Just hours after the City Council transportation committee unanimously passed a resolution asking Albany to take action, the Senate transportation committee advanced a bill, with an 18-1 vote, that would close a loophole in Hayley and Diego’s Law, with the goal of increased enforcement of the state’s careless driving law by police and district attorneys.
The law is named after Hayley Ng, 4, and Diego Martinez, 3, who were killed when a driver left his parked van in reverse, allowing it to roll into a group of pre-schoolers on a Chinatown sidewalk in 2009. No charges were filed against the driver by Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau or his successor Cy Vance.
The law provides a middle ground between summonses for trafic violations and more serious criminal charges, such as criminally negligent homicide, which due in part to restrictive state court decisions rarely lead to convictions.
A driver charged under Hayley and Diego’s Law can receive a combination of the following penalties: a fine up to $750 or 15 days in jail, a mandated driving course, and suspension or revocation of the driver’s license or registration. For the second offense, the driver could also be charged with a misdemeanor.
Because Hayley and Diego’s Law is technically categorized as a traffic violation, like failure to yield or speeding, NYPD will not issue a summons unless an officer personally witnesses the offense or the department’s Collision Investigation Squad launches an investigation.
Many of the law’s supporters view the loophole closure as an extra step that is only necessary because NYPD is reluctant to enforce the existing law. “We are strongly of the view that Hayley and Diego’s law, as passed, can be used,” bill sponsor Daniel Squadron told Streetsblog this afternoon. At yesterday’s hearing, Council Member Dan Halloran, calling the loophole closure “long overdue,” made a similar observation.
As it’s currently enforced, the law “results in officers disregarding the testimony of eye witnesses, or even admissions of the driver, when determining the cause of a crash,” said Transportation Alternatives in a statement.