By Juan Soto
Asif Rahman was killed on Queens Boulevard by a truck while riding his bike. He was 22.
Allison Liao died when she was hit by an SUV while crossing at the intersection of Main Street and Cherry Avenue. She was 3.
Their parents were among dozens of other relatives of people killed in car accidents who gathered during a rally held at City Hall Sunday to demand that reckless drivers be prosecuted.
Holding signs that read “No charges filed,” and “Vision Zero starts today,” families of those who lost loved ones are calling on the district attorneys in the five boroughs to prosecute reckless drivers who killed or seriously injured pedestrians.
“We can’t go to zero fatalities unless reckless drivers are held accountable,” said Amy Cohen, founding member of Families for Safe Streets, the nonprofit that organized the rally.
Cohen’s 12-year-old son, Sammy, was killed by a van in Brooklyn near the family home.
“We need the district attorneys to show some courage,” Cohen said.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) was at the rally. The congresswoman spent six months in a hospital as a teenager after she was struck by a reckless driver.
“I am a survivor,” Maloney said.
She said about 95 percent of traffic deaths never lead to an arrest.
“Explain to us why someone violates the law and you don’t prosecute,” she said. “You don’t fine, you don’t take away their licenses.”
The lawmaker also wants to meet with the district attorneys “and ask them why they are not prosecuting these crimes.”
Families for Safe Streets noted that only about 2 percent of drivers in accidents are charged. The number excludes drunken drivers or drivers involved in hit-and-runs. The organization said that in 2014 270 pedestrians were killed, including 13 children.
The rally ended with a minute of silence to remember all the victims of traffic accidents.
“Nothing happened to the driver that killed my son,” said Lizy Rahman, mother of Asif Rahman, after the rally.
She and many others spoke at the gathering and told the stories about their loved ones.
“This was no accident, it was a crime,” Rahman said.
In civil court, she pointed out, the driver was held responsible for her son’s death.
“We need the district attorneys to work,” said Amy Tam-Liao, mother of 3-year-old Allison Liao. “We need reckless drivers to be held accountable. It feels like we are being victimized again.”
Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said in a statement that Allison’s death “was an immeasurable tragedy.” But he noted that after an investigation was completed there was not enough evidence to charge the driver of the vehicle that killed the little girl.
“The law draws a significant difference between negligence and criminal negligence,” Brown said.
Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4564.