The NYPD has increased the number of investigations of car accidents that leave victims with severe injuries but not likely or certain death, police said.
Previously, NYPD investigators would arrive at the scene of an accident only if victims died or were close to being dead.
Investigators are now expected to handle cases “when there has been a critical injury or when a Police Department duty captain believes the extent of the injuries and/or unique circumstances of a collision warrant such action,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a letter sent to the City Council on March 4.
City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), the Public Safety chairman, said he supports the initiative, but mentioned that current legislation should be enforced to prosecute reckless drivers.
“It is welcome news that more accident scenes will be investigated by trained detectives, but it is important that they use the laws that exist right now to prosecute dangerous drivers,” Vallone said in a press release. “I can think of no instance when a motorist has been prosecuted for reckless endangerment — that needs to change.”
The measures were announced after years of criticism from community organizations and transportation safety advocacy groups pressing NYPD officials for the creation of a task force designed to investigate car crashes.
One group, Transportation Alternatives, released a report entitled “Deadly Driving Unlimited: How the NYPD Lets Dangerous Drivers Run Wild” last August, highlighting the number of car crashes that go uninvestigated each year.
According to the TA report, featuring information gathered by the Department of Transportation, 60 percent of fatal pedestrian and bicyclist crashes with known causes are caused by illegal driving behavior, such as speeding and distracted driving, that went uninvestigated by the NYPD.
The report also said that in 2011, precincts issued four times as many tickets for tinted windows as for speeding, the most common cause of fatal crashes involving motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists — killing more New Yorkers than drunk driving and distracted driving combined.
The NYPD also announced it will use the term “collision” instead of “accident” in car crash investigations to eliminate the notion that there is no fault or liability in any particular incident. Its Accident Investigation Squad will be renamed the Collision Investigation Squad.