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Posts from the Traffic Enforcement Category

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“Textalyzer” Bill Would Enable Cops to Detect Distracted Driving Like DWI

State lawmakers want to give police the ability to field test motorists’ cell phones following a crash.

txt_drive

Photo: Wikipedia

Sponsored by Brooklyn Assembly Member Felix Ortiz and Westchester State Senator Terrence Murphy, the bill would let investigators use a “textalyzer” — which detects electronic device usage without revealing data stored on the device — after crashes that result in property damage, injury, or death.

Driver inattention and distraction contributed to over 12,000 crashes in New York City in 2014, according to state DMV data, including more than 9,800 crashes that resulted in injury and 38 fatal collisions.

Driver phone records, which open up more data than the “textalyzer” bill proposes to, are obtainable only with a court order. As it stands, it’s practically never clear whether investigators look at phone records after a crash or not. If police were given the tools to check for driver distraction in much the same way they test for the presence of alcohol, it should make for an effective deterrent.

The bill would allow motorists involved in crashes to refuse to submit phones for field testing, absent a subpoena, but drivers who do so would be subject to a license suspension.

The proposed legislation was prompted by the family of a college student, Evan Lieberman, who was killed in 2011 when the driver of a car he was riding in crashed in Orange County. The DMV determined that the driver was using his phone before the crash, which injured two other passengers.

“There’s a significant number of drivers who continually engage in reckless behavior, such as texting, using apps and browsing the web on their mobile devices while behind the wheel,” Ortiz said in a press release. “These people will continue to put themselves and others at risk unless we come up with a protocol to successfully stop them.”

The bill is currently in committee in the Assembly and the Senate.

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Jose Peralta and Michael DenDekker Call for Speed Cams at Every School

There is more than one Albany bill to loosen state restrictions on New York City’s speed camera program.

State Senator Jose Peralta introduced legislation today that would allow the city to install cameras in every school zone, up from the 140-camera cap imposed by the state. A separate Peralta bill, introduced in March, would eliminate state rules that limit the use of cameras to school hours.

In the Assembly, Deborah Glick is sponsoring a bill that would accomplish both those goals, as well as remove the sunset provision state lawmakers placed on the camera program. Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets are campaigning to get Glick’s bill passed.

Another bill from Assembly Member Michael DenDekker would suspend vehicle registrations of people who accumulate five or more speed camera tickets in a year, according to the Daily News.

“We’re happy to work with Assembly Member Glick because she’s been a leader on this issue from day one,” TA Deputy Director Caroline Samponaro told Streetsblog. Samponaro said the introduction of overlapping bills could work out for the best. “It’s good to see [Peralta and DenDekker] stepping up and taking action.”

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Another Person Killed by Turning Motorist in the 109th Precinct

Council Member Peter Koo, Representative Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim. Motorists have killed at least three people walking in the 109th Precinct since these officials held a press event last November to blame victims of traffic violence.

Council Member Peter Koo, Representative Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim. Motorists have killed at least three people walking in the 109th Precinct since these officials held a press event last November to blame victims of traffic violence.

An ambulette driver was charged under the Right of Way Law for striking and killing a pedestrian in Flushing.

The crash happened Tuesday at around 8:57 a.m. The victim — a 57-year-old man whose name has not been released by police, pending family notification — was crossing 35th Avenue in the crosswalk when Ramon Ortiz, 55, struck him with an SUV while turning left onto the avenue from Prince Street, according to NYPD and reports from the Daily News and QNS.com.

The victim died at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Ortiz was arrested and charged with violating the victim’s right of way, a police spokesperson told Streetsblog.

The victim was at least the third pedestrian killed by a motorist in the 109th Precinct this year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. In at least one other case the victim was struck by a driver making a turn. The precinct is where a driver who failed to yield killed 3-year-old Allison Liao in 2013.

Officers in the 109th Precinct ticketed 867 drivers for failing to yield and 738 drivers for speeding in 2015, according to NYPD summons data. In response to a series of pedestrian fatalities last year, the precinct and local electeds made a show of blaming people for their own deaths.

