Justice for traffic victims?

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The daughter of a man killed by a speeding motorcycle reflects on a system that has made her feel “disempowered”


  • Thomas McAnulty

My father Thomas McAnulty was killed in January 2016 on 96th Street and Amsterdam by a speeding motorcycle at 5:30 p.m. My brother and I were raised on the Upper West Side and my parents still lived in the same apartment on 96th Street. He was killed on the block where he lived.

Words are inadequate to describe the shock, horror, grief and loss my family has endured since that day, so I will not begin to try. My dad was well known on the Upper West, and numerous people whom I had never met before have approached me at different times in the neighborhood to express their sadness. My dad, known as Tom Mac, embodied humility. He came from a very blue-collar Irish Catholic background in Philly and took a different route in life by following his passion for art. He worked construction for years and then later in life caught a break to teach art at Adelphi University. What a gift that was for him. He was the most humble person I knew; he never bragged or carried on about his accomplishments.

I feel compelled to share with the community at large the injustice that we have experienced. The person who killed my father was recklessly speeding on a Ducati motorcycle. Both the Manhattan DA’s office and the Collision Investigation Squad were aware of this; in fact, they informed us of this, and it is clearly stated in the police report. When we met with the DA’s office, we were told that because there was no intent to kill Dad, their hands were tied and they could not charge him. When I asked about the motorcyclist being held responsible because he was speeding, they said, talk to DMV and the City Council. We went to the City Council and they said, talk to the police department, which we did; the police told us to talk to our Assembly member and state senator. We took their suggestions and met with our local elected officials. It turned out that all of their hands were tied. The driver did not receive any formal consequences, no ticket, no charges, no license suspension, nothing.

My family and I are not naive and certainly do not expect to be treated any differently from anyone else. We are also painfully aware of the many public safety issues that people and communities deal with in our city. I appreciate the mayor’s discussion of Vision Zero, but unless there are people held accountable for their actions, there will be no change in our society. I am sickened by all of the PSAs and the billboards about how speeding causes fatalities, but again, there is no accountability, no change. Decades ago, drunk driving was acceptable and very common. Through policy, accountability and after many deaths, there are now steep financial and license consequences for drunk driving, which is no longer an acceptable practice. Sure, it still happens, but at least there is some accountability.

I have watched an unjust system from the sidelines my whole life and seen communities of people abused by our system, consistently held accountable and held to a completely different standard. These communities have been disempowered by our system. Now, this system has disempowered me. This experience has reconfirmed my profound distrust in this system, the DA’s office and the police. One gets a ticket for parking in front of a fire hydrant, but exceed the speed limit on a speed bike at 5:30 p.m. and kill someone, and nothing happens. Nothing at all.

I commend and thank Families for Safe Streets, a group comprised of victims of traffic violence and people who have lost loved ones to traffic fatalities. Among many things, they advocate for accountability and offer support. My family’s story is not uncommon. We continue to adjust to our new life without Tom Mac, but things will never be the same. Something has to change — our DA’s office, our police department and our elected officials must be held accountable. I cringe when I think of another family having to hear from their public servants that their hands are tied, and how sorry they are that there is nothing they can do.

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