYPD’s reluctance to carry out full investigations of these incidents points to a larger cultural bias that tends to favor drivers and views cyclists as menaces to city streets.
“I think there’s a culture of windshield perspective in the NYPD,” he said. “A lot of the officers are from Staten Island or other places where they grew up driving. Drivers don’t want to see other drivers prosecuted.”
There’s some encouraging news for cyclists, however. Earlier this month, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly sent a letter to the City Council outlining a new policy in which the department has increased the size of its collision investigation squad and loosened the conditions for dispatching investigators. According to the letter, posted in full on StreetsBlog.org, the squad had previously responded only to accidents where a victim was either dead or likely to die. Under the new guidelines, the squad will respond if there is serious injury or if a police department duty captain believes circumstances warrant action.