Albany Update: Bill to Protect Peds and Cyclists One Step Closer to Law

At yesterday’s meeting of the State Senate codes committee, Hayley and Diego’s Law passed in a 13-3 vote. The bill, which should give prosecutors greater leeway to bring charges against motorists who injure or kill pedestrians and cyclists, now moves to the finance committee. It passed the full Assembly earlier this week.

Three Republicans, including Brooklyn’s Marty Golden, voted against the bill, and another two voted "aye without recommendation" — the non-committal way to let a bill pass. According to a source in the capitol, Golden objects to the legislation on the grounds that it would "punish people for making mistakes."

Golden should know better. He represents an area where sidewalks are full of pedestrians, and carelessness behind the wheel of a multi-ton vehicle is especially dangerous. Parents whom he represents are fed up with the reckless driving they encounter on their streets as they walk their kids to school. The purpose of this bill isn’t to punish people for making mistakes, it’s to prevent acts of negligence and recklessness that maim and kill other people.

At the same committee meeting, the bus camera bill passed in a unanimous 16-0 vote. A similar bill cleared the State Senate two years ago, so this isn’t groundbreaking news, but it looks like the fate of bus cams is poised to rest with Shelly Silver’s Assembly once again.

A process note: The Senate is actually pretty far ahead of the Assembly when it comes to conducting its business transparently. It’s much easier to look up legislation and roll calls, and I can embed the video from the codes committee hearing (all 42 minutes of it!) for all to see.

That said, if you can withstand the tedium of this video, it’s kind of startling how little discussion each bill receives. The committee plowed through 23 bills in less than 43 minutes. The votes are recorded on paper and tallied later by the committee clerk. In general, if no one raises an objection during the discussion, you can assume that a bill passed. While the audio quality makes it difficult to parse exactly what’s being said, you can watch the brief discussion of Hayley and Diego’s law at the 6:30 mark, and the bus cam bill discussion at 11:05.

  • Pretty telling how the notoriously dysfunctional Senate out in front of the “efficient” Assembly on both transparency and livable streets. Amazing that Shelly Silver can, and perhaps will, kill both of these bills without even letting them come up for a vote and face no real accountability.

  • Shelly might still stand in the way of bus cams but he already allowed Hayley and Diego’s Law to pass the Assembly.

  • MRN

    Can we be real here – this bill doesn’t protect anyone, it just allows for harsher punishment. Considering that the motorists in the titular cases weren’t aware enough to avoid the accidents, why would they be aware of this new bill and adjust their driving behavior?

    A bill that “protects” peds and bikers does so by increasing training requirements for motor vehicle licensing, increases training for cyclists, mandates or highly encourages helmet use [or at very least, brakes on your god-damned fixie], places for children to play that aren’t in conflict with vehicles, protected bike lanes. It would ratchet up enforcement of day-to-day activities which can be dangerous – failing to yield, failing to use blinkers, distracted driving (ie cell phones), double-parking, speed limits etc, and keep people who refuse to abide by the rules of the road, off the road.

    Is there really much a nexus between this bill and any saved lives?

  • J. Mork

    Punishing people for making mistakes sounds like a much better idea than punishing them permanently for being a kid walking on the sidewalk.

  • Thanks for the correction Ben. Makes sense, since that bill sprang from an incident in his district.

    MRN, you’ve got a valid point but you ignore the political realities of the legislative process. Laws get passed only with majority support and then usually only with a strongly supportive minority constituency backing them as well. The political conditions don’t exist for the measures you are describing because most people (including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians) thinks they are not part of the problem and therefore they should not have to bear any of the burdens of making things safer. But there is broad agreement that serious if passive negligence causing serious harm, such as that involved in the Hayley and Diego incident, should be subject to serious punishment as a felony. And there is a livable streets and other constituencies to spearhead the effort. so this law might be passed. If it does, the potential for felony liability will deter some subset of motorists from serious negligence, and keep some subset of motorists convicted as felons off the road (if only because of the unavailability of insurance).

  • MRN: You’re correct that stiffer punishments won’t help those who’ve been killed, and all of your safety ideas are excellent ideas. But our entire society operates around the concept of punishing people who do bad things, firstly to prevent them from doing it again, and secondly as a deterrent to others from doing the same. Without this law, it is currently legal to use your car carelessly… a car is not something to be wielded with abandon.

  • MRN makes some good points about prevention. But I do think dangerous drivers would “adjust their driving behavior” if they saw other dangerous drivers doing the perp walk every other night on the evening news.

  • “Golden objects to the legislation on the grounds that it would ‘punish people for making mistakes.’

    Well that just really sums up the whole thing, doesn’t it?

    Marty. There are “mistakes,” and then there are mistakes you make while operating a two to twelve ton vehicle in the midst of humanity. Treating the two as the same is a mistake we’ve been making for probably about 80 to 90 years now, and it’s past time to correct it.

  • Why do people become so skeptical of the effectiveness of deterrence when comes to reckless driving? It goes without saying that punishing vandals, thieves, and frauds will discourage these behaviors in the public. You don’t hear a lot of soft talk, there, about educating everyone instead of punishing the guilty. (When and where are normal adults being educated, anyway?) But for the decidedly more fatal crime of dangerous driving, suddenly people express doubt that punishment would deter the activity, and whether punishment is fair if the crime is common. Could the deciding factor be, I wonder, the social class of the perpetrators?

    Speeding is a choice. Of course the prospect of heavy and certain punishment for causing death while speeding will encourage compliance and reduce fatality rates. We don’t need to reinvent justice to curb deadly driving: we need to rediscover it.

  • John Lieswyn

    MRN’s claims about helmets are completely wrong. http://www.cyclehelmets.org

  • Purdy

    How ironic. Marty Golden ran over an old lady in his giant gas guzzling SUV a few years ago in Brooklyn.

  • How about that! Golden sure did hit a 74-year-old woman in 2005: see the bottom of the first page of this PDF. But that article also contains this information:

    Golden’s police career was cut short by an accident on Sept. 15, 1981, when, Golden has said, he was hit by a car while on duty chasing a drug suspect in the 67th Precinct in the area of Snyder and Flatbush avenues. Golden reportedly broke his right arm and had a ligament removed from each leg. Golden remained on desk duty before retiring at the end of 1983

    Okay, so here’s a former cop (usually on the side of law and order) who was injured by a car. But no, people “make mistakes” like not looking carefully as you floor it when the light turns green. God forbid they should be punished for forgetting they’re operating heavy machinery.

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