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Posts from the "Daniel Squadron" Category

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Thanks to Albany and NYPD, Careless Driving Law Will Keep Gathering Dust

For the second year in a row, a bill to bring an end to NYPD’s self-imposed ban on penalizing motorists for careless driving has passed the State Senate, but apparently won’t clear the Assembly.

NYPD refuses to enforce the law named after Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng, who were killed by a careless driver in 2009. As in 2013, a bill to amend the law’s language passed the State Senate, but stalled in the Assembly transportation committee.

Sponsored by Senator Dan Squadron, the bill would amend the state “vulnerable user” law by explicitly stating that officers may ticket or arrest drivers who harm pedestrians and cyclists whether or not they directly observe an infraction, as long as there is reasonable cause to believe a violation was committed. The vulnerable user law is named after Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, preschoolers who were killed in 2009 when a driver’s unattended and idling van rolled onto a Chinatown sidewalk. The driver was not charged by former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau or his successor Cy Vance.

Enacted in 2010, Hayley and Diego’s Law was intended as a default infraction for crashes that injure pedestrians and cyclists. But current 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. According to the department, the summonses don’t stand up in court unless an officer witnesses a violation, or the summons is issued by trained investigators from the Collision Investigation Squad. Under former commissioner Ray Kelly, NYPD normally applied VTL 1146 only in cases of very serious injury or death — the only types of crashes worked by CIS. Fewer than 1 percent of New York City drivers who injure and kill pedestrians and cyclists are cited for careless driving.

The Senate passed Squadron’s amendment to the law Tuesday. “This bill advances an important goal of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative,” said Squadron in a written statement. “It protects pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers by updating ‘Hayley and Diego’s Law’ to make clear that careless drivers can be charged, even if the crash a driver caused did not take place in the presence of a police officer. This important change is highlighted in Vision Zero as a way to protect vulnerable road users and crack down on careless driving.”

The Assembly companion bill, however, has sat in the transportation committee, chaired by Rochester representative David Gantt, since January. Sponsored by Brian Kavanagh, the bill has just three co-sponsors. With one day left in the session, it looks like the Assembly will fail to move the bill, as it did in 2013.

As part of his Vision Zero plan, Mayor Bill de Blasio wants Albany to elevate careless driving to a misdemeanor, which would allow officers to act based on probable cause, whether or not they witness a crash. The City Council passed a resolution in support of the change last month, but it appears no bill materialized in Albany. A query to de Blasio staff concerning Hayley and Diego’s Law was not returned.

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NYPD Charges 0.7 Percent of Drivers Who Injure and Kill With Careless Driving

Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data obtained by Transportation Alternatives.

Three years after Albany established the offense of careless driving, NYPD continues to apply the law in only a tiny fraction of crashes that result in the death or injury of pedestrians and cyclists.

There were 152 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the city in 2012, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, and 14,327 injuries. Of those 14,479 crashes, DMV data show NYPD cited 101 motorists for careless driving. That’s a citation rate of less than 1 percent.

It’s also the most careless driving citations issued by NYPD in a single year since Hayley and Diego’s Law took effect in 2010, when police wrote 99 summonses. In 2011, the first full year NYPD had the new law as part of its traffic enforcement toolkit, it was applied just 87 times.

The careless driving statute, part of Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1146, is named after Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, toddlers who were killed in 2009 when a van, left unattended and idling, rolled onto a sidewalk in Chinatown. The driver was not charged by NYPD, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, or his successor Cy Vance.

Careless driving was intended as a minimum penalty to hold drivers who injure and kill accountable, in lieu of a more serious criminal charge. Under the law, drivers who injure pedestrians or cyclists while failing to exercise due care are subject to mandatory drivers’ ed, and could be sentenced to fines of up to $750, jail time of up to 15 days, and a license suspension of up to six months.

Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data obtained by Transportation Alternatives.

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Last-Minute Voter Guide to the Public Advocate Run-Off

Have you voted yet?

The Democratic runoff election for public advocate is happening right now. Candidates Tish James and Dan Squadron each have impressive bona fides when it comes to livable streets. In his four years in Albany, Squadron took the lead in shepherding a number of street safety bills through the State Senate. StreetsPAC-endorsed James has been a reliable voice of reason in the City Council, a proponent of street redesigns in her district, and has pledged to use the public advocate’s office to draw attention to NYPD traffic enforcement. In a televised runoff debate, both reiterated their support for congestion pricing.

