Streets of NYC a Little Safer Today Thanks to Judge, NYPD, and Cy Vance

There’s one less reckless driver on the streets of New York today thanks to NYPD, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, and Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Jill Konviser.

Andy Tang: "I was exceeding the speed limit although I did not hit 100 miles per hour."
Adam Tang: “I was exceeding the speed limit although I did not hit 100 miles per hour.”

After Adam Tang posted a video of himself speeding around Manhattan, he was tracked down by NYPD. Tang’s car was taken away, and Vance charged him with reckless driving and second degree reckless endangerment, according to court records.

Under New York State law, “A person is guilty of reckless endangerment in the second degree when he recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person.” In lay terms, reckless endangerment requires proof that a driver was aware of a risk of seriously injuring someone else, says attorney Steve Vaccaro. Speeding was the leading cause of NYC traffic fatalities in 2012.

Second degree reckless endangerment is a class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail. According to the Daily News, Tang’s attorney Greg Gomez rejected a plea deal for 60 days in jail and 15 days of community service.

Tang pled not guilty in court today and asked for his license and passport to be returned. But Judge Konviser agreed with ADA Mary Weisgerber that Tang should not be driving.

“He videotaped himself circumnavigating Manhattan at a high rate of speed. He admits doing this,” Weisgerber said.

“He certainly should not have his license back.”

Konviser agreed, noting his “conduct, if true” was “extremely dangerous.”

“I don’t think he should have his passport or his license,” she said.

Gomez argued that charges would probably have been reduced or dismissed “if not for the ‘sensational and exciting video’ that ‘people loved and watched hundreds of thousands of times'” — a video otherwise known as “the evidence.”

“I was exceeding the speed limit although I did not hit 100 miles per hour,” Tang reportedly told police after he was arrested last September. Since a pedestrian hit by a driver traveling at 40 miles per hour has a 15 percent chance of surviving, Tang wouldn’t have to get anywhere close to 100 to pose a deadly risk.

“A jury will find what he did was not reckless,” said Gomez. While it’s certainly possible that a jury will side with his client, Tang’s behavior endangered lives, and NYPD and Vance deserve credit for keeping him off the streets for as long as they can. Huzzah.

  • qrt145

    Not that I’m complaining, but what happened to that alleged rule that the NYPD can’t do anything about moving violations that are are not personally witnessed by an officer?

  • JoshNY

    I guess if the evidence is voluntarily placed out there for the public to see by the offender, that’s a separate category?

  • Emmily_Litella

    Little twerp. I seem to recall his average speed was about 66 MPH, that’s like 6 MPH than general traffic at night on most segments of the parkways. Doesn’t excuse his behavior, but I feel this is mostly about publicity.

  • Joe R.

    I’d rather have him circumnavigating Manhattan at high rates of speed (which incidentally was mostly on highways where there were no cyclists or pedestrians to endanger) over the typical incompetent texting drivers who have trouble controlling their vehicles at 30 mph. At least he has decent driving skills even if he has poor judgement.

    His biggest mistake was taping the entire thing and then posting it. Plenty of other people the DA could make examples of instead of him. Maybe a good place to start would be with the long list of people who actually killed or injured others but got off with at worst traffic tickets. Anyone who kills or injures others while driving due to recklessness, negligence, or incompetence should automatically lose their license-permanently. That’s in addition to whatever other charges may be filed.

  • Thought Leader

    I will never ever figure out why the NY’s trial court is called the supreme court.

  • Max Power

    Ironically, if he had struck and killed a pedestrian, remained at the scene, and had the good sense to not release the video; he would have faced nothing more than a failure to yield citation

  • mik

    You guys are never happy on this blog

  • mik

    Moving violations are just that violations. He was charged with a crime. That doesn’t have to be witnessed

  • qrt145

    That’s right, but how many stories have we heard of alleged vehicular assault in which the cops tell the victim “sorry, I didn’t see it”?

  • Nicole Gelinas

    But other drivers and passengers, including children, are on the barriered highways — and they need protection from lawbreakers, as well …

  • JamesR

    I’m with you. He was an idiot for posting it online (and for doing it, period), but

    a) He didn’t harm anyone
    b) He did this on limited access highways, many of which have artificially low speed limits to begin with

    He managed to humiliate the NYPD by getting away with this without getting caught (at first), which is why they deployed far more resources into catching this guy – who hurt no one- than they ever have into doing something about the murderous and reckless motorists who put lives at risk on densely populated city streets every day. THAT is where the resources need to go. NYPD was humiliated, plain and simple, and made an example of this guy.

  • Brad Aaron

    In addition to what Nicole said…

    a) Any driver stopped for any traffic violation, even DWI, could say “but I didn’t harm anyone.”

    b) You can’t circumnavigate Manhattan by car without driving on surface streets.

