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Posts from the "Taxis & Limos" Category

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Letter Grades for Taxi and Livery Companies: TLC Commish Receptive to It

Mohammed Himon, the taxi driver who plowed onto a Midtown sidewalk and severed the leg of Sian Green, can still drive a cab in NYC. Photo: @BradJaffy

What if taxi and livery drivers in NYC received letter grades to reflect their safety records, the same way restaurants get grades from the health department? Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors raised the possibility at last night’s Vision Zero town hall in Park Slope, and found a receptive audience in new TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi.

Joshi was appointed earlier this month, and last night was her first appearance at a Vision Zero Q&A session. WNYC’s Kat Aaron reports that Joshi acknowledged there are problem drivers who pose a danger to other people on the street (she called them “outliers”). She also spoke positively about the potential deterrent effect of black boxes in TLC-regulated vehicles, and said TLC is working with the City Council to make it easier to suspend drivers who cause mayhem.

McClure, who helped organize the event, asked Joshi if the TLC would consider a letter grade system so customers can be informed about drivers’ safety records. It turns out that the TLC has already been discussing something along those lines. One issue is whether the grades would be assigned to individual drivers or to the company that employs them.

Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke reports that Joshi said TLC is leaning toward grading the bases, not each and every driver, “since it would incentivize them to hire safer drivers and educate the ones they already have.”

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Actually, de Blasio’s Vision Zero Blueprint Has a Lot for Cab Drivers to Like

Hard to see a downside to preventing ##http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/08/28/another-view-of-yesterdays-cab-crash/##scenarios like this##. Photo: Trish Naudon-Thomas

Hard to see a downside to preventing scenarios like this. Photo: Trish Naudon-Thomas

Bhairavi Desai may not believe speeding by cab drivers is a problem in NYC, but for someone whose job is to look out for cabbies’ best interests, there should be a lot to like about Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero proposals.

Desai is executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. She has called automated speed enforcement “simply another tactic to raise revenue,” and in response to de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan — which includes technology to monitor cab driver behavior and ensure compliance with speed limits — here’s what she had to say:

“To shut off the meter in the middle of a fare is not only insane Big Brother, it’s severe, cruel, and simply unhelpful. Technology that can truly be helpful should be considered, but this would just be overboard. Drivers already have no guaranteed income, only expenses on the lease, fuel and vehicle repairs. Every statistic shows taxi drivers are the safest drivers in New York City. We don’t deserve to be singled out and punished to do even better.”

Also this: ”What if, in a moment, you’re speeding to actually avoid something?”

Promoting adherence to traffic laws is not a plot to punish cab drivers. It’s about safety — not only for passengers and bystanders, but cab drivers themselves. And many of de Blasio’s Vision Zero proposals look like win-wins.

First, machines are, by their nature, fair. Cabbies complain about being harassed by cops, but they can’t be harassed by the black box or the speed governor.

Second, cabbies complain that passengers want them to drive faster. With a speed governor, for example, a cab driver could explain that he can’t break the speed limit, even if he wants to. It’s not hard to imagine slapping every cab with a partition decal explaining same.

Read more…

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Rosenthal Wants TLC Licenses Revoked for Serious Failure to Yield Crashes

Legislation from City Council Member Helen Rosenthal would revoke hack licenses of cab drivers who kill or seriously injure pedestrians and cyclists while failing to yield.

Through a change to city administrative code that governs the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the legislation would require the suspension of the driver’s TLC license, pending an investigation, after a crash that results in death or injury to a pedestrian or cyclist. According to a press release from Rosenthal’s office, ”If the outcome of the investigation determines that the driver is guilty of ‘failure to yield,’ the driver’s TLC license would be automatically and permanently revoked.”

The proposed rule change follows the death of 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was hit by a cab driver in January while crossing West End Avenue with his father. Cabbie Koffi Komlani was cited for careless driving and failure to yield, but he still holds a valid TLC license. Stock was one of three pedestrians killed by drivers in Rosenthal’s district last month.

Though points can accumulate through NYPD summonses or consumer complaints, under current rules even a habitually reckless cab driver can expect to retain his TLC license. As it stands, the TLC can suspend licenses for 30 days only when a cab driver has six or more points, and can’t revoke a license until a driver has more than 10 points. According to a recent Post story, summonses for failure to yield and running a red light add three points to a hack license, a reckless driving summons adds five points, and a ticket for driving from 31 to 40 miles per hour over the speed limit adds eight points.