Prince Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing, where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a driver who police say failed to yield. Image: Google Maps

Prince Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing, where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a driver who police say failed to yield. Image: Google Maps

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Here’s How You Can Help Bring Speed Enforcement to #EverySchool in NYC

Click on the image to tour the #EverySchool web site.

Click on the image to tour the #EverySchool web site.

Transportation Alternatives is ramping up its #EverySchool campaign to loosen Albany restrictions on New York City speed cameras.

Earlier this month, TA and Families for Safe Streets launched an effort to get state lawmakers to allow NYC to site speed cameras outside every school in the city. As of now, arbitrary state rules limit NYC to just 140 cameras, to be used in school zones during school hours only. Tickets carry a $50 fine with no license or insurance points and are not issued unless a driver is speeding by at least 11 miles per hour.

Even with those limitations, speeding is down by an average of 60 percent in locations where speed cameras are installed, according to DOT.

With just 7 percent of school zones covered by cameras at one time, TA and Families for Safe Streets are backing a bill introduced by Assembly Member Deborah Glick that would let any school have camera enforcement with no time of day restrictions. The bill would remove an Albany sunset provision, making the speed camera program permanent.

A new campaign web site allows parent groups and community organizations to join the #EverySchool Coalition. There is a form for contacting state reps about the campaign, and parents can share stories about the dangers their kids encounter when walking to school.

On May 10, TA and Families for Safe Streets will travel to Albany to encourage lawmakers to help pass Glick’s bill. People interested in making the trip can reserve a seat via the #EverySchool site, or sponsor other families that would like to go.

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No ROW Charge for Garbage Hauler Who Killed Woman in UES Crosswalk

The driver of a private sanitation truck fatally struck Jodi McGrath at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver, and the white arrow shows the path of the victim. Image: Google Maps

The driver of a private sanitation truck fatally struck Jodi McGrath at First Avenue and E. 92nd Street. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver, and the white arrow shows the path of the victim. Image: Google Maps

A pedestrian was struck and killed by the driver of a private garbage truck on the Upper East Side yesterday. Police determined the driver failed to yield but did not charge him with violating the Right of Way Law.

The crash happened at around 4:30 Tuesday morning. According to reports, Jodi McGrath was crossing First Avenue west to east, in a crosswalk and with the signal, when the driver hit her while turning left onto the avenue from E. 92nd Street, which is one-way eastbound.

McGrath, 55, was conscious and responsive at the scene, Gothamist reported, with injuries to her head, leg, and arm. She later died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

The driver was a 58-year-old man whose identity was shielded by NYPD. Police summonsed the driver for failure to yield, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog, but crash investigators did not file charges under the Right of Way Law. The law, which made it a misdemeanor for motorists to harm people who are walking and biking with the right of way, is supposed to deter reckless driving while providing a measure of accountability for crashes that injure and kill thousands of New Yorkers a year. It’s been on the books for 19 months, but NYPD and city district attorneys rarely apply it.

Speaking at last week’s Vision Zero Cities conference, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton didn’t know when the Right of Way Law took effect. “Everything new takes a while to get ramped up,” Bratton said.

Private sanitation trucks have the highest pedestrian kill rate of any type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF]. Data tracked by Streetsblog show private trash haulers killed a cyclist and two pedestrians in 2015.

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TA and Families for Safe Streets Call for Speed Cameras at #EverySchool

speed_cam_every_school

Graphic: Transportation Alternatives [PDF]

Assembly Member Deborah Glick will introduce legislation to significantly expand New York City’s speed camera program. To get the bill enacted, street safety advocates will have to build support in the State Senate and ensure that Governor Cuomo signs it into law.

At a press conference this morning, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White joined members of Families for Safe Streets to call on Albany to allow automated speed enforcement by every school in NYC.

