A Queens, New York couple is furious after the driver who ran over and killed their three-year-old daughter last year had the two citations stemming from the incident dismissed by a judge in July. The family only recently learned about the lack of punishment in their little girl's death.
Three-year-old Allison Liao was crossing the street with her grandmother in Flushing, Queens, when she was struck and killed by an SUV. The tragic incident was captured by the dashcam of another vehicle. According to CBS 2 New York, the perpetrator was given just two tickets for failing to use due care and failing to yield to a pedestrian. Even if found guilty, the driver would have only faced maximum fines of $150 for each citation.
The driver may not entirely escape punishment. The little girl's family has filed a wrongful death suit over the tragedy. Also, according to CBS 2 New York, the DMV has scheduled a hearing for January to decide whether to pursue further action against the man's driver's license, and Congresswoman Grace Meng has begun asking questions about the case.
It seems outrageous, but driver's don't often face consequences for striking pedestrians in America's busiest city.
A New York state precedent known as the "rule of two" stipulates a driver must commit two traffic misdemeanors when a pedestrian or cyclist is struck for prosecutors to bring a charge of criminal negligence, according to CityLab. In essence, drivers must be violating at least two traffic laws when they fatally strike a pedestrian to be charged with a negligence.
The rule of two isn't a law, rather it's a legal precedent which is arbitrarily applied. Sometimes, drivers who were committing two traffic violations and killed a pedestrian or cyclists still aren't charged with a crime. The act of hitting a pedestrian doesn't count toward a motorist's two strikes. Drivers need to be violating two traffic laws in addition to killing someone to be charged with a crime.
New York mayor Bill De Blasio is pushing for safer streets for pedestrians, pursuing his 'Vision Zero Action Plan' with the goal of eradicating traffic deaths. Last year, 290 pedestrians died in the city, according to The New York Times. But until the rule of two is challenged in court, the precedent stands to be arbitrarily applied by the courts.