Despite having a relatively tiny budget and limited power, the public advocate has bully a pulpit that can be used to highlight whatever issues s/he deems important. The public advocate steps in if the mayor is unable to complete a term, and the job often serves as a springboard to run for higher office.

Here’s an overview of positions taken by James and Squadron on street safety, transit, parking and related issues.

James:

Squadron:

Turnout today is expected to be very low, so your vote can help make the difference for either candidate. The polls close at 9 p.m.

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Albany Lawmakers Fail to Advance Bills on Careless Driving, Select Bus Lights

Proponents of safer streets and a stronger MTA fared better than usual in Albany this year, securing speed cameras for NYC and scoring a tentative win on the transit lockbox — which now depends on Governor Cuomo’s signature to protect straphangers from budget raids by state lawmakers, including himself. However, legislators failed to pass bills that would have restored speedier bus service to NYC and helped protect New Yorkers from motorists who injure and kill.

NYPD refuses to enforce the law named after Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng, who were killed by a careless driver in 2009. A bill to close a loophole in the law passed the State Senate, but stalled in the Assembly for the second consecutive year.

A bill to bring an end to NYPD’s self-imposed ban on penalizing motorists for careless driving cleared the State Senate, but for the second year did not make it out of committee in the Assembly.

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. Current 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 went into effect in 2010. It established the offense of careless driving, and 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 jumped a curb in Chinatown. The driver was not charged with a crime by Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau or his successor Cy Vance.

Neither house acted on this crucial piece of legislation in 2012. This year it died in the Assembly transportation committee.

Legislators in the Senate and the Assembly failed to advance a bill to bring back the lights to Select Bus Service buses. Flashing blue SBS lights were used without incident for over four years until the MTA brought SBS service to Staten Island’s Hylan Boulevard. The lights were switched off after City Council Member Vincent Ignizio and State Senator Andrew Lanza complained that motorists were confusing SBS buses with emergency vehicles.

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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.

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Senate Committee Votes to Close Loophole in Careless Driving Law

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 driver who killed Hayley Ng, 4, and Diego Martinez, 3, walked away without charges. Photos via Daily News

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.

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Mirror Law Loopholes Keep City Pedestrians at Risk From Large Trucks

Loopholes in the state's crossover mirror law allow large trucks registered out of state to operate unsafely, and legally, on city streets. Photos: Brad Aaron

Following queries by Streetsblog, two state senators have pledged to address loopholes in a new state law that permit large trucks to be operated without safety mirrors, thereby endangering pedestrians and cyclists, especially children and the elderly, in New York City neighborhoods.

The law requires trucks weighing over 26,000 pounds to be equipped with convex, or “crossover,” mirrors – which allow drivers to see what, or who, is directly in front of them — when driven on NYC streets. But the weight clause exempts trucks that have the same cab configuration, and the same “blind spots,” as heavier trucks. And the law applies only to trucks that are registered in New York State.

The registration loophole lets companies that do business in the city but are based elsewhere forego the mirror mandate. One of those is Haddad’s, a Pennsylvania firm that provides trucks for film and television productions. Haddad’s set up shop in Inwood twice recently, for shoots for two TV shows. Of all the company’s trucks that would be required to have the mirrors if not for their Pennsylvania plates, none did. Haddad’s did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

The mirror requirement took effect in January, after crashes that claimed the lives of Brooklyn school kids Juan Estrada and Victor Flores in 2004 and grandmother Theresa Alonso of Staten Island in 2010. Support for the bill grew after 5-year-old Moshe Englender was killed in May 2011 by the driver of a meat truck as he rode his tricycle on a Williamsburg street.

“All legislation are works in progress,” said State Senator Marty Golden, who sponsored the bill. “We will look at the concerns and see if they can be legislatively addressed.”

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In Wake of Traffic Fatality Spike, Officials Tout Safer Delancey Street

This morning, elected officials and community leaders unveiled a slate of pedestrian safety improvements to Delancey Street, long ranked as one of the city’s most dangerous places to walk.

Nine people were killed and 742 injured between 2006 and 2010 on Delancey, from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Bowery. In the last six years, there have been 118 pedestrian injuries and six pedestrian fatalities on the corridor, according to DOT.

Local officials cut the ribbon on Delancey Street's pedestrian improvements. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Delancey Street Working Group, convened by State Sen. Daniel Squadron in September 2011, gained new urgency after Dashane Santana, 12, was killed while crossing the busy street in January.

Teresa Pedroza, Dashane’s grandmother, was at today’s press conference, which was convened by DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Sadik-Khan was joined by State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, Community Board 3 Chair Gigi Lee and Lower East Side BID executive director Bob Zuckerman.

