By Alex Robinson
The parents of a 3-year-old girl killed by an SUV last year were fuming after a DMV judge dismissed two tickets issued to the driver, whom they hold responsible for their daughter’s death.
“Our family is very outraged about what happened here and our family is very hurt,” said His-Pei Liao, the victim’s father. “Knowing this driver was in the wrong, we don’t understand how something like this could happen.”
The judge threw out tickets for “Failing to Use Due Care” and “Failing to Yield to a Pedestrian” that were issued to Ahmad Abu-Zayedeha shortly after the accident. Liao’s daughter, Allison, had been crossing the street at Cherry Avenue with her grandmother on Oct. 6, 2013, when police said she was hit by the SUV. Abu-Zayedeha remained at the site of the crash and no criminal charges were filed against him. He had been drinking alcohol, but his blood content level was below the legal limit, according to an attorney representing the Liao family.
The Liaos recently found out about the dismissal when they were looking into a lawsuit they filed against Abu-Zayedeha in Brooklyn State Supreme Court.
Liao said he was baffled by the judge’s decision as there was video footage of the incident, which Liao said shows his daughter had the right of way and that Abu-Zayedeha was at fault.
“The driver needs to take responsibility,” Liao said. “Having these tickets dropped makes him think he doesn’t need to change his behavior in the future. He’s just going to continue to drive the same way.”
The DMV issued a statement confirming the tickets were thrown out July 1 and saying Abu-Zayedeha was scheduled to face a special safety hearing Jan. 6.
“At that time, a determination will be made if Mr. Abu-Zayedeha has any culpability for the accident on Oct. 6 that would result in any action being taken with regard to his driver license based on the Vehicle and Traffic law,” the statement said.
It was not clear why the judge tossed out the tickets as the DMV declined to release a transcript of Abu-Zayedeha’s hearing.
Since his daughter’s death, Liao, along with his wife, Amy Tam-Liao, started an advocacy group called Families for Safe Streets, which seeks to combat reckless driving. The family has also pushed to have stronger penalties for drivers who hit pedestrians on crosswalks.
“It’s a really poor system we have for dealing with these types of deaths,” said Steve Vaccaro, an attorney representing the family. “This is a driver that had an elevated blood alcohol content and he obviously did not look before driving into Ally and her grandmother.”
Other safe street advocacy groups reacted to the news of the dismissal of Abu-Zayedeha’s tickets with outrage. Transportation Alternatives issued a statement calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fire DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala, who was recently issued a speeding ticket a few days after her son pleaded guilty to drunken driving and hitting a cyclist.
“The two summonses were already a mere slap on the wrist for the driver who failed to yield and killed Allison Liao when she was in the crosswalk with the light, hand-in-hand with her grandmother,” Transportation Alternatives said in the statement. “Now the state Department of Motor Vehicles has decided the deadly driver who muscled his way through that crosswalk doesn’t even deserve such a paltry sanction.”
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4566.