Amy Cohen spoke alongside other members of Families for Safe Streets in support of expanding the city's school speed camera program. Photo: David Meyer

Amy Cohen spoke alongside other members of Families for Safe Streets in support of expanding the city’s school speed camera program. Photo: David Meyer

State law currently limits the city’s speed camera program. No more than 140 locations can have the cameras, and they have to be placed within quarter mile of a school on a street that directly abuts the school. Enforcement is limited to hours when school activities are occurring, which leaves the speed limit unenforced during the 12 hours of the day when fatal crashes are most likely.

Glick’s bill would change the current set-up in three ways:

  • Any school in the city would be able to have speed camera enforcement within a half-mile radius, removing the limits on the number of “school zones” that can receive automated speed enforcement at any given rime.
  • Time restrictions on enforcement would be eliminated, allowing the cameras to operate 24/7.
  • The current sunset provision — under which the program would need to be renewed in 2018 — would expire, making the camera program permanent.

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The TLC Has Never Used Cooper’s Law to Permanently Revoke a TLC License

In the 18 months it has been on the books, the Taxi and Limousine Commission has never used Cooper’s Law to permanently revoke the TLC license of a cab driver for hurting or killing someone.

TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi

Cooper’s Law, which took effect in September 2014, allows the TLC to suspend the TLC licenses of cab drivers involved in crashes that result in death or critical injury. If a TLC licensee is convicted of a traffic violation or crime for causing such a crash, the law requires the agency to revoke that person’s TLC license.

The law was named after 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was killed on the Upper West Side in January 2014 by a yellow cab driver who failed to yield. Cooper’s Law was one of several traffic safety measures adopted to advance Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.

“On the whole our drivers are safe,” TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi said at the mayor’s Vision Zero bill signing ceremony, “but there are a few bad apples and we need to remove them.”

That isn’t happening — at least under the aegis of Cooper’s Law.

Vision Zero transparency laws do not require the TLC to publish data on what happens after the agency suspends the TLC license of a driver who hurts or kills someone. Streetsblog filed a freedom of information request in February after several unsuccessful attempts to obtain data on case outcomes from the TLC. We received the agency’s response earlier this week.

“There have been no TLC licensees that have had their license permanently revoked for injuring or killing a pedestrian or cyclist pursuant to Cooper’s Law,” the TLC legal affairs office wrote.

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Racial Inequity in Traffic Enforcement

With the Vision Zero Cities Conference kicking off tomorrow, Transportation Alternatives has released an accompanying collection of essays, the first edition of “The International Journal of Traffic Safety Innovation.” Streetsblog is pleased to republish TA Legislative and Legal Manager Marco Conner’s contribution to the journal. The whole collection is worth your time, and you can download it from TA’s Vision Zero Cities site

vz_citiesThe message of the Black Lives Matter movement has permeated institutions across America, but in large part, transportation planners have opted out. It’s time for that to change.

As Vision Zero policies are adopted by cities and countries around the world, equity, or a lack thereof, is a major challenge to successful implementation.

Equity in Vision Zero is the fair and just implementation of transportation safety measures across all populations, including race, age, gender, geography and socio-economic condition. Where inequities exist in cities, there is also the greatest and most disproportionate rates of traffic deaths and injuries. In U.S. cities, 89 percent of high-income communities have sidewalks, while only 49 percentof low-income communities do. At the same time, black and Latino Americans, who live in low-income communities at higher rates than white Americans, are twice as likely to be killed while walking. These deaths are not accidents, but the result of inadequate and inequitable engineering and transportation policy. They represent the biases that Vision Zero has inherited, and which we must address.

There is an urgent need for transportation planners to apply a broad equity analysis to “the three E’s” — engineering, education and enforcement — coupled with policy implementations that are similarly guided. A mandated equity analysis will force engineers, police, and educators to consider, and make an effort to correct, historic wrongs of race, age, gender, geography and socio-economic conditions as they work toward Vision Zero.

