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NYPD announces dramatic change to its accident investigation policy

For many years now, one of the most contentious issues between the New York Police Department, and safety advocates, citizens and the City Council has been the adequacy of vehicle traffic laws governing accident investigations.

Specifically, the two sides have long sparred over the NYPD's policy of not sending an investigator from its Accident Investigation Squad to the scene of an accident unless someone died or was "likely to die."

Critics argued that the policy was inhumane, and seriously jeopardized investigations in those cases where an injured party is expected to live in the aftermath an accident but dies several days later, leaving a cold case.

In recent developments, it appears as if this policy is now officially a thing of the past.

Last week, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly sent a letter to the City Council announcing that accident investigators would now be dispatched "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."

Kelly indicated that the criteria for determining what constitutes a "critical injury," would be based in part on the guidelines used by emergency responders, which classify a critically injured victim as anyone in need of CPR, in respiratory arrest or requiring either a ventilator/circulatory support.

Interestingly, Kelly's letter to the City Council also indicated that 1) the name of the investigative squad would be changed to the Collision Investigation Squad in order to avoid any potential confusion about fault/liability, 2) the size of the squad would be increased, and 3) the Patrol Guide would be updated to reflect these changes.

The move was welcomed with open arms by both the City Council and the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, which hailed it as "a very significant step toward a safer, more human city."

It was also welcomed by city prosecutors who are eager to build stronger cases against scofflaw drivers and transportation engineers eager to gain greater insight into how to make city streets safer.

It is worth noting that while the NYPD has yet to go public with this policy, dozens of investigations resulting from the new rules have already been completed since September.

Stay tuned for further developments from our New York vehicle traffic law blog ...

If you have been issued a traffic citation, fight to keep your driving privileges and your insurance premiums as low as possible. Consider contacting an attorney who understands New York's confusing legal system, and who can help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The New York Times, "After criticism, police change policy and begin investigating more traffic crashes," Matt Flegenheimer and J. David Goodman, March 10, 2013

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