If approved, Rosenthal’s proposal could be a significant step toward getting reckless cab drivers off city streets. It is unclear, however, whether investigations would be performed by TLC, NYPD, or both. If action against a hack license hinges on an NYPD summons, the rule change may not be as effective as intended.

The bill would apparently need to be modified to apply to curb-jumping crashes like the one in Midtown that took the leg of Sian Green. Sidewalk driving does not usually trigger a failure to yield summons. Also unknown is what constitutes “serious injury.”

Streetsblog has asked Rosenthal’s office for more details on the proposed legislation. We will update this post when we hear back.

While they kill and injure a large number of pedestrians and cyclists, a 2004 study found that cab drivers are less crash-prone on a per-miles driven basis than other NYC motorists. Cooper’s mother Dana Lerner said Albany needs to pass reforms that apply to all New York drivers.

“We need to change New York State law to make it a criminal offense to drive in a manner that seriously injures or kills a pedestrian or bicyclist who is following the law,” Lerner told DNAinfo. “It’s wrong for the state of New York not to address this immediately.”

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Will NYC Act to Get Deadly Cab Drivers Off the Streets? [Updated]

An analysis by the Post confirms that cab drivers who injure and kill pedestrians in NYC rarely face sanctions from the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The cab driver who drove onto a Midtown sidewalk and severed the leg of tourist Sian Green still has a valid hack license. Photo: @BraddJaffy

The Post examined 16 serious crashes since 2009 and found that only two drivers had their hack licenses revoked. The cabbies who killed Timothy Keith and Cooper Stock and the driver who maimed Sian Green are among those who remain in good standing with the TLC.

The Post’s Freedom of Information Act request found that 874 hacks have had their license revoked since 2009 because of point accumulations — a tiny fraction of the 51,340 licensed cabbies in NYC.

License points can accumulate through NYPD summonses or consumer complaints. According to the Post, under current rules the TLC can suspend licenses for just 30 days when a cab driver has six or more license points, and can’t revoke a license until a driver has more than 10 points.

Summonses for failure to yield and running a red light add three points to a hack license, the Post reported, a reckless driving summons adds five points, and a ticket for driving from 31 to 40 miles per hour over the speed limit adds eight points. To reiterate: A cabbie who gets caught doing 70 through a city neighborhood would not necessarily lose his hack license.

When a cab driver killed senior Lori Stevens in the West Village in 2012, the TLC said that unless criminal charges are filed, or a consumer files a complaint, the agency has no lawful basis for action against a cabbie who harms a pedestrian.

“If they are specific to TLC rule violations, such as 54-15(1), ‘A driver must be courteous to passengers,’ the points are accrued through a similar program called ‘Persistent Violator,’” TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg told Streetsblog today. “Here, too, six points results in a suspension, and 10 earns revocation.”

A 2004 study found that cab drivers are less crash-prone on a per-miles driven basis than other NYC motorists. But cab drivers injure and kill countless numbers of pedestrians and cyclists a year, and it is up to the city to protect the public by weeding out those who drive recklessly.

Fromberg told the Post “the agency is now exploring amending its rules so that a driver involved in a crash that kills or maims a pedestrian would have his license immediately suspended or revoked, pending an investigation of the crash.” It is not known if rule changes would require city or state legislative action, Fromberg said.

Read more…

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Post Wonders What Woman Did to Get Herself Run Over by Cab Driver

It's unclear if this cab driver was violating traffic laws when he ran over a pedestrian, but Post reporters do not appear to be paying attention.

It’s unclear if this cab driver was violating traffic laws when he ran over a pedestrian, but Post reporters do not appear to be paying attention.

It used to be that the tabloids would focus on any mistake by an injured or deceased pedestrian while ignoring what a motorist did, or didn’t do, to cause a crash. Now, in the absence of actual evidence that a pedestrian was in any way at fault, the Post has taken to spreading innuendo.

Yesterday afternoon a woman was run over by a cab driver in Midtown. Here’s what happened according to Post reporters Minsi Chung and Natasha Velez:

A puddle of blood next to a crosswalk on 6th Avenue marked the spot where the woman was struck as she crossed the wide avenue. A taxi turning left from W. 38th Street clipped the woman moments after she stepped off the sidewalk.

