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Child's death leads to 'pledge' campaign

By AMY HE in New York | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2016-10-23 03:04

The parents of Allison Hope Liao, a 3-year-old Chinese-American girl who was killed three years ago by a car in Queens, New York, are asking New York drivers to pledge that they will never take someone's life.

Pei Liao and Amy Tam-Liao are founding members of the advocacy group ''Families for Safe Streets''. It provides crash victims and their families a peer support network, according to its website.

Now Allison's parents have gone a step further, and have started a social media campaign in her memory. Designated with the social media hashtag #SafeDriverPledge, it asks New Yorkers to pledge not to drive recklessly, according to the Gothamist news web site.

Users spread the word on various social media platforms by reposting the message, "I pledge to never take someone's life because I am driving recklessly. I never want another family to lose a loved one because I am rushing, angry or distracted."

Tam-Liao said that she and her husband started the campaign because they want drivers to think about how their driving can affect other people's lives. "No other family should have to lose a loved one through the kind of pain we have known because a driver was in a hurry, became distracted or reacted angrily at the wheel," she told Gothamist.

At around 5:30 pm on October 6, 2013, Allison and her grandmother were walking in the crosswalk at Main Street at Cherry Avenue in Flushing, home to one of the city's largest Chinese immigrant communities. A video camera on the dashboard of a passing vehicle showed that Allison and her grandmother had the light. But Allison was hit by a sport utility vehicle that was turning onto Main Street, police said.

The driver later admitted that he had not checked for pedestrians when he turned his car. He did not face criminal charges for the fatal collision.

Approximately 4,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured by traffic crashes and more than 250 people are killed every year, according to the city. Being hit by a car is the leading cause of injury-related death for children under the age of 14.

Peter Koo, the New York City council member whose office has been active in advocating on behalf of the Liao family after Allison's death, said that it is the community's responsibility to ensure safety on the city's streets.

"Too often, we've seen drivers recklessly turning into pedestrian traffic, and too often we've seen pedestrians crossing without first looking to see if a car is coming," he wrote in an email to China Daily.

The driver of the car that hit her, Abu-Zayedeh, was not criminally charged because prosecutors said he wasn't impaired at the time. He received two tickets — failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to use due care — but they were voided in a court hearing that lasted only 47 seconds.

In October 2015, he lost his license for five years as a result of a civil suit that the Liao family filed. If he drives or applies for a license during that time, the family will be awarded $100,000 in damages.

He also agreed to pay the family a financial settlement worth 75 percent of his net worth and took responsibility for Allison's death, writing in a letter to the family, "I was not looking where I should have been when I turned my car, and that is the sole reason why she is dead."


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