car accidents

Hitting Pedestrians With a Car Still Not Criminal in New York City

Michael McKean attends the 57th annual Obie awards at Webster Hall on May 21, 2012 in New York City.
Photo: Steve Mack/Getty Images

The actor Michael McKean (This Is Spinal Tap, Laverne & Shirley) was hit by a car on the Upper West Side yesterday, as were two other pedestrians, a trash can, and a mailbox, after two vehicles collided and lost control. McKean was bleeding from his head and taken to the hospital in critical condition. “That’s a horrible corner, a very dangerous corner,” a nearby doorman told DNAinfo, adding that cars run red lights all the time. “Believe me, this happens every week.” Just as common: “No criminality was suspected in the smash-up, according to police,” the Daily News reports, with photos of the street carnage. New York City has an ongoing problem with this sort of thing.

Earlier this year, the City Council held a hearing with the NYPD to examine why drivers are rarely charged in accidents that kill or injure pedestrians and cyclists. As reported by Gothamist, 241 people on foot or bikes were killed by vehicles last year, and just seventeen drivers faced criminal charges. In cases without fatalities, like McKean’s, the NYPD said exactly zero drivers were charged.

A lot of that comes down to the police process: The NYPD’s Accident Investigation Squad is made up of just 23 people citywide, and typically only conducts a full investigation if the victim dies. Speeding, running red lights, yielding to pedestrians — eh, shrug.

People on foot have long been considered less important than those with four wheels, The Atlantic noted last month. In fact, the automobile industry lobbied to make jaywalking a crime in the twenties, leaving current traffic rules “like a brawl,” according to one expert, “where the strongest brawler wins.” Even a famous comedian is no match for a couple tons of steel.

Michael McKean Hit by Car in NYC