It was unclear if the pedestrian was jaywalking, but a witness said the woman did not appear to be paying attention as she crossed the busy street.

See what Chung and Velez did? They insinuated the victim was jaywalking through pure speculation. And for good measure added a vague but damning detail from an unnamed witness.

It may be unclear if the woman was “paying attention” before she was struck in a crosswalk on a city street teeming with pedestrian traffic. Since there is no rule against distracted walking, and the law puts the onus on drivers to avoid running people over, this is irrelevant.

But here’s what else is unclear: We don’t know if the cabbie who hit her violated her right of way, was driving at an appropriate speed, or using the cell phone he’s shown holding in the Post photo. And the reason it’s unclear is because the tabloids routinely fail to address motorist behavior in their zeal to blame the woman who ends up under the cab or bus.

Implying without cause that a fallen pedestrian might have been asking for it is not reporting. Post reporters and their editors should provide readers with fact-based traffic violence coverage and leave the gossip to Page Six.

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Barron Lerner: It’s Time to Treat Reckless Driving Like Drunk Driving

The most basic flaw in the New York State traffic justice system is that in most cases it fails to hold motorists accountable for deadly recklessness. Unless a motorist is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, killing someone with a car is usually not considered a crime.

Barron Lerner. Photo: ##http://medicine.med.nyu.edu/medhumanities/featured-writing/lerner-why-history-of-medicine##NYU##

Barron Lerner. Photo: NYU

In a column for the Times, Barron Lerner, whose 9-year-old nephew Cooper Stock was killed by a cab driver in Manhattan this month, says it’s time to treat reckless driving like drunk driving. “Reckless driving, circa 2014, is what drunk driving was prior to 1980: it is poorly defined in the law, sometimes poorly investigated by police and almost never results in a criminal charge,” he writes.

An NYU professor and author of “One for the Road: Drunk Driving Since 1900,” Lerner writes that today’s attitudes toward everyday recklessness resemble societal and legal norms during the decades when efforts to criminalize drunk driving were met with “cultural indifference.”

Well into the 1970s, police and prosecutors looked the other way, seeing drunk drivers either as diseased alcoholics, young men sowing their wild oats or, paradoxically, victims themselves, even if they killed or maimed people. Judges and juries — perhaps because they, too, secretly drank and drove or knew those who did — were reluctant to convict.

Police told family members that their loved ones — the actual victims — had been “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Crashes were called accidents.

This is, of course, exactly how law enforcement reacts to crashes like the one that killed Cooper Stock, who was in a crosswalk with his father when both were hit by a cab driver who reportedly took a turn without slowing down. No charges were filed against the driver, and no action was taken against his hack license.

“The police reassured my brother-in-law, Dr. Richard G. Stock, who was holding Cooper’s hand at the time of the crash, that a Breathalyzer done at the scene was negative,” Lerner writes. “Yet merely looking for alcohol or drug involvement by the driver misses the point.”

In the 80s, Lerner writes, collective action by parents and other loved ones, through groups like MADD, forced a “sea change” that brought about laws that toughened penalties and lowered legally acceptable blood alcohol levels. Their activism also attached a social stigma to driving drunk, making the public realize that “drunk drivers were still responsible for the damage they caused, even though the harms they inflicted were unintentional.”

Lerner says a similar shift is needed if New York City is to achieve Vision Zero. “If Cooper died because an impatient or distracted driver made a careless decision, then that driver should be as guilty of a crime as someone who drank alcohol or used drugs before driving,” he writes. “Let’s make destruction caused by irresponsible driving a true crime. And let’s do it soon.”

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9-Year-Old Boy, Mother, and Senior Killed in Weekend of Motorist Violence

Three pedestrians were fatally struck by motorists over the weekend, bringing to seven the number of people killed while walking in New York City in the first two weeks of 2014.

Twenty pedestrians were killed by city motorists in January 2013, according to NYPD data, and 12 pedestrians and one cyclist died in January 2012.

Cooper Stock. Photo via DNAinfo

Cooper Stock. Photo via DNAinfo

Nine-year-old Cooper Stock was in a crosswalk with his father at West End Avenue and 97th Street  at around 9 p.m. Friday when both were hit by cab driver Koffi Komlani, according to reports. A motorist in a car behind Komlani spoke with the Daily News:

“He had to be distracted because there’s no way he could not see them, if I did,” [Ramon] Gonzalez, 46, said of the 53-year-old cabbie.