Delancey Street now has more than 21,000 square feet of new pedestrian space, shorter crossing distances, longer crossing times, new turn restrictions and more consistent lane markings for drivers going to and from the Williamsburg Bridge. Drivers can now access the Williamsburg Bridge via Clinton Street, which also includes a two-way protected bike lane. The improvements were funded through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program.

Carmen Luna, 60, lives on Clinton Street near its intersection with Delancey, and has lived in the area for most of her life. Her sister was hit by a truck driver while crossing Delancey about two decades ago, she said, and suffered brain damage as a result. Luna welcomed the safety improvements. “This is very important,” she said. “We don’t have enough crossing time.”

Luna also admired the new pedestrian space and seating, which will be maintained by the Lower East Side Business Improvement District.

Traffic enforcement continues to be the missing component for pedestrian safety on Delancey Street. “They don’t do anything,” Luna said of officers directing traffic.

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Trucker Who Killed Jessica Dworkin Cited for Careless Driving

Photo via DNAinfo

The truck driver who killed Jessica Dworkin in the West Village Monday morning was summonsed for failure to yield and failure to exercise due care, according to NYPD, but was not cited for possible violations related to truck size and safety mirrors.

Dworkin, 58, was riding a foot-propelled scooter west on Houston Street just before 9 a.m. Monday when she was caught by the rear wheels of a flatbed semi whose driver, identified by the Post as Greg Smith, was turning right from Houston onto Sixth Avenue.

Dworkin was dragged by the truck for two blocks, until witnesses were able to get Smith’s attention. She died at the scene.

A DNAinfo profile described Dworkin as an artist and SoHo “stalwart” known for her volunteer work:

Dworkin, who also went by the name “Jessica Blue,” moved into 128 Thompson St. between West Houston and Prince streets from Massachusetts in the 1970s, said close friend Craig Walker, who knew her for more than 20 years.

Talkative and warm by nature, the self-described artist regaled him with tales of writing for Interview and Details magazines, and frequenting Studio 54 in her younger years, he said.

Photos from the scene seem to indicate that Smith’s truck exceeded 55 feet, the maximum length allowed on surface streets without a permit. The cab is also missing the required front-mounted crossover mirrors, which give truck drivers a view of what’s directly in front of them. An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog that two citations were issued: one for failure to yield to a pedestrian and one for failure to exercise due care, a violation of state vulnerable user laws.

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Albany 2012: Lawmakers Strike Out on Safe Streets and Transit

Albany lawmakers had several opportunities during the 2012 session to come through for transit riders, pedestrians, cyclists and drivers. They came up short on every count.

Hayley and Diego's Law, adopted in 2010 to hold New York drivers somewhat accountable for careless driving, will go virtually unenforced by NYPD for at least another year.

A bill targeted at NYPD’s self-imposed ban on citing motorists for careless driving passed the State Senate transportation committee but did not come to a vote in the full Senate, while the Assembly version never made it out of committee.

Introduced by Brooklyn Democrat Dan Squadron, the bill would have amended Hayley and Diego’s Law by explicitly stating that officers may issue tickets to drivers who harm pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable street users whether or not they directly observe an infraction. 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.

“It’s a top priority for us and we’ll continue to push to get it done as soon as possible,” said Squadron spokesperson Amy Spitalnick.

Legislation that would permit New York City to install cameras to ticket and fine speeding motorists, without attaching points to their licenses, was again kept from the governor’s desk. Though Staten Island Republican Andrew Lanza introduced the bill in the Senate for the first time, Assembly members failed to overcome opposition from upstate obstructionist David Gantt, chair of the Assembly transportation committee.

Brooklyn Republican Marty Golden’s bill to stiffen penalties for leaving the scene of a crash passed the Senate but died in the Assembly transportation committee, according to Golden’s office.

Charlotte’s Law, which would permanently take away the licenses of drivers convicted of three or more serious traffic offenses in 25 years, failed to clear committee in either house. A spokesperson for Schenectady Republican James Tedisco, who introduced the “three strikes” bill in the Assembly, told Streetsblog that efforts remain active to prod Governor Cuomo to take administrative action to implement facets of the bill.

On the transit front, legislation to protect dedicated transit funds from being stolen by state lawmakers stalled in committee.

One measure that passed both houses and appears headed toward becoming law: legislation to regulate increasingly popular curbside bus service provided by companies including BoltBus and Megabus. Cap’n Transit writes that the new requirements are overly burdensome and would strangle one of the region’s few sources of growing transit ridership.