Mayor Bill de Blasio today announced a new package of State legislation to keep dangerous drivers from getting behind the wheel. Following last week’s crash that claimed the lives of two children in Park Slope, the City is seeking to extend and expand its speed enforcement camera program, escalate fines and suspend the vehicle registrations of repeat offenders, and require physicians to notify the DMV following medical events that could cause a driver to lose control of their vehicle.
“In the wrong hands, a car can be a deadly weapon. We are fighting on every front to make our streets safer, but we need Albany’s help to keep dangerous drivers off the road, before we lose another life,” said Mayor de Blasio.
“The NYPD continues to make New York City streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers, resulting in the fewest traffic fatalities ever last year,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill. “This proposed legislation would provide us with additional tools to enhance safety, enforce the law, and keep dangerous drivers off the street.”
“After last week’s tragedy in Park Slope, we must act to prevent future tragedies—whether via legislation, street redesign or enforcement,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “Through the Mayor’s leadership we are continuing our fight for a range of state legislation to tackle dangerous driving, including more school zone speed cameras. Despite complaints about speeding along 9th Street in Park Slope, current law does not allow us to put a speed camera there. With more enforcement tools at our disposal, the Administration’s Vision Zero agencies can continue doing more important work—like the Dusk and Darkness campaign that just ended – that are helping reduce fatalities.”
The Mayor also announced the results of the second year of the Vision Zero Dusk and Darkness campaign, a partnership between DOT, NYPD and TLC to reduce pedestrian crashes during the fall and winter evening hours that are most dangerous to pedestrians. In the most recent four-month period of this initiative that ended last week, pedestrian traffic fatalities dropped by 24 percent compared to the prior year.
Proposed Changes to State Law
Extend & Expand School Zone Speed Camera Program: The Mayor will push for the State Legislature to pass S6046/A7798 to expand the City’s speed camera program. Speed cameras have been proven to reduce speeding in school zones by 63%. This bill would authorize the City to install speed cameras at an additional 150 school zones and would also revise the definition of a school zone to allow DOT to address speeding on streets that are near a school, as opposed to only the street or streets on which a school is located. Under current law, 75 percent of children who are killed or severely injured in a traffic crash are struck at times or places at which a speed camera cannot be activated.
Fee Escalation and Registration Suspension for Photo Violations: The Mayor will ask the Legislature to introduce legislation escalating the fees on red light and speed camera violations. Currently, there is a flat $50 fine for any photo violation, and fines do not increase with recurring violations. Insurers are prohibited from using camera violation data when setting rates. This proposal would escalate fines for multiple violations within a 2-year period as follows:
Require Physicians to Notify the DMV Following Specific Medical Events: The Mayor also proposes requiring physicians to report certain medical conditions or incidents that may cause a driver to suddenly lose consciousness. This law would be narrowly tailored to those drivers at highest risk of losing consciousness or vehicle control, and will be modeled on a longstanding law in place in New Jersey and other states.
Dusk and Darkness
The Mayor also announced the results of the Dusk and Darkness campaign, which is ending this month and has shown promising results in reducing pedestrian crashes in evening hours. Now in its second year, DOT, NYPD and the TLC have since late October partnered on an enforcement and awareness campaign during the fall and winter evening hours that are most dangerous to pedestrians. Before the first campaign launched in October of 2016, severe crashes involving pedestrians increased by nearly 40 percent in the early evening hours compared to crashes outside the fall and winter. Pedestrian fatalities during the current Dusk and Darkness initiative have once again decreased from the previous year: from November 1 to March 7, pedestrian fatalities declined to 38 from 50 over the same period in 2016/17, which in turn was a decrease from 62 over the same pre-initiative period in 2015/16.
Last year was the fourth consecutive year of declining traffic deaths under Vision Zero, with the fewest-ever overall traffic fatalities citywide, driven by a 32 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities.
For more information about the de Blasio Administration’s Vision Zero initiative, please see www.nyc.gov/visionzero
“Vision Zero has real life stakes—protecting our families and neighbors. Professional drivers are at the forefront of this work, and they have been the victims of unsafe driving as well. We affirm our commitment to Vision Zero, which includes street enforcement, DMV license monitoring, training requirements, and prosecuting complaints from the public,” said Commissioner Meera Joshi. “We are hopeful that more can be done to leverage red light and speed cameras to ensure unsafe drivers are off the road, and are exploring ways to improve our policies to address this issue.”
“I thank Mayor de Blasio for supporting tougher laws to keep dangerous drivers off our roads,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “Vision Zero compels us to act, in the name of Abigail, Joshua, Kevin, and every single soul who has been stolen from us in a preventable crash on our streets. I will continue to push Albany to advance a legislative agenda that puts safe streets first.”
“Speeding and reckless drivers put New Yorkers’ lives in danger every day, and we must ensure we all work together to keep our streets safe. As part of my efforts to protect children, pedestrians and cyclists, I have worked tirelessly to pass my proposal to expand and extend the school zone speed camera program. With more than one million schoolchildren traveling to and from school every day, we have a responsibility to protect them. Unquestionably, the safety of our children and all New Yorkers should come first. The time for excuses is over. I applaud Mayor de Blasio’s push to expand the speed camera program and other traffic safety measures,” said State Senator Jose Peralta.
