Council Bill Would Raise Fine for Unattended Idling Vehicles

Following two incidents in which four pedestrians were killed, a bill proposed by Queens City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley would raise the fine for leaving an idling, unattended vehicle to $250, up from the current, negligible fee of $5.

According to City Room, Crowley’s bill comes in response to the deaths of Robert Ogle and Alex Paul, who were run down by a driver who had stolen an unattended car in Middle Village, Queens, and Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng, two preschoolers killed when a van that was left idling slipped into gear and backed into them as they walked along a Chinatown street.

"People need to realize there could have been situations that have been avoidable," Crowley said.

At issue, as always, is enforcement. Earlier this year the Council passed a law that allows agents of the Department of Parks
and Recreation and the Department of Sanitation to issue idling
summonses, appearance tickets and violation notices. Another bill, still making its way through the committee process, would permit traffic agents to issue idling tickets using their hand-held computers.

Unlike other anti-idling legislation, which tends to be targeted toward reducing pollution, the latest bill is intended to prevent thefts and vehicle-related injuries. Said Crowley: "This has to do with more how irresponsible it is to leave your car unattended. It’s sort of like inviting a crime."

  • Ashcan Sam

    Here’s a combo job stimulus and transit rescue plan:

    Hire thousands of new traffic enforcement agents. Then raise the fines for unattended idling and other traffic crimes (there is no shortage) high enough to pay the agents and fund the MTA.

    If the state won’t let the City control its own traffic problem, there are other methods.

  • The fine is $5? That’s got to be a joke.

    PS. I’m still waiting for the city to crack down on the MTA buses which idle for hours on end over the grates that let “fresh” air into the Rector Street station on the R.

  • NYC needs to stop the shit out of idling (and leaving idling vehicles unattended), NOW. Please ask your Council Members to support this bill.

    In a comment on Streetsblog, Rebecca Kalin (of Asthma Free School Zone) was one of the first people I saw draw the connection between leaving an idling vehicle unattended and the danger that poses for pedestrians. I am glad CM Crowley is picking up on the connection.

    Re: “At issue, as always, is enforcement”:
    Garodnick’s bill, Int 881-2008 significantly addresses that because it enables traffic agents to ticket for idling. That would make it a linchpin in anti-idling enforcement, because traffic agents DO ticket what cops don’t.

    I both bills pass, I don’t know if that would mean that traffic agents (per Garodnick’s bill) could ticket unattended idling vehicles (per Crowley’s bill). That would be great, but even if not, both bills need to pass. Please call on your Council Members to support them both.

    (as usual, I hope my crude HTML has worked)

  • Here’s a good one:

    The other day I saw a crew from these two vans from some private company doing some work on 16th St.

    Of course they were idling, and unattened. But here’s the terrific part: above the rear wheel well, there was a big sticker with a warning for the operator: “Chocks first!” And sure enough, there were chocks around the rear wheel. WHILE THE VAN WAS STILL IDLING UNATTENED.

    So you can go to the trouble of grabbing chocks and placing them, but not turning the engine off? Seriously, WHAT IS IT WITH PEOPLE WHOSE JOB INVOLVES TRUCKS AND VANS?! Why do they REFUSE to turn off their engines?

    I don’t often, but I had the nerve to go approach them and ask them about it. They guy said one predictable thing: “it uses less gas than stopping and starting.”
    I said “no, unless the vehicle is over, like, 25 years old.”
    He said, “yeah, but these are diesel vehicles.”

    Now, does anyone here know if he’s got a point there? These were very new looking vans, diesel or not.

    I pointed out that fuel aside, it’s still illegal to leave them unattended. He said, “they’re not unattended, we’re working nearby.” Of course that’s absurd, and I politely said so. He said “I know the law.”

    Like the Zipcar guy I had a similar little arguement with weeks before, as the conversation ended, he said something overtly polite but that clearly indicated he had no intention of taking my thoughts seriously at all. Now that’s just human nature, but again, generally, what is it with people idling work vehicles, and leaving idling work vehicles unattended? It’s like it’s some sacred rite for them. Well, if they won’t change, it’s just another reason that the city needs to stomp the sh— out of idling (as I said in my previous comment, which is “awaiting moderation”)….

  • The threat of getting a ticket isn’t going to change behavior because it relies on enforcement, enforcement that we know is sporadic at best.

    What would change behavior is ensuring that the legislation specifically says that leaving a vehicle idling is negligent behavior, and that if negative consequences are attributable to that negligence, you will be found liable.

    If your idling truck squashes a group of schoolchildren, it was YOU that killed the children. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t mean to; the reality is that you chose not to prevent it. Start putting that in the headlines and people will change their behavior.

    The ticket? That’s for the asthma you gave the schoolchildren.

  • “[G]enerally, what is it with people idling work vehicles, and leaving idling work vehicles unattended?”

    My hunch is, they don’t personally pay for the gas, and they don’t personally pay for the ticket in the rare instance that one is issued, so why not leave the car idling and the heat/air conditioning running?

  • My brother got a $115 ticket two days ago for standing (the engine wasn’t on, he was in the driver’s seat) in a Manhattan bus lane. Since he was picking me up in my car, I am paying half. I don’t mind at all. We were at fault.

    But I have also noticed a news station with a building on 67th st (I think) which has idling, driver-less vans on it constantly. I bet they are never ticketed. I am going to call 311 the next time I walk by and see an idler.

  • Do it, Lizzz; and make up for how I failed to this morning when I saw a van belonging to DOT, no less, idling unattended while its driver worked on a muni-meter. I regret that in my hurry to get to work I did not stop to talk to the guy.

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