Today, the most pressing challenge is enforcement as it relates to race in the United States. Here, institutional racism and individual bias against minority groups, particularly black and Latino people, is omnipresent, and traffic enforcement is no exception. A 2015 report in the New York Times found that black drivers across the country are up to five times as likely as white drivers to be stopped and searched while driving, even though police find illegal items less often in black drivers’ vehicles.

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TLC Won’t Say If Any Cab Drivers Have Lost Licenses Under Cooper’s Law

Streetsblog has filed a freedom of information request for data on how many times the Taxi and Limousine Commission has permanently revoked TLC licenses of cab drivers for injuring and killing people since the adoption of Cooper’s Law. The request follows several unsuccessful attempts to obtain the data from the TLC.

Cooper Stock

Has the Taxi and Limousine Commission ever used Cooper’s Law to take a reckless cab driver off the streets for good? The TLC won’t say.

Cooper’s Law gives the TLC discretion to suspend the TLC license of a cab driver who is involved in a crash that causes death or critical injury. In cases where a TLC licensee is convicted of a traffic violation or a crime stemming from such a crash, the law requires the TLC to revoke that person’s license to drive a cab.

The law was named after Cooper Stock, a 9-year-old Manhattan boy who in January 2014 was fatally struck by a yellow cab driver who failed to yield, and was one of a number of traffic safety measures adopted to advance Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.

Local Law 28, another Vision Zero regulation, requires the TLC to publish data on how many TLC-licensed drivers are involved in crashes resulting in critical injury or death, the number of cases where action against a driver’s TLC license was warranted and, of those, how many summary TLC license suspensions were imposed. The law also says TLC should publish information on subsequent “enforcement actions taken.”

But the TLC does not publicize what happens after the agency suspends the TLC license of a driver who hurts or kills someone, and does not list the number of TLC license revocations or reinstatements. Without knowing how cases are resolved, the public can’t gauge how effective Cooper’s Law is in getting dangerous cab drivers off the streets.

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Donovan Richards Wants Safer Conditions at Deadly Rosedale Intersection

Motorists injure dozens of people a year at the Queens intersection where a driver killed 16-year-old Alexa Smith. Image: DOT Vision Zero View

Motorists injure dozens of people a year at the intersection of Conduit Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard, where a driver killed 16-year-old Alexa Smith. Image: DOT Vision Zero View

City Council Member Donovan Richards wants DOT to put speed cameras at the Rosedale intersection where a hit-and-run driver killed a teenage girl earlier this month — a request the city may not be able to fulfill due to restrictions imposed by Albany. Richards also urged DOT to make physical improvements to protect people from speeding drivers.

Donovan Richards

Donovan Richards

Alexa Smith, 16, was crossing Conduit Avenue at Francis Lewis Boulevard in the crosswalk just after midnight on February 11 when she was hit by the driver of a vehicle believed to be a dollar van. Her killer did not stop to summon help or render aid. Smith was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital.

South Conduit Avenue is a high-speed road slicing through RosedaleThe speed limit on the avenue is 40 miles per hour where it crosses Francis Lewis Boulevard. Drivers injure dozens of people every year at the triangle formed by Conduit Avenue, Francis Lewis Boulevard, and 243rd Street, according to DOT crash data.

Locals interviewed after Smith’s death told the press that reckless drivers make crossing the street a life-and-death proposition, a point repeated by Richards at a press event last Friday.

From the Times-Ledger:

Richards said he would call on the Department of Transportation to add speed cameras at the intersection, which would have helped identify the perpetrator of the accident. He said additional pedestrian safety measures have also been suggested to ensure that residents will no longer have to risk their lives to cross this busy intersection.

“As Vision Zero spreads a wider net of pedestrian safety across the city, we also need the Department of Transportation to look at dangerous intersections such as right here at Sunrise and Francis Lewis,” said Richards.

“This is why we need speed cameras to slow drivers down and to hold them accountable for when they break the law. We also need the DOT to look at pedestrian-focused crossing signals that will ensure that they can cross the street without having to worry about frantic drivers trying to beat the light,” he said.

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