New York truck driver not charged because victim was short

Let’s get it out of the way up front: I’m short. 5’-4” or 64 inches to be precise. As I age I suspect I will get shorter. It is sometimes a challenge being vertically challenged, but I never thought that I was actually discriminated against. I even laugh at the Randy Newman song. But then I don’t live in New York City, where it appears there are different rules if you hit and kill someone under 65 inches tall.

It used to be really hard to charge drivers in New York City when they killed pedestrians of any height in an intersection unless they were drunk or texting or both. The Mayor recently passed a controversial Right-of-Way law that changed this; Bill de Blasio (Height: 6’-5”) described it:

the law that was passed by the City Council, which I signed, makes clear that when an individual fails to yield to pedestrians where they should — the pedestrian has the walk sign and they’re crossing the street and there’s still a crash… what the law dictates is that if there is serious injury or fatality, and if the officers on the scene determine that it was an avoidable injury or fatality, they are obligated to pursue an arrest.


But that doesn’t mean that the District Attorney (unknown height) has to pursue charges, and in the case of a truck driver killing an elderly pedestrian in 2014, charges were just dropped. The reason, according to Brad Aaron in Streetsblog:

In explaining their decision to drop the case, prosecutors said they believed Hernandez’s visibility was hindered due to the truck’s design and because the victim was 5’5” tall. Prosecutors noted that Hernandez did not leave the scene, and said they could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not exercising due care when he ran over Romano.

Attorney Steve Vaccaro tells Streetsblog:

A driver high up in the cab of a big rig has an obligation to look carefully for any pedestrian with the right of way — even those, like the 5’-5″ tall elderly victim here, who are short of stature. In essence, the DA concluded that it is less blameworthy to kill short people than tall people.”

Now if you look at the Daily News photo of this truck, you can see that it is a cab-over design where the driver sits way up high over the engine. These were developed for use in cities because they are shorter, giving either better maneuverability or more cargo in a given length, but the bottom of the windshield is well above the top of my head. (I always thought that the design gave the driver good visibility because his face is so close to the front of the truck with no hood blocking the view, but I guess I was wrong.)

So if the driver isn’t responsible because he can’t see, then why isn’t the manufacturer, for making an urban truck with a big giant blind spot that misses short people, the majority of women and all children? Why is it allowed on the road?

mercedes frontRoad Danger Reduction Forum/via

In Europe, companies like Mercedes and Volvo sell trucks that are designed to reduce the chances of hitting pedestrians and the damage when they do. They are lower, not cab over but cab in front where the driver is right down there at street level with great visibility.

no blind spots hereRoad Danger Reduction Forum/via

With a view like this, the driver is even going to see little old me. Maybe along with Vision Zero (deaths) we need a Vision 65 (inches) to stop killing short people.

Tags: New York City | Walking

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