“Just as the community unites to support the family, friends, and neighbors of the two little ones killed in a horrific crash in Park Slope last week, we as policymakers must unite to protect New Yorkers. We must hold drivers accountable for violations. We must create the necessary links between healthcare, public health professionals, and the authorities to prevent medical emergencies turning into deadly crashes. We must act to bring speed safety cameras to our communities. Upholding public safety is our duty as public servants and I feel an obligation to press the New York State Senate to act on these critical measures. Alongside parents, educators, advocates and concerned neighborhood residents, we must advance an agenda that honors the memory of Joshua and Abigail, and all those killed or injured by crashes,” said State Senator Jesse Hamilton.
“This tragic event in Park Slope has been devastating. A driver ran a red light and killed 4-year old Abigail Blumenstein and 20-month old Joshua Lew, and injured Abigail’s pregnant mother, Ruthie Ann Miles, and others. We need serious study of 9th Street to determine why it’s been the scene of these crashes and to design street safety improvements. I support the efforts by the City to improve the conditions at this intersection, and the State must reform penalties for unsafe driving and expand speed safety cameras near schools, which drastically reduces speeding in those locations. The safety of our children and our community must be our highest priority,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon.
“I want to commend Mayor de Blasio for bringing us all together to call on my colleagues in the legislature to keep dangerous drivers off the road. Driving is a privilege and after last week’s tragic but preventable crash, we cannot wait any longer to do everything possible to keep unsafe drivers from getting behind the wheel. That’s why last week I submitted two bills in the Assembly to do just that. The first bill would create a mandatory reporting requirement for physicians to the State Department of Health and Department of Motor Vehicles for patients under their care who they diagnose with chronic ailments which could suddenly impair their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The second bill would create an accountability system which would suspend the registration on motor vehicles that repeatedly commit traffic signal violations like red light and speeding in a school zone. If either of these bills were law, last
week’s tragedy may have been prevented,” said Assembly Member Robert Carroll.
“The rules of the road are simple: reckless drivers who fail to yield endanger innocent lives and cause crashes. A driver’s license does not give motorists the right of way to speed, cross red lights, or make impaired decisions that turn our city streets and sidewalks into crossroads of life and death. We owe it to the families of those who perished and the survivors whose lives were forever changed to increase enforcement and accountability to prevent future tragedies,” said Council Majority Leader Laurie A. Cumbo.
“I want to thank Mayor de Blasio for his leadership in supporting legislation to keep dangerous drivers off our streets. All of these proposed regulations would have helped to ensure that Dorothy Burns – a driver with multiple medical ailments and eight different citations for speeding or red light violations – could not have been behind the wheel of her car. While it may be too late to save Abigail and Josh, Albany can still take action to take some of the most dangerous drivers off the road, and ensure that no other families suffer a tragedy like this,” said Council Member Brad Lander.
“When we lose even one life due to a crash, it means that there is more we can do. A lot of that requires that the city and state work together with a unified goal,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Council Committee on Transportation. “As a city, we have made great progress in making transit safer through smart street design and committing to installing safety bollards. Now, I call on my state counterparts to further these efforts.”
“Every life lost on the street is a tragedy, which is why we must do everything in our power to make sure dangerous drivers do not get behind the wheel,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair of the Committee on Public Safety. “Having safe streets for our families is one of the most important elements of public safety, so we must take action now to protect New Yorkers and support law enforcement to ensure that this never happens again. I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner O’Neill for their consistent efforts and priorities aimed at making our streets safer for all.”
“Last Monday, I joined children, their parents, families of victims, advocates and other elected officials in a powerful demonstration of unity,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca. “We lifted our voices to ask the Mayor to implement solutions to address pedestrian safety. Today, Mayor de Blasio is here with us to demonstrate his commitment to ensure dangerous drivers are kept off the streets. I thank Mayor de Blasio for the unveiling of this new package of State legislation. Little Abigail and Joshua deserve our full commitment to strengthen our laws. We don’t plan on failing them.”
“As families who have lost loved ones to traffic violence, or survivors of traffic violence ourselves, we are heartened to see the mayor recommit to fighting for the expansion of life-saving speed safety cameras in school zones,” said Cara Cancelmo, a member of Families for Safe Streets. “Speeding drivers kill. And they kill the most vulnerable among us most of all: children and the elderly. These deaths need to end, and we know how to do it. Speed safety cameras will save lives, street redesigns will save lives — we need more of them now. Ensuring that the most dangerous drivers receive greater and escalating fines for frequent and habitual life-threatening behavior will also save lives. Driving comes with a grave responsibility. When that responsibility is taken lightly, lives and communities are shattered. Members of Families for Safe Streets have gone through trauma and grief due to preventable crashes– we are fighting so nobody else has to.”
“We know what it takes to prevent traffic deaths, and the mayor’s proposal to expand speed safety cameras is a strong step in the right direction. Along with redesigning dangerous corridors, automated enforcement have proven to be an effective tool toward eliminating senseless tragedies on our streets,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “Vision Zero will remain out of reach until we’ve truly prioritized safety ahead of placating drivers, so we commend Mayor de Blasio for taking action toward keeping the worst offenders from being able to get behind the wheel.”