    I don’t think anyone here would argue against more enforcement and more dangerous drivers being prosecuted, but this is a win regardless of motive.

  • mik

    You got to have probable cause to arrest for vehicle assault. Which is the driver intentionally hit the person with the car. There is alot of talk on here but few now the law.

  • JK

    Holding dangerous drivers accountable is always good. Maybe he was singled out, so what? The alternative is law enforcement does nothing while a guy Youtubes his speeding exploits on heavily used city highways. What’s good about that? These charges help raise everyone’s expectations about busting dangerous drivers, and allow advocates point to the charges leveled against this speeder, and call for more consistent and broader speeding enforcement. And yes, speeding is harmless — until the speeder kills or maims someone, which they are far more likely to do than someone driving the speed limit.

  • Ian Turner

    People disagree about stuff.

  • Joe R.

    Regarding a), that’s exactly why it’s imperative to formulate traffic laws so that if you violate them, it means you were engaged in an action which at least has a high probability of harming someone. DWI certainly falls under that category. I’m not sure going at 75 or 80 mph on NYC expressways which have artificially low legislated speed limits does. Now if the speed limits had been set properly by traffic engineers, then yes, speeding would indeed have a high probability of harming someone but that’s not the case.

    Did he speed on local streets? If so, that might be the only action here where I could say there was a high probability of harming someone. It’s really necessary moving forward that we insist on only making actions illegal if they have a high probability of causing harm. To do anything else contradicts natural law which basically states that you cannot punish someone unless they injured, killed, or deprived of property another person. You can extend this slightly by also punishing actions with a high probability of causing injury, death, or loss of property, but that’s all you can do. You can’t make preventative laws against something just because a very small least common denominator can’t perform some action safely while the majority can. Sadly, legislators have ignored this principal for the last 50 years, with the end result of having a plethora of laws on the books which punish citizens even when there is little or no chance of causing harm. Some examples which come to mind are ticketing cyclists/pedestrians for passing red lights at clear intersections, and the blanket NYC prohibition against sidewalk cycling. And then we also have artificially low legislated speed limits instead of properly set ones. By definition these punish people for engaging in an action which is relatively safe.

  • Joe R.

    I would agree if the speed limits on expressways were set in accordance with standard traffic engineering principals (i.e. 95% percentile rounded up to the nearest 5 mph) but they’re not.

  • SteveVaccaro

    There are lower courts, such as civil court and village and community courts. But it is a little silly.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    It’s not either/or, it’s both. Send this guy to jail for driving dangerously, yet was lucky enough not to kill anyone. And send people to jail who drive dangerously and are unlucky enough they do hit someone. The key message is dangerous driving gets you in jail.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    I never heard of that. Which states follow that standard engineering principal?

  • Joe R.

    It’s only been standard traffic engineering practice for something like the last 75 or 80 years. And unfortunately fewer and fewer states let traffic engineers do their job because they have legislators who think they know better. Setting speed limits properly means that those who break the speed limit really are posing a danger to others. When you set a limit too low via legislation instead all you do is make lawbreakers out of otherwise safe drivers. Where exactly did the 50 mph NYC highway speed limit come from? From where I stand, it doesn’t mesh with reality. It’s more likely legislators pulled this number out of their behinds because they “felt” it was safe. Feelings and perceptions have no place in any type of engineering.

    Here’s a good read on the subject: http://www.ibiblio.org/rdu/sl-irrel.html

    From the article:

    Arbitrary, unrealistic and nonuniform speed limits have created a socially acceptable disregard for speed limits. Unrealistic limits increase accident risks for persons who attempt to comply with limit by driving slower or faster than the majority of road users, Unreasonably low limits significantly decrease driver compliance and give road users such as person not familiar with the road and pedestrians, a false indication of actual traffic speeds.

    Unrealistically high speed limits increase accident risk for drivers who are inexperienced or who disregard the basic speed law. Unrealistic limits also place enforcement officials and judges in the position of subjectively selecting and punishing violators. This practice can result in punishing average drivers, as well as high-risk violators.

    My comments: I’m not aware of unrealistically high speed limits anywhere in the US but unrealistically low ones are a direct result of legislated, instead of engineered, speed limits.

  • Joe R.

    Why do you assume he was driving dangerously? I saw that video myself and I didn’t see anything remotely dangerous given the traffic levels at the time he was driving (I would have felt differently if he attempted the same thing during the day). Things which might look dangerous to a novice aren’t necessarily dangerous in the hands of a person with a decent skill set. Case in point-a lot of things cyclists do, like pass red lights or stop signs without stopping, look dangerous to non-cyclists but aren’t in reality.

