Crossing guard struck by minivan in Jackson Heights

By Bill Parry

A 75-year-old crossing guard was released from Elmhurst Hospital Center and is now home recovering from head injuries she received when she was struck in a Jackson Heights intersection last week.

Mary Cox was on duty at PS 212, leaning against a parked car on 82nd Street near 34th Avenue March 19 when a blue Honda Odyssey minivan rammed into it from behind.

Cox, a widowed mother of six, was knocked to the ground and injured according to the NYPD. She has been a crossing guard at the school since 2008.

The driver remained at the scene and was not charged, the police said. The collision occurred in a 20 mph slow zone that the Department of Transportation established last fall after an evaluation on crash history, traffic fatalities, closeness of schools and senior centers and community support.

“This case is more powerful to the fact that it was a crossing guard,” Make Queens Safer member Maribel Rodriguez Egipciaco said. “How can our children feel secure when even crossing guards are getting hit by a reckless driver?”

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), whose Crossing Guard Safety Act became law in August, said, “We have to work together to protect our schools’ crossing guards. We have a duty to protect them and this kind of incident highlights the need for urgent reform. I believe we should elevate current procedure and create new ways to safeguard their well-being.”

Peralta advocated for the Safety Act in a push to fill 200 crossing guard vacancies across the city.

“The streets are dangerous, and although there is still a lack of crossing guards, we must consider several options to increase their safety and prevent this from happening again,” he said.

Make Queens Safer, a Jackson Heights-based advocacy group of concerned parents who fight for safer street designs and better enforcement of traffic laws, called for a careful review following the collision that injured the crossing guard.

MQS wants joint hearings with city agencies involved in education, transportation and public safety to review safe access to schools for students and employees. The group also wants better coordination between their communities and the Department of Education to improve pedestrian education in the schools. And better enforcement of traffic laws by the NYPD.

In a statement, Make Queens Safer said, “We do not know the specifics of this crash, but basic common sense dictates that hitting a parked car, under almost any circumstances, points to a failure to use caution. We expect the police to do their job regarding assessment of the crime scene, but ask that the widespread practice of failing to charge distracted or reckless drivers stop today. We are grateful that Mary survived the crash. But her injury speaks to the need for much broader enforcement of traffic law.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.