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Posts from the Traffic Enforcement Category

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

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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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Vance Drops Right of Way Charge Against Truck Driver Who Killed Senior

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance dropped a Right of Way Law charge against a truck driver who killed a senior on the Upper East Side.

On the afternoon of October 10, 2014, Victor Hernandez hit 86-year-old Peter Romano with a Coca-Cola truck while making a right turn at the corner of Third Avenue and E. 96th Street, according to reports.

“The driver wanted to keep going, people had to tell him to stop,” witness Edwin Rios, told the Post. “People were yelling please stop, please stop.”

Police said Romano was in the crosswalk and was crossing with the signal. On October 11, the NYPD Highway Division announced that the driver was arrested for failing to yield.

Vance’s office conducted a 15-month investigation of the crash. Last week, prosecutors dropped their case against Hernandez without taking it to trial.

According to Vance’s office, prosecutors said in court that Hernandez was not using his phone at the time of the crash and was not impaired. Prosecutors told the court that Hernandez stopped at the light and that several people crossed in front of his truck before he proceeded to turn.

In explaining their decision to drop the case, prosecutors said they believed Hernandez’s visibility was hindered due to the truck’s design and because the victim was 5’5” tall. Prosecutors noted that Hernandez did not leave the scene, and said they could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not exercising due care when he ran over Romano.

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Eyes on the Street: DIY School Zone Traffic-Calming in Corona

Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Photos: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Today Transportation Alternatives staff and members of Families for Safe Streets are in Albany, asking legislators to allow NYC to install speed enforcement cameras near every school in the city. This example of a crossing guard’s efforts to defend school kids in Queens, courtesy of Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson Jr., is another good illustration of why the state should lift arbitrary enforcement restrictions.

Last week Clarence and son Clarence Eckerson III came upon a DIY neckdown at 104th Street and 41st Avenue, outside P.S. 16 in Corona. Says Clarence:

The crossing guard [pictured] had set up four cones to slow traffic — essentially setting up a temporary gateway treatment on this street! Two cones on either side, narrowing the crossing distance for young people and all other pedestrians.

Before they got the cones, provided by the Parks Department, crossing guards at the school used trash cans to slow turning drivers. Four cones are needed, she said, due to “the speeds some cars go around here.” The 104th Precinct, where P.S. 16 is located, ticketed 702 speeding drivers in all of 2015.

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Advocates to Albany: Let NYC Enforce the Speed Limit at Every School

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Graphic: Transportation Alternatives

Advocates from Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets will head to Albany tomorrow calling on legislators to expand NYC’s automated speed enforcement program. They want speed cameras by each of the city’s 2,500-plus schools, operational at all times.

Speeding is a leading cause of crashes resulting in injury or death, yet state law limits New York City to just 140 active cameras. Moreover, the cameras must be placed on streets abutting schools within one-half mile of school entrances, and they can only issue tickets during school activities. During the 12 hours of the day when fatal crashes are most likely, the cameras are off.

There were no speed cameras in the city until 2013, when Albany passed its first speed camera legislation, which allowed NYC to install 20 cameras. (Title VII of the state Vehicle and Traffic Law mandates that localities cannot implement speed cameras without state approval.) The next year, the de Blasio administration pushed to expand the program, and Albany increased the number of speed cameras to 140.

Camera enforcement has proven effective in cutting speeding and increasing pedestrian safety. While the city has not released a detailed study of the cameras, traffic deaths and severe injuries reached historic lows in the two full years since automated speed enforcement took effect.

The speed camera program can be greatly expanded. Cameras now issue more than seven times as many speeding tickets as police officers, according to numbers provided by TA, but they are positioned by only 7 percent of New York City schools. The location restrictions also prevent the city from placing cameras on many dangerous streets that children cross to get to school, because those streets don’t directly abut a school entrance.

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A Closer Look at the Drop in Severe Traffic Injuries in NYC

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This graph from City Hall’s Vision Zero Year Two Report [PDF], released yesterday, is worth pulling out for a closer look. It shows the number of people who were killed or severely injured in traffic each year. Injuries tracked by this metric “include loss of mobility, traumatic brain injuries and amputations,” according to the report.

Tracking severe injuries and fatalities together provides a better measurement of overall street safety than looking at fatalities or injuries in isolation. It’s less subject to random variation than fatalities alone, which can swing wildly from year to year. By factoring in injury severity, it’s also a better gauge than looking at total injuries, which can obscure how badly people are hurt. (A classic example involves red light cameras, which tend to reduce potentially fatal side-impact crashes while increasing much less severe rear-end crashes.)

Unfortunately, there’s a long lag between the time state agencies receive crash reports from NYPD and when they produce official stats on severe injuries, so we’re just now seeing what happened in 2014. (The Vision Zero report says, “This delay can be avoided through the use of electronic crash reporting, which NYPD is working to implement.”)

As you can see, there’s been a steady decline in fatalities and severe injuries over the past 15 years. You can quibble that City Hall made the first year of the de Blasio administration look better by comparing 2014 to a 14-year average and not starting the Y-axis at zero, but the fact is that 2014 saw the largest percentage drop in severe traffic injuries, compared to the previous year, since at least the turn of the century — about 13 percent.

We don’t have enough information to say why street safety improved that much in 2014. There are many factors that influence injury rates. And maybe that year was a little fluky. Still, one thing that stands out about 2014 is that it was the first full year that NYC operated speed enforcement cameras.

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Criminal Court Judge Upholds Constitutionality of Right of Way Law

A judge ruled against a motorist who filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Right of Way Law.

Silvia Gallo and her son, former MMA star Jorge Gurgel. Photo: Cage Potato

Silvia Gallo and her son, former MMA star Jorge Gurgel. Photo: Cage Potato

MD Hossain, a yellow cab driver, was the first person charged after the law took effect in August 2014, when he drove a taxi into 58-year-old Silvia Gallo, killing her, while turning into a crosswalk at Madison Avenue and E. 79th Street.

According to a ruling by New York City Criminal Court Judge Ann E. Scherzer, Hossain claimed the law violates the state and U.S. constitutions by “undermin[ing] the very concept of innocent until proven guilty” and “purport[ing] to regulate alleged reckless driving ‘by imposing criminal penalties on a strict liability’ basis.” Hossain also challenged the law as it was applied in his case.

Hossain claimed the Right of Way Law does not require proof of driver negligence, or proof that a driver committed “any other traffic violations,” in order to be held liable for harming people, and therefore improperly shifts the burden of proof to motorists who are charged under the law.

Scherzer ruled that strict liability laws are authorized by the New York State code, and rejected Hossain’s assertion that the Right of Way Law presumes driver guilt.

In fact, to sustain a conviction for this charge the People would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) defendant operated a motor vehicle, (2) that defendant’s motor vehicle caused contact with a pedestrian or cyclist, (3) that the pedestrian or cyclist had the right of way at the time of the impact … and (4) suffered physical injury as a result of the collision.

In addition to the elements listed above, the statute provides that physical injury that was not caused by a driver’s failure to exercise due care does not violate the statute.

“None of [the] defendant’s arguments come close” to demonstrating that the law is unconstitutional, Scherzer wrote.

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