Monday, March 7, 2016

Only stronger penalties will stop slaughter of pedestrians

On March 9, 2015, an unmarked Ford Crown Victoria, driven by a detective sergeant for the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office, struck and fatally injured Hue Dang, 64, a Vietnamese-American woman who was carrying plastic grocery bags as she walked toward her Hackensack apartment a couple of blocks away from this intersection.

Hackensack police filed no charges against the driver, John Straniero of Wayne, even though their official report showed Dang was struck when she was walking in or near the crosswalk on Jackson Avenue and Kennedy Street, not far from Route 80.

On the evening of the accident, the woman's blood stained the pavement, above. She died on the way to the hospital. Nearly a year later, the Union County Prosecutor's Office continues to investigate. As for Straniero, 49, he retired last Nov. 1, apparently to protect his pension in the event any charges are filed against him. Dang's relatives have filed a notice they will be naming him in a wrongful death suit.


Editor Deirdre Sykes of The Record is really milking the death of two teens mowed down by an out-of-control car for all its worth today.

Page 1 carries a heart-tugging headline:

Inseparable friends,
unspeakable agony

And right under the big, black type is a photo of the grief-stricken mother, her mouth open in a heart-wrenching wail.

The crash Saturday night in North Bergen occurred roughly 2 miles from where a 7-year-old girl "lost her life" in a hit-run crash in West New York, The Record says (A-1).

The car that killed two 17-year-olds, Noel Herrera  of Cliffside Park and his best friend, Bryan Rodriguez of Union City, "plowed into them after jumping a curb ... and ripping through a metal fence."

Although three reporters worked on the story, it is missing any detail of whether the driver was speeding, racing another car or collided with another vehicle -- typical of The Record's pathetically poor accident reporting.

Nor can readers expect the editors of the Woodland Park daily to call for stiffer penalties against drivers in pedestrian deaths, likely the only way to cut down on the slaughter nearly six years after a revised crosswalk law took effect.

Driver doing 74 mph

Today, reports the unnamed driver charged in the deaths of the two teens "may have been traveling 74 miles an hour," nearly three times the speed limit.

Staff Writer John Cichowski has reported on the revised crosswalk law and pedestrian deaths in many of his Road Warrior columns.

But he also has quoted drivers saying they'd like to run down jaywalkers.

He's demonized red-light cameras, which deter speeders who run lights and injure or kill others, and virtually ignored stop-sign runners.

Sloppy reporting

The Record's stories on pedestrian deaths often omit whether a pedestrian was walking in a crosswalk when hit or even if there is a crosswalk at the intersection.

That was the case with Staff Writer Stefanie Dazio's March 11, 2015, story on the death of Hue Dang, 64, who was struck and fatally injured two days earlier at Jackson Avenue and Kennedy Street in Hackensack.

The crosswalk was never mentioned, but a police captain was quoted as saying, "It's unclear where Dang was standing" when she was struck.

That was the first and last story about the Vietnamese-American woman's death at the hands of a detective sergeant for the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.

Sloppy editing

Sykes, who was in charge of the local-news section at the time, completely missed the lack of reporting on whether Dang was in or near the crosswalk when she was run down by John Straniero.

And the paper never did a follow-up, even when the investigation was transferred to the Union County Prosecutor's Office or when the detective retired last Nov. 1.

Sykes, Cichowski and other newsroom staffers at The Record treated the Vietnamese-American woman, who once worked as a supermarket cashier, as if she was so much road kill.

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