City Council overwhelmingly approves Vision Zero package
The New York City Council passed a slate of 11 laws and six resolutions on Thursday in an effort to reduce and eliminate all traffic fatalities.
At least four of those bills are targeted towards the city’s 13,437 yellow and 6,000 outer borough taxis — including one named after Cooper Stock, a 9-year-old boy who was killed by a cab as he and his father crossed the intersection of West 97th Street and West End Avenue on January 10.
There have been at least 88 traffic-related deaths in New York City in 2014, 44 of which were pedestrians. Last year, at least 286 people in New York City were killed as a result of traffic incidents.
The Council overwhelmingly passed the entire package, sending it to Mayor Bill de Blasio for signatures within the next month.
“From curbing speeding to holding dangerous drivers accountable, these bills are a major step forward for our Vision Zero initiative,” the mayor said in a statement. “They will protect families and make our neighborhoods safer.”
Cooper’s mother, Dana Lerner, hopes the bills do just that. Still, she called the much of the package “drop in the bucket.”
“I think that now, City Hall has to show us that it truly is interested in implementing these changes,” she explained.
Lerner said she was grateful for the City Council’s work, especially Manhattan Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who introduced Cooper’s Law earlier this year.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished today,” Rosenthal said in a statement. “The City took definitive steps within six months of young Cooper Stock being killed by a taxi and passed Cooper’s Law…It’s a great first step, but there is much more to do.”
Rosenthal also acknowledged that families and advocates of driver accountability want all drivers to be held to the same standard as Cooper’s Law, vowing to introduce a resolution asking Albany to consider such a law.
Cooper’s mother, however, was still concerned about the city following through with the law locally.
“We have a lot to do to make sure laws are actually enforced,” Lerner said, pointing to two traffic laws passed by the state Legislature that she said have fallen by the wayside over the years.
“Elle’s Law” was named after a 3-year-old girl who was hit by a car as she walked to pre-school. It passed in 2010 and required that any reckless driver who injures a pedestrian have his or her license suspended for year.
Albany also passed “Hayley and Diego’s Law” in 2010, named after two pre-schoolers were killed by a van whose driver left it idling before it reversed onto a Chinatown sidewalk. It created a “careless driving” charge in incidents that injure pedestrians or cyclists.
“When I found out about them, my heart fell into my stomach,” Lerner said, adding that some local authorities were unaware of the two laws. “It was re-traumatizing for me.”
For now, however, the de Blasio administration’s commitment to the Vison Zero platform, which Lerner said still “sounds great,” appears resolute — even within the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said in a statement that the agency was grateful to the Council for “these important pieces of legislation, and for the strength of their commitment to protecting public safety.”
BREAKING DOWN THE VISION ZERO LEGISLATION
For All Drivers
No more “stunt behavior” such as wheelies, donuts, burnouts, and revving. A first violation would be a misdemeanor punishable with up to 60 days in jail and/or up to a $600 fine. Subsequent violations within ten years of the first result in up to 120 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Motorcycle license plates must be be clearly visible at all times, or riders face up to 15 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $250.
Drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians or bicyclists who have the right of way can be fined not more than $50 and/or imprisonment of not more than 15 days. A driver would be guilty of a misdemeanor if his or her vehicle collides with and causes physical injury to a pedestrian or bicyclist because of a failure to yield or interference with the right of way — punishable by a fine of not more than $250 — with an additional civil penalty of up to $250 permitted – and/or imprisonment for not more than 30 days.
Drivers licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission who are summoned or charged with moving violations that result in critical injury or death may be suspended. Licenses may be revoked if the driver is convicted of one or more violations that caused the injury or death.
The TLC must review and investigate vehicles and drivers involved in incidents that result in death or critical injury — even if there aren’t any charges. Any crash that invoices a TLC vehicle.
The TLC must detail what type of vehicle is involved in every TLC-related collision, as well as the number of accidents resulting in critical injury or death, in its quarterly report to the Council.
The TLC will be able to aggregate points it and DMV issue for purposes of suspension and revocation as long as those points are safety related, and incentivizes drivers to take safe driving courses by offering a three-point reduction in points on their licenses.
For General Traffic
The Department of Transportation must repair missing or damaged traffic signals within 24 hours of receiving notice that the signal is not operational or visible.
The DOT must create at least seven neighborhood 20 mph slow zones in both 2014 and 2015 and establish 15 to 20 mph speed zones at 50 school locations every year.
The DOT must conduct a review of safety guidelines of workers on bridges on or before January 1, 2015.
The DOT must study accidents resulting from left turns and include the results in its study of pedestrian deaths and serious injuries — which is due on November 30, 2015 and every five years thereafter.
The City Council also asked that lawmakers in Albany:
• change the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law to increase the criminal penalty for reckless driving that results in serious physical injury or death of a person,
• increase penalties for drivers who leave the scene of an accident without reporting the incident,
• pass legislation to increase penalties for driving on the sidewalk — to $250 from $150— and to add three points against the driver’s license,
• pass legislation to give New York City control over its own speed camera program,
• pass legislation to give New York City control over its own red light camera program, and
• pass legislation to make it a misdemeanor for a driver to injure a pedestrian or bicyclist while failing to “exercise due care.”
Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria