StreetsPAC's Testimony to City Council on Crash Investigations

We submitted testimony to the New York City Council Committee on Transportation's contentious hearing yesterday on Intro 2224-2021, a bill that would transfer responsibility for crash investigations from NYPD to the Department of Transportation, among other reforms. Our testimony follows below.

StreetsPAC strongly supports Intro 2224-2021, which would transfer responsibility for investigating serious vehicular crashes from the NYPD to the Department of Transportation.

As currently constituted, the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad investigates only a small fraction of the crashes that result in death or serious injuries, which number in the thousands annually. And when they do investigate, the work of CIS too often fails to result in charges for drivers, and almost never leads to roadway engineering changes that could potentially prevent future crashes.

Just as bad, as StreetsPAC board member Steve Vaccaro can attest, CIS investigators too often fail to show up for what are already deeply flawed State Department of Motor Vehicle hearings, leaving killer drivers free to get back behind the wheel, and denying the families of the victims any semblance of justice.

Beyond the failure to investigate a greater number of serious crashes, CIS investigations are cloaked in secrecy, and don’t appear to result in any larger analysis of the systemic causes behind serious collisions. CIS reports don’t seem to regularly inform design changes, or to be aggregated in any meaningful way.

Intro 2224 will have multiple significant benefits. Transferring crash investigations to DOT will remove the institutional bias for drivers that has built up over years in the NYPD. The reporting requirements will greatly improve the transparency of investigations, and will lead to greater insight into the factors that cause the worst crashes. And perhaps most importantly, by linking those causes to street design, Intro 2224 will inform the types of engineering changes that can prevent future crashes, potentially saving lives and helping to advance the city’s Vision Zero efforts.

Crash investigations should be a path to justice for victims and their loved ones, and a key component of achieving Vision Zero. As currently constituted within the NYPD’s Transportation Bureau, they fail badly on both counts. In far too many cases, like those of Robyn Hightman and Mario Valenzuela, shoddy detective work has led to victim-blaming and failed to hold drivers accountable.

We have an opportunity, and indeed, a responsibility, to do better. Passing Intro 2224 is an important step in making that happen.

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published this page in News 2021-02-25 13:26:51 -0500
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