“The father grabbed his son. They were both on the hood of the car for a second. The father fell off the passenger side. The son went underneath the driver’s-side tire, first the front one, then the rear.”

Komlani, of West Harriman, didn’t brake until after he’d run over the boy with both wheels, according to Gonzalez, the assistant director of an educational nonprofit who lives in Chelsea.

Richard Stock suffered a leg injury. Cooper died at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.

Cooper Stock was at least the twelfth child age 14 and under killed by a New York City motorist in the last 12 months, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Year after year, traffic crashes remain the leading cause of injury-related death for children in NYC.

From DNAinfo:

The family released a statement about Cooper late Saturday, saying he loved the Yankees, rock and roll, and the Knicks. “Cooper was the life of the party even when there wasn’t a party,” the statement said. “He was light, he was reflective, he was beauty in motion, he was charismatic. He has been described as an old soul, and wise beyond his years.”

Komlani was ticketed for failure to yield on Friday. ”As of now, there are no disciplinary actions available to the TLC,” said Allan Fromberg, spokesperson for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, in an email. ”We’re awaiting the outcome of the NYPD investigation to make a determination of what options are available.”

Read more…

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Cab Driver Who Killed 5-Year-Old Remains in Good Standing With TLC

The cab driver who killed a 5-year-old child in Brooklyn last year is still on the road. Meanwhile, the civil suit filed by the victim’s parents was transferred to NYC this week from Texas, where the family lives.

Timothy Keith

Timothy Keith

In April 2012, Timothy Keith and his mother and father were on their first trip to the city when, shortly after they dropped off their bags at a hotel, the child was struck on Hicks Street, in Cobble Hill. Reports published after the crash said Timothy, who was deaf, ran into the street.

“I saw taxi yellow so fast,” Timothy’s mother Eva Keith, who is also deaf, told the Daily News. “Driver hit my son but my son can’t hear.”

“There was no time,” cab driver Usman Gul told the Post at the scene. “He stepped out and I hit the brake.”

Timothy died from his injuries days later. Gul was not charged by NYPD or Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes.

The suit, which names Autumn Cab Corporation and NYC Taxi Group as defendants, claims Gul was speeding.

The intersection of Hicks and Amity in Brooklyn, New York is a busy, residential intersection where vehicles are commonly parked on the side of the road. Defendants’ employee and/or agent, Mr. Gul was negligently traveling at high speed under the conditions presented and failed to keep a proper lookout. Mr. Gul’s taxi struck Timothy Keith and caused his body to impact the street pavement with severe force.

The complaint says the defendants were “negligent in failing to properly train and supervise” Gul, and claims the cab companies failed to “have necessary safety policies and procedures in place regarding the operation of Yellow Cabs in residential, high foot-traffic areas.”

According to TLC records, in November Gul’s license to drive a cab was renewed for two years.

Read more…

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Public Still Doesn’t Know Why Cy Vance Failed to Charge in Sian Green Case

Last Friday WNYC ran a piece in which Bronx vehicular crimes chief Joe McCormack explained why he thought Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance failed to file charges against the cab driver who drove onto a Midtown sidewalk and severed the leg of tourist Sian Green. The story offers valuable insight into the mindset of prosecutors, but key questions about the case remain unanswered.

The public still does not know how Cy Vance decided that the driver of this cab, who hit two people and severed a woman's leg, should not be charged. Photo: @BraddJaffy

The public still does not know how Cy Vance decided that the driver of this cab, who hit two people and severed a woman’s leg, should not be charged. Photo: @BraddJaffy

McCormack said that in order to charge Faysal Himon with a crime, the Vance team would have to prove intent. ”What we look at in the criminal arena is when the mistake is greater than ordinary negligence and rises to criminal negligence,” McCormack said. “And what a defendant can be charged with depends on case law.”

Reporter Kate Hinds also points to the “rule of two,” an arbitrary standard that holds that a New York State motorist who is breaking at least two traffic laws at the time of a crash may be charged with criminal negligence, as a possible factor in the decision not to charge Himon.

Civil attorney Steve Vaccaro believes Vance might have gotten a conviction on misdemeanor charges — third degree assault and second degree reckless endangerment — that don’t require prosecutors to prove intent. As for case law and the “rule of two,” recent decisions by the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, have made it harder for prosecutors to secure ironclad convictions against motorists who injure and kill. But does that mean reckless drivers can’t be held accountable for maiming and killing innocent bystanders?

