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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's Still Not A Crime To Kill Someone With Your Car Door [Gothamist]



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Tskaka Cooke (courtesy Jean Segarra)
Last week a bill that would give police officers unambiguous authority to penalize drivers who injure pedestrians or cyclists did not pass the state legislature. But even if the bill had been signed into law it would have failed to cover drivers who carelessly open their car doors, as was the case when 39-year-old cyclist Tskaka Cooke was killed last Saturday after striking a car door that was suddenly opened in his path on a busy road in Queens. "You can open a door and injure a pedestrian or cyclist and not trigger the law," attorney Steve Vaccaro says. "You can door someone and run and it's not a crime."
Currently a motorist faces a $150 fine for violating New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1214 [pdf], which prohibits opening a door "of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so." These tickets are handed out sporadically, and the police does not keep data on how many are given in New York City.
"Someone's life is gone—is that a violation?" Jean Segarra, Cooke's best friend and former roommate says. "I understand that it may have been an accident, and that you don't want to ruin two lives. But to kill someone and just receive a ticket, it doesn't seem fair."

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