Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Trip to Queens for Allison Liao. #VisionZero

Part of riding with Right of Way is hearing stores about preventable deaths on the streets of New York City. Yet, few of the deaths seem to strike quite the same chord as the story of Allison Liao, the young child who was walking with the right of way who was killed by a car which swerved into the lane at the corner of the corner of Main Street and Cherry Avenue, running her over as she held the hand of her grandmother.  We painted a memorial for her on my first ride with the group.  

Right of Way memorial for Allison Liao.

Over a year later, her story still haunts.  The unfinished business of her loss remains.

Awake at 3:30 am, the hearing for the driver, Ahmad Abu-Zayedeha, who killed Allison would take place in a few hours.  Charlie from  Right of Way and I were making plans to meet at the 7:41 am train out to Queens for the DMV hearing.

We’d arrive an hour before the hearing began, meeting Liao’s parents and other street justice activists. Standing outside the DMV, we wondered how any of us could handle such a loss.  Yet, there's a community of activists out supporting each other as we push forward, trying to get to the bottom of whats happened and try to change the system allows these deaths to continue without resolution.

Street justice activists hold sgns with scenes from the crash which took Allison's life

Right of Way@RightOfWayNYC later tweeted out a message:

Advocates for safer streets out front of DMV hearing for driver who killed Allison Liao. #VisionZero

Waiting for the hearing, a few of us talked about what had happened that day in October 2013.

The driver, Ahmad Abu-Zayedeha, took a left into traffic and ran into Liao.  At the time, the driver was charged with failure to yield, which was a violation and then the charges were dismissed in a minute long hearing.  The driver said he thought she broke away from her grandmother, without watching the video which clearly shows she was holding her  grandmother’s hand.

Later as result of this case, the city passed intro 19-190 making it a crime for a car to injur or cause injury to someone with the right of way.

That law went into effect in August explained Keegan.  Yet, it has only been enforced eight times. Now the city has to actually enforce it.

It is one thing to have a law; its another to change hearts and minds.  That’s part of the dilemma. People have to look out for each other.  And today, not enough hearts or minds have changed.

“The whole system needs to be redone,” noted Paco, referring to the statistics that 132 pedestrians, 20 cyclists died last year.

Few of the transportation advocates are pushing for more punishments.

“But to see some accountability,” noted Charlie Romanoff, of Right of Way. We talked about a Streetsblog article about drivers who have killed pedestrians. He referred to a comment by D Porpentine's arguing that the way to help a driver who has killed to process his grief and shame is via a "process that would  assess his level of responsibility for what occurred [and thereby] bridge  the gap between his story and reality."

The driver, Ahmad Abu-Zayedeha, entering. 

Later, Allison’s parents spoke with the press.  

"We hope the outcome of this is to suspend his license.  For him, it’s an inconvenience. But that’s all.  Our life is shattered.  We hope this can shed light on this problem. Allie’s gone.  His behavior took her.  It was preventable. He drank before he left.  He’s a wreck less driver.  He put his needs ahead of ours.  And that’s the problem. He never reviewed the video.  He still says the mom let her run away.  It wasn’t her fault. We’re going to ask to have his license taken away.  She’s having trouble sleeping.  This isn’t something we’re going to get over."  

Eventually, the clerk called for the driver to appear.  But his lawyer was not ready.

The driver, Ahmad Abu-Zayedeha.

And the hearing was not ready for us.

The OG's of Right of Way.

First they tried to restrict media from coming inside, adding a new sign, and then from allowing those of us who’dtraveled to the hearing to come inside.  Democracy at its finest.

Barbara Ross noted "The DMV rep claimed there was no more space in the hearing room, more likely they preferred to keep the number of observers to the process to a minimum."
But most of us made our way into the building.

And at the hearing the judge was reticent to hear information or admit evidence from Steve Vaccaro, pertaining to the case, noting the driver has alcohol in his system at the time he killed Allison.

Steve Vaccaro and Allison Liao's family enter court. 
"We should be gong to birthday parties not going to visit her at her grave site."  

Right of Way@RightOfWayNYC later tweeted out a message:

2/2 @NYSDMV refused to accept as evidence his NJ driving record that he had for majority of that time & includes viols & worse. #VisionZero

Liao's grandmother testified, noting, “There was time for me to walk.  I looked from left to right.  And i started walking.  My heart beats.  My heart beats. There was no traffic and the car hit us from behind.  My family is suffering.  Its better to take his license.”

By the end of the hearing the judge had collected some ten pieces of evidence.  The wheelsof justice are slow.  No decision was made.

