One Year After Taking Effect, State’s Vulnerable User Laws Gathering Dust

Graph: Transportation Alternatives, based on data from New York State DMV

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the adoption of Hayley and Diego’s Law, which established the charge of “careless driving” in New York State and gave police and prosecutors a new tool to hold motorists who injure pedestrians and cyclists accountable. Unfortunately, says Transportation Alternatives, over the past 12 months the law has gone largely unenforced by NYPD.

Intended to demarcate a middle ground between moving violations and more serious criminal charges, Hayley and Diego’s law prescribes that drivers who caused injury “while failing to exercise due care” be required to take a drivers education course and be subject to fines of up to $750, jail time of up to 15 days, and a license suspension of up to six months. But a law is only as effective as those who enforce it, and TA has found that applications of VTL 1146, the statute that includes Hayley and Diego’s Law as well as Elle’s Law, are as rare as ever.

Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng were killed in January 2009 when an idling, unattended van jumped a curb in Chinatown. The driver was not charged.

T.A. filed a Freedom Of Information request in May with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and found that the number of applications of VTL 1146 has remained more or less steady for the last few years. T.A. estimates that there will be approximately 77 citations of the statute in 2011 based on a total of 32 citations issued as of June this year, while 97 tickets were issued under 1146 in 2010, 87 in 2009, and 92 in 2008.  These statistics show that a year after these new penalties meant to protect New Yorkers went in effect, they are barely being applied.

“Our family worked hard for these laws to deter motorists from dangerous and lethal behavior,” said Wendy Cheung, Hayley Ng’s aunt. “Nothing can undo the crash that took Hayley away from us, but we can prevent tragedies like this from happening to other families. And we can hold someone who breaks the law and takes a life responsible for their actions. We hope the police will use all the tools at their disposal to bring justice to our streets and protect others from the pain of losing a loved one to traffic violence.”

It should be noted that, in the city, VTL 1146 is enforced by NYPD and the Department of Motor Vehicles and, while district attorneys may advise police to apply it in certain cases, it does not fall under DA purview except for repeat offenders.

Streetsblog has a message in with NYPD regarding TA’s findings.

  • ben from bedstuy

    If somebody kills a person with a gun, the cops usually try and find the shooter.
    If somebody kills a person with a car, the cops usually declare “no criminality suspected.” The families of Haley and Diego mourn the tragic death of their children, who were killed with a deadly weapon known as a car.

  • Matt

    So if the city refuses to enforce the law, and someone dies as the result of motorist negligence, that makes the city partially at fault, amiright?

  • we need a City council hearing on the  subject .. and a internal investigation of wrong doing by the police itself . 

  • noname

    That vulnerable user law is garbage, you can’t legislate safety. Safety should begin with the idiot bicyclist.

  • SauronHimself

    “That vulnerable user law is garbage, you can’t legislate safety.”

    So we should repeal the laws requiring seatbelts and airbags, yes? It’s not a straw man of what you said, because it’s an exact representation of your statement but in reverse.

    “Safety should begin with the idiot bicyclist.”

    Why should anyone take you seriously when you poison the well like that? You’re starting your argument with highly prejudicial reasoning, so your arguments following it will be inherently flawed. In case you’ve failed to read traffic laws in any state, cyclists and pedestrians have a right to use public roadways except for interstates which were specifically built for cars. Motorists (myself included) have a PRIVILEGE to drive on public roadways, and that privilege is granted via a REVOCABLE license accompanied with mandatory registration fees. Your intellectual dishonesty is astounding.

  • noname

    No wonder why some people are against you bicyclists, you think your entitled to be anywhere you please, paying taxes does not give you the right to take more risks, and blame motorists when something happens.

    The way you twist and turn things, that is another reason why motorists are against a law that give you special priveledges, bicycles are to follow motor vehicle laws, but still want special treatment laws to save themselves from there own stupidity. Commonsense has left this country, especially with the bicycle groups and there idiot followers.

  • SauronHimself

    “No wonder why some people are against you bicyclists, you think your entitled to be anywhere you please,”

    No we don’t. We know what the laws are. You only focus on the fact that some cyclists break traffic laws while simultaneously omitting the fact that the rate at which motorists break traffic laws is an order of magnitude greater. You need only research traffic law stats via your local DMV to ascertain this.

    “paying taxes does not give you the right to take more risks, and blame motorists when something happens.”

    Who said we think it gives us more rights to takes risks? You did. You’re putting words in my mouth, and that is both disingenuous and intellectually dishonest. If you seriously think cyclists are simply riding on the roads to find ways to blame motorists, your prejudice is only rivaled by your scientific illiteracy.

    “The way you twist and turn things, that is another reason why motorists are against a law that give you special priveledges, bicycles are to follow motor vehicle laws, but still want special treatment laws to save themselves from there own stupidity. Commonsense has left this country, especially with the bicycle groups and there idiot followers.”

    How are we twisting and turning things? What demonstrable evidence do you have for that outlandish claim? When I say demonstrable I’m talking about facts independent of your personal opinion, so don’t give me anecdotal evidence as proof of your claim. Moreover, there is no such thing as “common sense”. Logic, however, dictates that travelers who are inherently at much greater risk of sustaining serious injury or death against a motor vehicle should receive due consideration with respect to the law, especially in light of the fact that driving a motor vehicle is declared a privilege in all 50 states and not a right. Read your drivers manual. It’s not up for debate or discussion.

    Stop being intellectually dishonest and start admitting that your perspective is unjustly prejudiced in the face of reason and hard facts.

  • noname

    You’re putting words in my mouth, and that is both disingenuous and intellectually dishonest.

    the bicycle groups intimidiate or threaten to boycott if they don’t get there ways, that is really dirty tactics to get ones way. They can’t do it the honest way. I am not going to pull sources for you, that is on you.

    The next fact is the bicyclist groups and there idiot followers don’t like opposition. They don’t want to hear how motorists feel following a bicycle going 5mph, the bicycle groups say motorists don’t feel angry or mad and so on. They peg them as anti-bicycle.

    I find it it sad that the bicvycle group that forced that vulnerable user law into legislation wasted everyones time.

    This is the last time I am responding to you, if you want to spin to support your fellow bicyclists thats up to you.

  • SauronHimself

    “the bicycle groups intimidiate or threaten to boycott if they don’t get there ways, that is really dirty tactics to get ones way. They can’t do it the honest way. I am not going to pull sources for you, that is on you.”

    Where is your evidence?

    “The next fact is the bicyclist groups and there idiot followers don’t like opposition. They don’t want to hear how motorists feel following a bicycle going 5mph, the bicycle groups say motorists don’t feel angry or mad and so on. They peg them as anti-bicycle.”

    Again, where is your evidence?

    “This is the last time I am responding to you, if you want to spin to support your fellow bicyclists thats up to you”

    You won’t respond to me any more because you can’t logically refute my arguments. You tacitly admit your thinking is vacuous and holds no basis in reality, but you want to continue deluding yourself.

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