Last month , CHEKPEDS board of Directors met with Steve Vaccaro, of the law firm of Vaccaro & White, whose life’s mission is to further traffic justice for pedestrians and bicyclists. He is also a co-founder of StreetsPac which vets candidates for their traffic safety and complete streets creds.
Steve had good news and bad news on traffic justice. There is much progress on the front of the laws- Mayor de Blasio passed 11 laws in June to give more tools to NYPD and District Attorneys to crack down on drivers that injure or kill vulnerable users .
In particular Intro 238, created section 19-190 of the Administrative Code of New York that establishes criminal penalties for drivers that fail to yield to pedestrians and bicyclists and injures or kill them, a major progress that makes it possible for NYPD to investigate even if they have not personally observed the violation. Precinct officers can use this tool for lesser injuries without having to involve the Collision Investigation Division. The drivers can be found guilty regardless of intent. Read a full explanation by Steve Vaccaro Here.
However in a recent New York Time Oped , Dana Lerner, the mother of a child killed in a pedestrian crossing while he had the walk sign, wonders Why Drivers get away with Murder? She writes”Cooper’s Law authorizes the Taxi and Limousine Commission to immediately revoke the licenses of drivers involved in serious crashes, pending an investigation. It went into effect last week. When the law was passed in June, it felt like an important accomplishment. Now, I have doubts.” and then she echoes our feelings. “Vision Zero is an admirable plan, but this is a city where every 48 hours, a pedestrian or cyclist is killed by traffic. We don’t need more laws named for the victims; we need to hold law enforcement accountable for using the laws we have. It’s either that, or condemn more parents to the misery my husband and I know“.
While the law should be enforced as a routine, it will not bring the victims back to their families. DOT has step up the reengineering the streets to prevent such tragedies: install split phases at each of those intersections so that their is no vehicular/pedestrian conflicts. Amongst the many benefits of split phases for pedestrians and bicyclists, the main one is that pedestrians have a green light while vehicles have a red arrow thus eliminating turning conflicts. No wonder that on the 9th Avenue bike lane in Chelsea , such feature nearly doubled the reduction in crashes compared to other bike lanes without it.
Our elected officials have to ensure the DOT is proactively installing this feature and the NYPD enforces the law. Fortunately Council Member Chin stepped up to the plate and recently wrote to Chief Chan about a recent pedestrian death asking that the full law be enforced.
Drivers injured and killed over 16,000 pedestrians and cyclists in 2013; CIS works around 300 cases a year. Unless NYPD begins enforcing Section 19-190 as it was intended, the vast majority of drivers who harm pedestrians and cyclists will continue to go unpenalized.
It is time to double down and challenge our police precincts on the use of section 19-190 of the administrative code . You can use this chart of reported injuries in September to ask your police precinct how many 19-190 infractions they have written.