Vance Renews Traffic Safety Pledge at Meeting of Legal Minds

vancecardozo.jpgCy Vance, far right, joined by (l-r) Oregon attorney Raymond F. Thomas, TA’s Peter Goldwasser, New York attorney Scott Glen Cerbin, and Nassau County prosecutor Maureen McCormick. Photo: Brad Aaron

Judged by statistics on violent crime, New York may be the safest big city in America. But its amazingly low murder rate masks a less encouraging trend: With 300 city-wide road deaths a year, reckless driving now rivals homicide as a mortal threat.

Don’t take our word for it. This is the message from Cy Vance Jr., the candidate who next Tuesday is all but certain to be elected Manhattan’s next district attorney. Speaking at today’s legal symposium on vehicular violence at the Cardozo School of Law, Vance called the number of city traffic fatalities "extremely large" when compared to its 500 annual murders, and reiterated his campaign pledge to make vehicular violence a priority on his watch.

"Safety on our streets is going to be a very, very important issue for our office," said Vance, who noted that his son is a Manhattan cyclist.

Vance restated his commitment to allotting additional resources to the Manhattan DA’s Vehicular Crimes Unit, as well as his intent to curb dangerous driving with prevention techniques currently applied to other potentially deadly behaviors. Vance also said he plans to approach traffic crime through the "community justice" model [a concept explained in this PDF], working with NYPD precincts to identify specific problem areas.

Much of today’s event — co-hosted by the Cardozo School, Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign — was devoted to what other states are doing to hold killer drivers accountable. We’ll delve into that in a follow-up post. Vance said that he, too, plans to look nationwide to keep up with case law.

"I have a lot to learn," he said. "I will be an active student."

  • L P

    What portion of those 300 road deaths happen in Manhattan? Isn’t he just the Manhattan DA?

  • My favorite part of the event: Ray Thomas’ analysis that we cannot afford to analyze vehicular crimes using the same notions of culpability that we use for other violent crimes, because of the much greater likelihood of causing grave harm with an automobile to a large number of people through a small lapse of judgment or caution compared to the lapse necessary to cause an equal amount of harm with another instrument.

    I have often analogized on this blog the risk of driving a motor vehicle in a pedestrian-rich urban environment to that of firing a gun in the same kind of environment. Ray opened my eyes. Driving poses a far, far greater risk. You can’t kill multiple people with a single shot of a gun, like that drunken/drugged mother in Westchester killed all those kids. You can’t put down a gun and have it kill people while you aren’t operating it, like that van that hopped the curb and killed those kids in Chinatown. How can we regulate guns so strictly in the city–and rightly so–without recognizing the need to regulate driving even more strictly?

    Another point of equal importance was made by the panelists: each time a new cyclist goes out on the road, his or her family and friends become potential allies in the fight to protect vulnerable road users. Cy Vance mentioned his own son commuting by bike in Manhattan as a powerful factor motivating his concern for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. Cyclists understand about “safety in numbers” on the road, but there is a “strength in numbers” effect for each new cyclist that is equally important to the cause of cycling.

  • Lance

    yes, Vance will be the Manhattan DA but new traffic efforts will only be effective if they’re done in all 5 boroughs, and he said his strategy will include working with the other DA’s. Smart, because I’ve never seen someone speed through Manhattan and slow down in the Bronx, or vice versa. We can all be part of a citywide solution.

  • Good point, BicyclesOnly. I would say that the risk of driving a motor vehicle in the city is more like that of firing an automatic weapon. You can kill multiple people with a single pull of the trigger, and if you put down a loaded machine gun it’s possible for it to kill people while you’re not there.

  • JK

    First, hats off to Peter Goldwasser at TA for taking the campaign to hold dangerous drivers accountable in such a smart direction. Advocates (Including DA’s like the outstanding Maureen McCormick)have spent decades trying to get the recalcitrant state legislature to toughen laws and have had only modest success. This focus on the DA’s is much more immediate and promising. Their is only one DA per borough versus many legislators who can pass the buck. Second, my sense is that Manhattan has lagged behind the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn in prosecuting vehicular crimes. So, having a Manhattan DA who cares will be a big help — especially because Manhattan is the media focal point of the nation and the importance of any prosecution here is amplified.

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