Careless Driving Amendment Passes Senate, Awaits Action by Assembly

A bill targeted at NYPD’s self-imposed ban on penalizing motorists for careless driving has cleared the State Senate, but awaits passage in the Assembly.

NYPD refuses to enforce the law named after Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng, who were killed by a careless driver in 2009.

The bill would amend Hayley and Diego’s Law by explicitly stating that officers may ticket or arrest drivers who harm pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable street users whether or not they directly observe an infraction, as long as officers have reasonable cause to believe a violation was committed.

Currently, NYPD protocol prohibits precinct officers from issuing tickets under VTL 1146, the state statute that includes Hayley and Diego’s Law as well as Elle’s Law.

Hayley and Diego’s Law, which went into effect in 2010, established the offense of careless driving. It imposed penalties, including the possibility of license sanctions and jail time, upon drivers who injure or kill pedestrians and cyclists.

The bill and its amendment were introduced by Senator Dan Squadron and Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh. It is named after Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, two toddlers who were killed in 2009 by a driver whose unattended and idling van mounted a curb in Chinatown. The driver was not charged with a crime by DA Robert Morgenthau or his successor Cy Vance.

“Our bill will provide law enforcement with additional, vital tools to effectively crack down on careless driving — and send a strong message that a driver’s license is not a license for carelessness,” said Squadron, in a press release. “Law enforcement must have every tool at their disposal to protect pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers as we work toward the safer streets New Yorkers need.”

Said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives: “We applaud Senator Squadron for passing this very necessary bill to close [the] loophole and finally fix the broken status quo. We call on the Assembly to follow up quickly in order to keep New Yorkers safe.”

The Senate failed to hold a vote on the Hayley and Diego amendment last year, and the Assembly version did not make it out of committee.