Gregory Thompson Jr. and Davis Shepherd are both members of a group they wished they would never be a part of: Families for Safe Streets.
These two lost a sister and a fiancee, respectively, because of “reckless driving.” They were among the dozens of New Yorkers on the steps of City Hall last Sunday afternoon demanding for an urgent implementation of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero,” a plan that is designed to reduce traffic-related accidents and reckless driving.
“His excuse was that he didn’t see her. Her body was left unidentifiable. My family had to go to the morgue to identify her body,” said Thompson Jr., recalling the day he lost his sister, Renee Thompson, 16, a high school senior in the Bronx. She was just a few weeks away from attending Howard University, he said.
Renee Thompson was killed by a tractor trailer near the intersection of Third Avenue and East 60th Street on July 31 of last year.
“Because of someone’s negligence, her potential hasn’t been met, and there’s no more chance for her to meet that potential. No more chance. This is unacceptable by all means,” Thompson Jr. continued.
According to the city’s Department of Transportation website, “250 people are killed each year in traffic crashes, which is the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14, and the second leading cause for seniors.” The New York Times reported that in 2013, 176 pedestrians were killed in traffic-related accidents.
But for Shepherd, who lost his fiancee, Sonya Powell, in a hit-and-run accident in the Bronx on Nov. 27, 2009, a day after Thanksgiving, he hopes that de Blasio’s traffic violence plan will be implemented swiftly, which he said may prevent further loss of lives.
“We need to move forward now to implement these 20 mile per hour speed zones. I have worked with Transportation Alternatives and the community boards in the Bronx, and we were able to implement 20 mile per hour speed zones. It didn’t took long, nor did it cost a lot of money,” he said.
The rally was organized by Amy Cohen, a mother who lost her son on Oct. 8, 2013, after he was run over and killed in front of her home by a van. Relatives and friends held up pictures of their loved ones, some as young as 3 years old, who were killed in traffic accidents.
In an interview with the AmNews, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said she had conversations with her community boards about the implementation of the policy.
“We’re going to provide them with the necessary tools and technology to create a map of the ‘hot spots’ where traffic accidents are most likely to take place,” said Brewer. “Community boards are the ‘eyes and ears,’ so we want them to work closely with the Department of Transportation to fix that problem while working with victims’ families.”
The rally just came five days after de Blasio announced his Vision Zero plan with Police Commissioner William J. Bratton and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. The policy aims to reduce the city’s current 30 mph speed limit to 25 mph; install more cameras to track drivers who speed and run red lights; increase the NYPD’s Highway Division to 263 cops, from 190; have precinct officers allocate more time to ticketing dangerous drivers; install 250 speed bumps; and provide street lights at 1,000 intersections.
The measure will also increase penalties on dangerous drivers by making it a felony for anyone who is involved in a fatal traffic accident while driving without a license or who leaves the scene of the accident.