Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — They run the gamut from fatalities to fender benders.
And, perhaps most disturbingly, Falls cops say they seem to be seeing more hit-and-run accidents in the Cataract City.
Ever since an Erie County physician escaped manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter convictions by driving home after a crash and claiming he didn’t know he had hit a young skateboarder and killed her, incidents of hit-and-run accidents seem to have been on the rise across Western New York.
New York state law currently requires that a driver must know that they caused personal injury or property damage in order to be found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it.
Legislation is now pending in the state Legislature that would make it a crime to leave any accident scene if the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In the Erie County case, the physician was convicted of drunken driving.
Falls Police Traffic Division Capt. Salvatore Pino said he doesn’t know if changing the law will make a difference in getting people to stop after an accident.
“Since the (Dr. James) Corasanti case we’ve tried to stress that if you hit something, you need to notify us,” Pino said. “If you think we’re not going to investigate a hit-and-run accident, you’re wrong. We take a look at every one of them.”
In June, Falls Police Traffic Division investigators arrested Francis Maikranz and charged him in the hit-and-run death of Nicole Rodriguez. Police say Maikranz ran down Rodriguez and her 6-year-old son as they crossed Hyde Park Boulevard at Jerauld Avenue. The mother and the little boy were in the crosswalk at the time they were struck.
In a statement to investigators, Maikranz said he knew he hit something, but didn’t know it was a person.
Traffic Division officers are also hunting for the driver of an SUV that sideswiped a motorcycle rider on July 20. The motorcyclist, an Atlanta Police Department sergeant, was struck as he turned off of Willow Avenue on to Hyde Park Boulevard.
The victim’s family says he suffered a fractured foot and will be off his police force for months as he recovers. His mother said she was thankful he wasn’t killed in the crash.
Investigators are now trying to track down the light-colored Hyundai sports utility vehicle that hit their fellow officer.
“Not all of these hit-and-runs are injury accidents, but a lot of them are,” Pino said. “We do checkpoints and blitzes to try to teach people to wear their seat belts and not talk on their cell phones or drive drunk. But I don’t think I can teach them morality. If a person has so little regard for a fellow citizen as to hit them and drive off, what the hell can I tell them?”
Pino believes the best way to discourage hit-and-run drivers may be to give them maximum sentences and fines in court and convince their insurance companies not to insure them.
“Maybe if there’s an economic price to pay,” he said, “that will get their