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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
December 9, 1922

Prosecutor Proposes New Law to Hold Drivers Responsible for Accidents.


Cannot Limit Number of Autos in City—Should Limit People, Merchants Say.


Fatally Hurt as She Saves Daughter—Nineteen Automobiles Wrecked by Ice in Streets.

He agitation to give safety to pedestrians continued yesterday as further automobile killings occurred and many homicide cases involving automobile drivers were heard in court.

Assistant District Attorney John R. Hennis of the Homicide Bureau advocated highway legislation by the next Legislature which would place the responsibility for avoiding accidents wholly upon the shoulders of the driver in cases where a pedestrian was killed or hurt by an automobile.

"Automobile killings come into the Homicide Court sometimes five and six in a day," he said.  "The laws are antiquated and public sentiment until recently has not been aroused, so that drivers guilty of homicide have frequently escaped.  Judge McIntyre sent a driver to jali for from one to ten years for manslaughter, but that is about the only case where severe punishment has been visited on offenders, in spite of the hundreds who are killed here annually.

"This will be partly remedied by the present mode of handling these cases in one court.  Drivers who have killed pedestrians are being held for the Grand Jury for manslaughter at the rate of one or two a day.

Changes in Laws Needed.

"The acute situation which has arisen on account of the heavy toll of life by automobiles cannot be adequately dealt with until reasonable changes are made in the highways laws.  These were written in the days of horsedrawn vehicles.

"The law should be amended to require drivers to handle their automobiles so as not to hit pedestrians and thus to place the responsibility on them to avoid accidents, since the drivers are the ones in control of that which inflicts the injury.  The rate of speed allowable within the city limits should also be reduced."

Clarence E. Spayd, Secretary of the Kings County Grand Jurors' Association, which is in search of a remedy for the many automobile killings in Brooklyn, sat for two hours in the Traffic Court with Magistrate Frederick B. House yesterday afternoon and commended the severity of punishment on traffic law violators.

Magistrate's Stand Approved.

The declaration of Magistrate House of the Traffic Court that the use of pleasure vehicles in Manhattan might have to be limited because of congestion and the number of accidents, brought a reply yesterday from the Automobile Merchants' Association.

"The association approves unalterably," said Secretary Tom More, "the efforts of Magistrate House to suppress lawlessness and bring reckless drivers to justice.

"We must get out of our minds the idea that the trouble with New York traffic is too many automobiles.  If we have too many automobiles, we have too many theatres, too many hotels and too many office buildings.  The truth is, of course, that there are too many of only one thing in New York.  That thing is people.

"The problem in New York is a traffic problem and not chiefly a problem of lawlessness.  It is an engineering problem that only an optimistic viewpoint can encompass.

Doctor's Auto Kills Woman.

An automobile driven by Dr. A. H. Casey of 421 Fifty-fifth Street, Brooklyn, struck Mrs. Margaret Auer of 5,413 Third Avenue, Brooklyn, Wednesday morning as she was leaving a special mass at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Mrs. Auer saw that her nine-year-old daughter was in danger at Fifty-sixth Street and Fourth Avenue.  She caught the girl and threw her out of the automobile's path, but was hit herself.  She was taken to the Norwegian Hospital, where she died of internal injuries.

Dr. Casey said that he had been out all night on a sick call and that the windshield was beaded with rain so that his sight was partly obscured at the time.

Charles McNamee, 21 years old, a chauffeur, was arrested at Yonkers yesterday on the charge of homicide in connection with the death of John Herrmann of Hastings in an automobile accident at Tarrytown.  Witnesses charged that McNamee drove in a big car at high speed and failed to stop after the accident.

V. E. Rosenfeld of 160 West Ninety-fifth Street reported yesterday that Mrs. Rosa Freud of 557 West 144th Street, 60 years old, had died at Knickerbocker Hospital of injuries received when she was hit Thursday night at 144th Street and Broadway by an automobile which speeded on after striking her.

Ice Wrecks Nineteen Autos.

Nineteen wrecked automobiles were scattered along North Broadway Hill in Yonkers yesterday in front of the homes of Samuel Untermyer and William B. Thompson.  The sudden onset of cold after the roads were thoroughly wet had iced them so badly that car after car was wrecked.  Buns, loaves of bread and pies were strewn along one section where a baker's wagon had come to grief.

Herman Rosen, 23 years old, of 301 Madison Street, was held in $7,500 bail by Magistrate House yesterday for the Grand Jury on the charge of running down and killing John Johnson, 60 years old, who was hurt at Grand and Suffolk Streets and died at Bellevue Hospital.

Sentence of thirty days in the workhouse was imposed by Magistrate House on William J. Simms, a chauffeur, charged with driving while intoxicated.  His license was also revoked.

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