Walker hit by van

The Enterprise — Melissa Hale-Spencer

The crosswalk on Park Street was the scene of a Dec. 28 accident when Melanie L. Jensen, driving a van, turned from the Main Street lane in the foreground onto Park Street, hitting a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

ALTAMONT — A pedestrian in a village crosswalk was hit by a van on Monday, Dec. 28.

The van’s driver, Melanie L. Jensen, 36, of 107 Park St. in the village, was in Altamont’s court on Wednesday evening when Albany County Assistant District Attorney Melinda Seiden-Fiorino asked to have the case stayed for two months to see if any felony charges might be appropriate.

Seiden-Fiorino said that the people did not wish to ask for monetary bail, but moved to have Jensen released under supervision, meaning that she will be on probation until March 2, to ensure that she appears in court on that date. Village Court Justice James R. Greene granted the motion.

Jensen was driving westbound on Main Street and had turned onto Park when she hit a man, who was already in the crosswalk, walking from the east to the west side of Park Street, according to the police accident report.

Jensen was charged by Altamont Police Detective Christopher Laurenzo with a misdemeanor, third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle, after a check with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles showed her license was suspended for failure to answer a summons from the village of Menands, the police arrest report said. 

Jensen was also charged with three infractions: operation of a motor vehicle without inspection; right-of-way violation: person in crosswalk; and license restriction violation, because her license showed she was restricted to corrective lenses, which she was not wearing at the time, the arrest report said.

She told Laurenzo that her children had broken her glasses, he wrote in the accident report. Jensen could not be reached for comment.

According to Altamont Police Chief Todd Pucci, Jensen said that she didn’t see the victim, who was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

She would have received tickets for the infractions but not been charged with a misdemeanor, Pucci said, except for the suspended license.

Greene questioned Jensen closely about her financial status, in order to determine whether she was eligible for representation by a public defender. He learned that she lives in an apartment with her boyfriend and their six children, who range in age from 1 to 18. He assigned her public defender Jeffrey Richards.

He explained to Jensen that the assistant district attorney wanted the felony bureau to look over the file to see if any felonies should be brought, and asked if she understood. Jensen said, referring to Seiden-Fiorino, “You mean she’s on my side?”

Greene said no, and told her not to speak to Seiden-Fiorino at the next court date, but only to Richards.

Jensen works fulltime as a homemaker, caring for six children, but is not employed outside her home and has no driver’s license, the judge’s questions revealed. She asked Greene if she would be meeting with the probation officer in Altamont.  He said, no, in Albany. Jensen said that she had no way to get there, and Greene told her to explain that by phone to the probation office, and that perhaps some flexible arrangements could be made.

After court ended late, at 7 pm, Jensen set out on foot toward Park Street alone, in the dark.


— From a New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Police Accident Report
Diagram of an accident: A police report sketch shows the approximate angle at which police say Melanie L. Jensen turned from Main Street onto Park Street, heading into the left lane — where a man was walking — rather than the right lane.


The accident

When Laurenzo arrived on the scene, the accident report says, the pedestrian was lying on the west side of the street partially on the sidewalk, with his shoe knocked off and lying nearby on the sidewalk.

A witness to the accident said that Jensen had taken the turn too narrowly, effectively driving into the left lane of Park Street, which is where the victim was within the crosswalk, Pucci told The Enterprise.

According to the accident report, Jensen stopped and checked on the pedestrian, together with a witness, before going down the road to park her Kia van at her apartment and then returning to the scene. Laurenzo verified at that point that she was the driver, by the witness’s statement and Jensen’s own admission, the accident report says.

A prescreening test for alcohol was administered, with negative results, the accident report says; Pucci told The Enterprise that her blood alcohol content was zero. After being taken to the station for processing, Jensen also voluntarily submitted to a blood draw, to rule out impairment by drugs or alcohol, according to the accident report.

Laurenzo asked The Enterprise to remind readers to be “more vigilant about pedestrians in the crosswalks.”

According to the state’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, pedestrians have the right of way in a marked crosswalk; drivers are to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. If a vehicle is stopped at a crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to pass, the law says, “The driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.”

The law also states, “No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.”

Pedestrians who are not at a crosswalk are to yield to vehicles.

New York State averages nearly 300 pedestrian fatalities annually, according to the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee website.

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