So we rode home.


January 6, 2015

Families for Safe Streets Demands Justice for Allison Liao and DMV

Reforms to Hold Reckless Drivers Accountable

On October 6, 2013, an SUV driver struck and killed three-year-old

Allison Liao as she walked hand-in-hand with her grandmother in a

Flushing crosswalk, with the light. In spite of video evidence clearly

showing the driver's recklessness, the Queens District Attorney

refused to bring charges against Ahmad Abu-Zayedeha. The NYPD did give

the driver two summonses for failure to yield and failure to exercise

due care. Outrageously, however, an administrative law judge with the

State Department of Motor Vehicles threw out those tickets.

This morning, the DMV is holding a special safety hearing to

determine if Abu-Zayedeha has any culpability that would result in

action regarding his driver's license. Allison's parents and other

members of Families for Safe Streets will attend and hold a

candlelight vigil at the crash site that evening. The group is

demanding that the next DMV commissioner implement five reforms to

hold drivers accountable when careless or reckless behavior results in

death or serious injury:

• A mandatory three-month license suspension for serious offenses while driving

• Changes to the DMV point system so that higher point values apply to

violations where someone is seriously injured or killed, and drivers

cannot use adjournments to push points outside the 18-month window and

avoid suspension

• A mandatory license suspension of at least three months for

commercial drivers who accrue six or more penalty points

• Mandatory, prompt and publicly-noticed safety hearings at which

victims, their families, and NYPD crash investigators can attend,

present evidence and make statements; quarterly reporting of aggregate

safety hearing outcomes and other statistics

• DMV adoption of the equivalent of the Federal Crime Victim's Bill of

Rights for the families of crash victims

“The decision to dismiss these tickets was extremely troubling, and I

hope that today’s hearing will finally hold the driver accountable for

his actions," said Congresswoman Grace Meng. "The DMV must do the

right thing in this case, and my colleagues in government and I will

be watching this hearing closely.”

"The DMV's response to the tragic passing of Allison Liao not only

serves as a call to action for our community, but also illustrates the

need to reform the procedure by which the DMV handles traffic

fatalities," said Assemblywoman Nily Rozic. "No family deserves to be

left with unanswered questions while coping with the loss of their

child. Allie's death is a chilling reminder that we must work with

local and state agencies to prevent future incidents and protect our


City Council Member Peter Koo said, “I wish we weren’t gathered here

today because that would mean Allison would still be with us and her

loving parents. But out of this tragedy, we stand united, with a

renewed sense of purpose. Our purpose is to make sure that reckless

drivers are held accountable for their actions, and to push for

necessary reforms in order to prevent the loss of precious life in the


DETAILS: The DMV administrative hearing will take place on January

6th, at 9 am at 168-35 Rockaway Boulevard, Jamaica, NY 11434-5233,

Room 8.

Thank you and update.

Hsi-Pei Liao
Fresh Meadows, NY
Jan 9, 2015 — Thank you all for supporting us on Tuesday, January 6, the day of the driver’s traffic safety hearing and Ally’s vigil. We appreciate those of you who took the time to join us at the DMV despite the inconvenient location, early hour and frigid temperature.The caring faces and hugs in the evening were particularly appreciated after a stressful and disappointing morning. It gave us the energy to finish the day strong with a vigil for Allison and state our changes at the DMV. For those of you who couldn't attend, you were with us in spirit!

Join us at our next Families for Safe Streets event, Rally for Traffic Justice scheduled for this Sunday, January 11th at 2pm at City Hall where Families for Safe Streets will launch our campaign to find District Attorneys willing to fight for traffic justice. (

Below are a few articles, videos and pictures covering the hearing and vigil.

Streetsblog: DMV Judge Delays Action against License of Driver Who Killed Allison Liao

Streetsblog: Victims’ Families Demand Changes From DMV at Vigil for Allison Liao

DNAInfo: Driver's Blood Alcohol Won't Be Considered in Crash That Killed Girl, 3

WNYC: Queens Family Still Waits for Justice in Traffic Death

Daily News: Parents of 3-year-old Queens girl killed by motorist demand safety reforms at vigil

Queens Chronicle: Judge to decide on driver’s license fate

TimesLedger: Judge to decide on driver’s license fate

Play and Ideas: Trip to Queens for Allison Liao

Rabi Abonour|Visual Storyteller: Justice for Allison Liao

Flickr photos from emveezee:

World Journal:


China Press:

The China Press:

China News:



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