One Court of Appeals case in particular looms large: People v. Cabrera, which held that reckless driving had to be “morally blameworthy” to sustain a homicide conviction. Maureen McCormick, head vehicular crimes prosecutor in Nassau County, explained the Cabrera ruling to Streetsblog in 2009:

[A]s recently as May 2008, New York’s highest court held that a 17-year-old driver who violated his junior license by driving with four unrelated passengers, without seatbelts, and who also was speeding at 70-72 mph through a curve with a posted caution speed of 40 mph, and who lost control sending the car over an embankment and killing three of his passengers, could not be held criminally liable. This decision alone has resulted in numerous defense motions to have cases dismissed claiming that “speed alone” or any traffic infraction “alone” is not sufficient to sustain criminal negligence.

McCormick continued: “Our position is that this is nonsense. A person driving 100 mph in front of the court on Centre Street in Manhattan at lunch time when the streets are flooded with pedestrians MUST be chargeable with a crime.”

Court precedents do have a chilling effect, but as McCormick indicates, the “rule of two” is a defense strategy. It’s up to prosecutors and police to decide whether they want to cede the argument by never filing charges in the first place.

Read more…

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No Charges From Cy Vance for Cab Driver Who Maimed Tourist Sian Green

The cab driver who hit a cyclist and drove onto a Midtown sidewalk, severing the leg of British tourist Sian Green, will not be charged with a crime by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

By declining to test state traffic laws in court, prosecutors ensure that victims like Sian Green will continue to be denied justice. Photo: ##http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/tourist-lost-foot-taxi-cash-returns-england-article-1.1473524##Daily News##

By declining to test state traffic laws in court, prosecutors ensure that victims like Sian Green will continue to be denied justice, while reckless drivers remain free to endanger lives with impunity. Photo: Daily News

Here is a statement from Joan Vollero, Vance’s deputy communications director, released to the media today:

“Following a thorough, two-month-long investigation by the District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD, we have concluded that criminal charges cannot be filed in this case. In making this determination, prosecutors who are specially trained in vehicular crimes reviewed all available evidence and took into consideration relevant sections of the State’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws. They conducted interviews with multiple eyewitnesses, the taxi driver, the bicyclist, and injured parties, reviewed all available video surveillance, listened to numerous 911 calls, and retrieved the taxi’s ‘black box’ data. We are sensitive to the trauma faced by Ms. Green and others injured in vehicular crashes, and notified the attorneys and representatives for all parties last week of this decision.”

The August 20 crash attracted international attention, and Vance’s office and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly announced investigations, which is never a given following a serious traffic collision in NYC. Cab driver Mohammad Faysal Himon pleaded guilty to a suspension summons and surrendered his hack license on August 23, but reclaimed it a month later.

According to published reports, Himon has a history or reckless driving, with three moving violations in 2011, including citations for running a red light and doing 65 mph in a 45 mph zone, resulting in nine points on his license. He was also involved in another crash that resulted in injury, reports said.

After reportedly arguing with a bike messenger, Himon drove a quarter of a block on a Midtown sidewalk with the cyclist on the hood before slamming into Green. He confessed to the media that he intentionally stepped on the gas before mounting the curb.

“The Green Family is shocked by this news, and disappointed,” said Green’s attorney Dan Marchese, in a statement. Marchese said a Vance assistant DA “indicated that failure to charge was due to lack of evidence regarding the taxi cab driver’s intent during the investigation phase.”

There is no doubt that New York State laws can make it difficult to convict drivers on charges of deadly recklessness. But by declining to prosecute even the most brazen acts of vehicular violence, and failing to mount a concerted campaign to reform traffic code, district attorneys are ensuring that victims will continue to be denied justice. And in this case it also means a dangerous driver remains on the streets.

Said attorney Steve Vaccaro, who represents victims of traffic violence, via email:

I am stunned by the decision not to prosecute for lack of evidence of intent. To prosecute the driver for recklessness or criminal negligence, it is not required for the driver to have intended harm. All that is required is that the driver be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to have behaved with respect to the risk of striking or injuring others in a manner that constituted a gross deviation from what was reasonable. The driver’s own public statements would seem to be enough. This outcome tells me we need new laws, and perhaps also new district attorneys.

We will have more on this case in the coming days.