Light was intended to prevent fatal crash

Driver slams into pedestrian before new traffic device is turned on

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A 76-year-old woman was severely injured and was considered brain dead after she was struck by a car over the weekend on a stretch of Broadway where the city had installed — but not yet switched on – traffic lights to improve pedestrian safety, the commanding officer of the 50th police precinct, Deputy Inspector Terence O’Toole, said Tuesday.

The Saturday evening incident on Broadway near W. 246th Street was a “low-speed collision,” Capt. O’Toole told The Press over the weekend. 

On Tuesday, the incident was still under investigation by the Highway Units Collision Investigation Squad, but initial results indicated there was “no apparent criminality on the part of the motorist,” Capt. O’Toole said. The driver was a middle-aged woman, he said. 

“She was sober, not on any apparent medication, and while I don’t have exact numbers, it does not appear that excessive speed was a factor,” he said in an email to The Press.

“A greater contributing factor was the pedestrian’s decision to cross Broadway without the minimal protection of a crosswalk,” he said. 

For several hours after the accident, police blocked off the area as officers conducted what Capt. O’Toole described as a “very big investigation.” The victim was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital and appeared in “pretty bad shape,” Capt. O’Toole told The Press the day after the accident. She was considered brain dead on Monday, he said. 

Over the past few months, city workers have been installing traffic lights along the stretch of Broadway between W. 242nd and W. 251st streets, after local politicians called for making the area safer for pedestrian.

“There’s no place for pedestrians to cross,” Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said this summer.

Traffic and pedestrian safety, including on the stretch of Broadway between W. 242nd and W. 251st streets, has been “a big issue in this community,” Capt. O’Toole said. 

“Community leaders and traffic engineering teams determined that additional traffic control devices would help the situation, they have been installed but are not yet operational,” he said. 

Two news sets of traffic lights have been installed above Broadway, but for a few weeks now, they have remained wrapped in black plastic - a material similar to that of garbage bags.

Meanwhile, the elderly account for an increased share of pedestrian collisions because of their slower reaction time and diminished awareness of the area or of the dangers of large streets, Capt. O’Toole said. 

Until the Saturday accident, the 50th police precinct has not seen a single collision-related fatality this year. This compares to seven fatalities during the same period last year, he said.