Brooklyn Eagle: Sen. Adams, Brooklyn Group Get Tough on Hit-Run Accidents

Eric Adams

February 25, 2010

Demand Action After Prospect Heights And SW Brooklyn Tragedies
By Harold Egeln
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

PROSPECT HEIGHTS – Faced with “a culture of hit-and-run” accidents gravely injuring and killing pedestrians, state Senator Eric Adams has introduced a bill in Albany calling for tougher penalties while a group in Bay Ridge, alarmed by fatalities and speeders there, circulates petitions.

Over the weekend, as widely reported, a hit-and-run driver in a green Acura Legend struck two women. Erinn Phelan, 22 and an aide to Mayor Bloomberg, is in critical condition at Kings County Hospital, focus of citywide concern.

She and her friend Alma Guerrero, who suffered a collar bone injury, were struck on Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights early Sunday morning. Police found the car’s owner, identified as Cindy Jasmin, on Tuesday.

Among recent hit-and-run deaths was that of Dr. Harry Lewner, 58, a beloved dentist leaving his Fourth Avenue office at 79th Street in Bay Ridge, struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver, Karissa McFaline, 21, turned herself in to police in Manhattan.

A recent heartbreaking pedestrian death was in Dyker Heights at 75th Street and 13th Avenue, where Joseph “Kid Dundee” Rollino, 104, was struck and killed. The distraught driver remained at the scene. The victim, well known in the neighborhood for his friendliness and stories, was famed for his “strongman” history centered in Coney Island.

“Following yet another tragic hit-and-run, we must reexamine our laws to make certain that individuals never leave the scene of an accident without facing severe penalties,” said Senator Adams (Dem/20th Senate District), sharing his shock over the two women being struck.

In 2009 the city recorded 155 pedestrian deaths, of which 38 were hit-and-runs, according to the NYPD. “New York City has been plagued by a large number of hit-and-runs. Some few get attention, but most do not. This problem persists because of our accident laws,” said Adams.

“I have introduced a bill (S-555) to increase the penalty for and automatically revoke the license of any driver who leaves the scene of an accident without properly reporting the incident to officials,” he explained. “My proposed law will hold drivers who improperly leave the scene of an accident criminally responsible for their reckless behavior.”

Under current statutes drivers fleeing an accident scene in which property damage occurred get a summons if caught, Adams said, or if a misdemeanor is involved detectives conduct an investigation. Intoxicated or uninsured drivers who flee get summonses, or if they remain at the accident scene, they are arrested.

The present legal set up, Adams said, “encourages rogue drivers and promotes disregard for someone who may be injured in an accident.” The new law is to ensure “that every incident must be reported to the proper authorities.”

Alarmed over pedestrian deaths caused by speeding vehicles such as on Fourth Avenue, a group of concerned Bay Ridge residents are circulating petitions and asking for officials to help find solutions to prevent the tragic accidents.

The “Bay Ridge Residents Fed Up With Reckless Drivers” group has its petition online at its Facebook page. Its concerns were voiced at a recent Community Board 10 meeting in Bay Ridge.

Other accidents spurring group action include an elderly woman and a young child struck and injured at Third Avenue and 92nd Street. The group reported an increase in speeding vehicles running red lights and stop signs.

The number of moving violation summonses rose 11 percent last year, said Deputy Inspector Eric Rodriguez, 68th Precinct commander, noting that reckless and DWI drivers have “a total disregard for the law.”

The city’s first automobile fatality was Henry Hale Bliss of the Bliss family estate, now Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge. The Wall Street real estate dealer was struck and killed in Manhattan on September 13, 1899 by an electric car.

The 20th Century recorded a total of over 30 million traffic fatalities around the planet and 1,200,000 died worldwide in 2008, according to the World Health Organization.

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