    I’m not saying he should get off free and clear, but jail is a bit extreme. A hefty fine and a long license suspension are enough to send the message that public streets aren’t places you try to break speed records. That said, I think an officially sanctioned race around Manhattan a few times a year wouldn’t be a bad thing. It would let people like him use their skills on a course closed to normal motor traffic.

  • afk

    Standard practice is 85th percentile, not 95th. However, there are other concerns. I don’t know about NYC 50 specifically, but speed limits were lowered in the United States and elsewhere, and in some case instituted for the first time, during the oil crisis in 1973 – Fuel economy is significantly greater at those lower speeds. Speed limits were raised in many but not all jurisdictions afterward. Some stretches the speed limit is lowered to 45mph in NYC – the lanes are narrower, shoulders are missing etc… Exits are more frequent within the city limits as well, if 55mph makes sense outside the city, more exits/entrances, and at times narrower lanes, shoulders etc… can justify 50-45mph limits within the city.

  • Joe R.

    It’s 85th percentile on local surface streets, 95th percentile on limited access highways. That’s been standard practice for decades. It still is in places like Europe. Incidentally, on limited access highways there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the 85th and 95th percentiles anyway ( http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/339/46440.0001.001.pdf?sequence=2 ). On page 6 the chart shows the difference to be ~5 mph or less. In other words, for all practical purposes we’re mincing words here because the resulting speed limits might be the same whether you use 85th or 95th percentiles. Enforcement usually doesn’t kick in until you’re at least 5 mph over the limit, so I could argue that the defacto speed limit tends to end up around the 95th percentile if limits are set properly. Interestingly, the study I linked to also shows that driving too slow is just as dangerous as driving too fast. When limits are set too low, some small percentage of law-abiding drivers who might otherwise be comfortable driving faster will drive at the limit, posing a danger to the majority who are just going with the traffic flow. Bottom line-speed limits on highways set at anything other than the 85th/95th percentile cause more problems than they solve. Urban streets are another story because traffic on them is rarely free-flowing in the true sense of the word.

    Fuel economy does not come into play when setting speed limits. If you want greater fuel economy, you engineer more efficient vehicles via a higher CAFE standard. Arguably, artificially lower speed limits make fuel economy on average worse. If we set speed limits according to road design speeds, we would probably have 75 to 100 mph limits on much of the Interstate system, perhaps even 125 mph limits on very straight highways out in the middle of nowhere. SUVs and other heavy trucks would be prohibitively expensive to operate at those speeds, so the roads would have been filled with vehicles which were reasonably efficient at 125 mph, and much more efficient at lower speeds.

    There may be some stretches of NYC highways where 50 mph would in fact end up being the 95th percentile speed limit but those are few and far between. From what I can gather I would say if speed limits were set properly most of the city’s highways would be posted at 60 to 75 mph.

    Who said 55 mph makes sense outside the city? That’s another artificially low legislated speed limit. So is the NYS 65 mph maximum speed limit. 55 mph outside the city is OK for 2-lane country roads but it doesn’t make any sense on highways. You could safely post the NYS Thruway for 90 to 110 mph except where it passes through cities. That’s about what the 95th percentile speed is. 30 years ago with my brother driving we made it from my grandmother’s place in Rome, NY to Queens ( 270 miles ) in 3 hours flat. The NYS Thruway was perfectly fine for 110 mph cruising in the wee hours of the night. We were more or less just keeping up with what little traffic was there. 120 to 160 km/hr (75 to 99 mph) highway speed limits are common in Europe, and they would be here as well if limits weren’t legislated.

    I’m no fan of cars or driving, but I realize people need to get where they’re going in a reasonable amount of time. Unfortunately things like high-speed trains don’t exist here to facilitate that. I wish they did but they don’t. That’s why it’s imperative to set highway speed limits properly. Yes, we need lower speed limits on city streets for safety reasons (and the streets should be reengineered to drop the 85th percentile under 25 mph), but we should legally allow motorists to go as fast as safely possible on highways where they can’t harm vulnerable users.

    The main issue I have with setting highway speed limits too low is that it results in a disregard for speed limits in general, and in fact for traffic laws in general. Studies have shown that general compliance with traffic laws decreased after the national 55 mph legislated speed limit was introduced in the 1970s ( http://theexpiredmeter.com/2013/09/opinion-70-mph-speed-limit-should-apply-to-metro-chicago/ ).

    I’m actually a big fan of variable speed limits as well. A road which might be perfectly safe at 90 mph at 3 AM could be dangerous at 65 mph during rush hour. By varying speed limits according to traffic levels, weather conditions, time of day, etc. you can ensure that those who break the speed limit really are posing a danger.

  • Andrew

    It’s 85th percentile on local surface streets, 95th percentile on limited access highways.

    Source?

  • Joe R.

