Harsher Penalties in Traffic Crimes

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there must be zero tolerance in hit-and-runs like the one that killed michael ward

by bette dewing

"we need as much to be reminded as informed," dr. samuel johnson so rightly opined.

an august 5 our town letter about the death of michael ward, who was killed in a hit-and-run on the east side, needs repeated informing of the desperate-but slighted-need to prevent what we need to call traffic tragedies, not accidents.

i arrived too late to hear what the east 79th street neighborhood association said in their august 12 meeting about the traffic tragedy that was so much on my mind.

it was the "letter to the editor" distributed on that day which gave me information i couldn't get from either the 19th precinct or councilwoman jessica lappin's office after i learned that the man i'd read about in the daily news and new york post had not survived. those accounts were respectively titled, "man, 85, struck on e. 84th st." and "old man mowed down." both told how the gold nissan maxima car responsible for killing mr. ward was a hit-and-run crime. witness rogelio martin said, "cars really speed down first avenue." they speed wherever they can!

but i needed the name to send heartfelt regrets to any existing family, and say that their profound loss renews my active outrage against traffic crimes. also, such victims should never remain nameless.

so, again, how very grateful i was that our town's report of this crime prompted the following letter's information:

titled, "tragic loss," it reads:

"the death of michael ward, victim of a hit-and-run driver, marks yet another tragedy that could have been prevented if our city government was sincerely committed to making new york an age-friendly city.

"this active 85-year-old man was mowed down by an impatient driver who probably did not wait for the light to fully turn green before barreling through the intersection. when mr. ward crossed the avenue, like many others whose gait is slowed by age or disability, he could not reach the curb before the light changed.

"for nearly 40 years, visiting neighbors has provided escorts to help seniors safely and confidently reach their doctors offices, go shopping or take care of other necessary tasks. the city's latest response to this growing need in our 'age-friendly city' was to eliminate funding for our program.

"every year at visiting neighbors' annual talent fair, michael ward, the victim of this preventable tragedy, regaled audiences with his accordion playing and irish ballads, demonstrating to enthusiastic audiences that 'talent is ageless.'

"we will miss him.

"dr. cynthia maurer, executive director of visiting neighbors, inc."

and more than the usual "lengthen walk time" response, we need real public outrage-a zero tolerance stance-against all crimes of traffic. we need a new law bearing michael ward's name, a law that makes the punishment fit the traffic crime that fatally or severely injures elder pedestrians. traffic and other crimes against elders need the same coverage as those against young people. the speed limit must be lowered!

question "rapid bus transit" too!

and speak out; speak out-publicly-as dr. maurer so thankfully did.

save and share this column where attention is most steadfastly paid. we will not forget you, michael ward; indeed, let there be a ballad as well as a law to make sure that we remember to keep working for all the above, and whatever will enable safe, and yes, low-stress street passage-not only in new york city.

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