Proposed ‘Cooper’s Law’ would seize hack licenses of cabbies involved in pedestrian crashes
Walking home from dinner with his father, 9-year-old Cooper Stock was killed after a taxi driver turned left, striking both pedestrians as they crossed an Upper West Side avenue last month.
The cabbie, Koffi Komlani, received a summons for failure to yield to a pedestrian and has remained off the road by choice. But under current laws, he could get behind the wheel anytime.
“If he heard about this, he would say, ‘Mommy that doesn’t make sense, we have to do something. That’s wrong. That’s not fair,’” said Cooper’s mother, Dana Lerner. “He would be frightened and overwhelmed.”
Lerner is backing “Cooper’s Law,” proposed legislation she hopes will make streets safer and honor her son, who she said had a “sunny disposition.”
“As I go through this struggle and I try to figure out how am I going to be able to continue on, the idea of that happening is very helpful,” Lerner said.
After Cooper’s death and other pedestrian fatalities in her district, Upper West Side Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal began researching ways to improve traffic safety.
“Every corner I tried to turn ended up being a state law that would have to change,” Rosenthal said.
The Taxi and Limousine Commission, however, is under the city’s purview.
The legislation Rosenthal proposed would amend the city’s administrative code to immediately suspend the license of any taxi driver who kills or seriously injures a pedestrian or biker. Should an investigation determine the driver is guilty of “failure to yield,” the TLC license would be permanently revoked.
“This is for Cooper — and all pedestrians,” Rosenthal said.
As part of a widespread Vision Zero Action Plan released by Mayor Bill de Blasio Tuesday, the TLC will create an enforcement squad and adopt and explore new rules to increase sanctions on dangerous cab drivers.
“The vast majority of those who drive taxis and cars service cars drive responsibly, but some do not,” de Blasio said Tuesday, speaking a block from where Cooper was struck and killed. “We have to recognize that TLC drivers play a particular role in our city, set a tone in our streets.”
While “Cooper’s Law” is stricter than TLC initiatives unveiled by the mayor, the administration is open to exploring Rosenthal’s proposal. The councilwoman hopes the report will accelerate her bill as a priority.
Though Lerner supports Vision Zero, she said the proposal is more about safety among cabbies and other for-hire vehicles, who carry more than a million passengers daily.
“I am scared for everybody out there now — everybody — because these drivers, they don’t have any incentives to drive safely,” she said.
Chester Jesus Soria contributed reporting.
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