    My textbook for a transportation engineering class I had in college. I think the name of the book was Transportation Engineering and Planning.

    Most of the stuff online says 85th percentile, but as I said in my last post, you pretty much end up with the same number whether you use the 85th or 95th percentiles. The 85th percentile might say 61 mph, the 95th 65 mph. Rounded up to the nearest 5 mph, you end up with 65 mph in both cases.

  • Andrew

    I have never seen any reference to anything above the 85th, anywhere.

    In any case, on a city street with a lot of pedestrians (granted, not West Street), the 85th percentile speed is probably in the area of 3 mph. But trying to apply a blanket rule of this sort on a city street is pointless at best and negligent at worst.

  • Joe R.

    I only said it should be applied to limited access expressways, not local surface streets. That said, to some extent the concept is relevant to city streets also in that if a street is designed so drivers feel comfortable driving fast, there will be little adherence to a speed limit which is set too low. This is exactly why NYC has a speeding problem on many arterial streets. However, the solution in this case is not to raise the speed limit so it better matches what drivers do, but to reengineer the street to drop the 85th percentile speed to 30 mph, 25 mph, 20 mph, whatever speed might be deemed safe around vulnerable users.

    Incidentally, the 85th percentile speed during free-flowing traffic conditions is what’s used to set speed limits. If a lot of pedestrians are present then it’s obviously not a free-flowing traffic situation.

  • afk

    Speed differential of 15 mph or greater is considered high risk. Parkways in NYC often have frequent exits with very short entrance and exit ramps, which lead to greater speed differentials as highway lanes are used to accelerate and decelerate. Speed limits greater than 50 on such roads would be hazardous. Expressways are better, but only marginally so. If you tried setting the speed limit at 70 or 80 mph within the city on these highways that would most likely cause an increase in crashes and fatalities – don’t know SI roads though, may be different there. There was a better safety record after increasing some roads in other parts of the state to 65 mph, but that would not likely result within NYC given the road designs.

  • Joe R.

    First of all, properly set limits decrease speed differentials, not increase them. As I said earlier, if a limit is set too low, most drivers will exceed it but some percentage of more law-abiding drivers won’t even though they would in fact be comfortable driving faster if the limit was higher. That increases the number of vehicles with high speed differentials. If limits are set properly, nearly all vehicles will be traveling within 10 mph of the median speed. You’ll still have a few outliers going 15+ mph faster or slower than the median, but far fewer than if the limits are set too low (or too high for that matter). Arguably, if limits are set properly, the vast majority of motorists wouldn’t object to automated speed enforcement via speed cameras.

    Second, you don’t change speed limits until you establish what the 85th (or 95th) percentile speed is. If it’s turns out to be well above 50 mph then it means drivers are already safely driving above the current speed limit, and you can therefore increase it without impacting safety. If it isn’t, then you leave it at 50 mph. In fact, in some cases measuring actual speeds may well result in a decrease in speed limits along certain portions of the road.

    Third, there’s no reason an entire highway has to have the same speed limit, or for that matter that the speed limit has to be the same on any section all the time. A very curvy stretch, or a part with very short entrance ramps, might end up being posted at 45 or 50 while straighter sections could be posted at higher speeds. At night speed limits can often safely be 10 to 20 mph higher if road geometry allows it. Chances are good such a pattern of speed limits will actually mimic existing driver behavior quite well.

    The larger point is let’s please stop focusing on what speed people drive at (unless it’s grossly faster than prevailing traffic speed), and instead focus on behavior likely to cause collisions such as frequent lane changes, tailgating, texting, DWI, etc. I see all sorts of driver behavior which merits enforcement far more than going 15 or 20 mph over an artificially low speed limit. In fact, maybe we should just get over this stupid obsession of worrying how fast people drive, and instead focus on punishing people only when their behavior actually causes a collision. While we’re at it, let’s raise the standards for getting and keeping a driver’s license. Maybe if we did that, we wouldn’t need to constantly tell drivers what to do via speed limits, traffic signals, etc. When you take all thought/discretion out of driving, the end result is what we have-mindless, grossly incompetent drivers who haven’t a clue how to decide for themselves the safest course of action because we never let them.

  • Andrew

    Reengineering all of the city’s streets sounds great to me, but we need a solution now, not in a century.

    If at least 85% of a street’s users are pedestrians, then the 85th percentile speed is walking speed.

  • Nathanael

    I certainly think he should continue to have his passport. Where the heck did the line about the passport come from? Even people who can’t drive should be allowed to leave the country.

    But he certainly should not have a drivers’ license.

  • Nathanael

    The naming predated the existence of the Court of Appeals. There was a period long ago when Supreme Court (Appellate Division, en banc) was the top; the Court of Appeals was added over the top.

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