City Council Passes Several Bills to Reduce Reckless Driving

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other reps before today's meeting. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/willalatriste/status/472067061028777984##@willalatriste##
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and other reps before today’s meeting. Photo: ##https://twitter.com/willalatriste/status/472067061028777984##@willalatriste##

The City Council today passed a slate of bills and resolutions aimed at improving street safety.

The 11 bills — outlined in detail here — include Intro 238, which would make it a misdemeanor for a driver to “make contact” with a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way, punishable by up to $500 in fines and 30 days in jail; and Intro 171, known as “Cooper’s Law,” which would suspend or revoke TLC licenses of cab drivers who are summonsed or convicted, respectively, of traffic violations stemming from crashes that result in critical injury or death.

Council Member Mark Weprin, of Queens, cast the lone vote against Intro 171. Weprin said the bill comes too close to creating a strict liability standard — which, according to attorney and traffic law expert Steve Vaccaro, is exactly what New York State needs to reduce deaths and injuries. Weprin said he fears the law would punish some unfairly — that a driver’s career shouldn’t end because of one incident, and that a cabbie who rolls through a stop sign and causes a crash should not necessarily be subject to the same penalties as one who crashes while speeding. (The cab driver who killed Cooper Stock failed to yield and had an otherwise clean record.) “This is the livelihood of these drivers,” said Weprin. Council Members Vincent Gentile and Jumaane Williams abstained from voting on the bill.

Other bills would combine points issued by the state DMV and the TLC against hack licenses and set new TLC license suspension and revocation standards; require the TLC to review and report on cab driver crashes and subsequent disciplinary actions; codify the number of Slow Zones DOT implements each year; codify DOT work zone safety standards; require DOT to study the safety of arterial streets, study safety issues pertaining to left turns by motorists, and inspect and/or repair broken traffic signals within 24 hours; and prohibit “stunt behavior” by motorcyclists.

The bill to require the TLC to institute a one-year pilot program for “black box” technology to record and report taxi driver behavior was not on today’s agenda. TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi told the transportation committee in April that the agency has issued RFIs for the program, but she made no mention of the pilot in budget testimony before the council earlier this month.

One bill in the transportation committee hopper not taken up today would mandate side guards for trucks to help prevent people from being swept beneath them. DOT asked that the council hold off on legislating truck guards in lieu of a pending study already underway within the department.

The council approved resolutions asking Albany to grant the city control over speed and red light cameras, increase the penalty for driving on a sidewalk to $250 and three license points, make it a misdemeanor to violate the state’s vulnerable user law, increase the penalty for reckless driving that results in death or serious injury, and pass extant bills to increase penalties for leaving the scene of a crash.

Also today:

  • While voting in favor of all traffic safety bills, Council Member Andy King of the Bronx said that, as a motorist, he looked forward to seeing the city “hold pedestrians accountable for texting and walking.” Texting while walking is completely legal in NYC, and most pedestrian-involved crashes are caused by drivers breaking the law.
  • Council Member Robert Cornegy lamented the “contentious effort” to bring a Slow Zone to Bedford-Stuyvesant, which he seemed to blame on DOT. Cornegy, who recently said he believes Select Bus Service and wider sidewalks impede commercial foot traffic, expressed skepticism of the community-driven Slow Zone process and DOT data.
  • Council Member Laurie Cumbo of Brooklyn voted against the “stunt riding” bill, as she believed it would impose on “motorcycle culture,” and would lead to young people being arrested. The bill was intended to address behavior of dirt bike riders who take over streets, and even sidewalks, in NYC neighborhoods, particularly in Upper Manhattan, every year during warm weather months, and was proposed after a confrontation between motorcyclists and a family in an SUV resulted in serious injuries.

Streetsblog will have more on these new laws, and their impact on street safety in NYC, in the coming weeks.

  • Eric McClure

    I get where Mark Weprin is coming from, though I don’t agree with him, because maybe if cab drivers knew that their livelihoods depended on not snuffing out the lives of others (or dismembering them), they might drive just a wee bit more carefully.

  • jooltman

    I was on my bike today on PPSW when a maniac motorcyclist going 80 mph doing a pop-a-wheelie buzzed me. Truly terrifying. Could Cumbo please explain why this person should not be arrested, and what culture he is representing?

  • Alex

    Yeah that’s a very odd statement. “Culture”? It’s a slippery slope to excuse reckless behavior due to “culture”.

  • Reader

    My livelihood depends on being alive.

  • Andrew

    I get where Mark Weprin is coming from

    I don’t. If, in the performance of your job, you are unable to avoid killing or critically injuring an innocent bystander, then you need to be in a different line of work.

  • walks bikes drives

    We can’t take away someone’s livelyhood because their actions took away someone’s life? I fail to see the sense in that.

    Can’t penalize a driver for rolling through a stop sign as much as one speeding? is he failing to note the main requirement here: serious bodily injury or DEATH? Rolled through a stop sign or speeding, or anything done wrong, if you kill a person, you dont deserve to drive. I do agree that it unfairly targets cab drivers. ANY driver who kills another person while breaking the law should lose their license. But the City can’t do that, only the State can. So, this is a good start.

  • Andres Dee

    A cabbie’s livelihood shouldn’t trump my child’s, my mom’s or my life. When we force convicted sex offenders to register and bar them from living in certain areas, we don’t worry about “livelihood”, do we?

  • KillMoto

    “Weprin said he fears the law would punish some unfairly — that a driver’s career shouldn’t end because of one incident”

    What a person does for a living should not end in someone dying. If you suck so much at driving a car, you damn well better not be paid to drive.

  • KillMoto

    I don’t think this unfairly targets cab drivers. Ask the TLC, they’ll tell you that per mile, cabbies are the safest class of driver. What this law is asking then is that these good drivers drive just a little better, and that they take a break from driving if they happen to kill someone. Not too much to ask.

  • nyctuber

    Or perhaps it should factor in driving 12 hours a day 5-6 days a week.

  • nyctuber

    I’d love to see how the commentators here would drive when placed in a position to have to cover $160 in upfront costs before making a dime, with no guaranteed income at all.

  • paul

    Oh, they have 160 bucks in “upfront costs”! Now it makes totally sense to mow down a kid in a crosswalk.

  • paul

    Which is irresponsible to do. So yeah, tack that on as well.

  • Reader

    What does that have to do with anything? Lots of people work hard and have to cover costs without killing anyone. If they do, they face stiff penalties. Construction companies and crane operators, for example. They can’t cut corners just because it takes a lot of money and time to build a building before anyone rents an office or buys a condo.

    Many taxi drivers are good, safe, and responsible. This legislation helps separate the good from the bad and gives an incentive to the bad to get better. Your comment speaks to the need to restructure the medallion system, rethink the over-reliance on tips, and improve driver training and conditions in general. It does excuse reckless driving.

  • nyctuber

    You pay for a 12 hour shift and need to work all of it to make a decent living.

  • Charles

    I love your system of ethics, where it’s excusable to endanger people so you can cover your upfront costs. Seriously, that’s pretty f’d up.

  • nyctuber

    It has to do with a lack of understanding of what is involved with driving a cab 60 hours a week in a highly populated city where a large number of pedestrians are distracted by electronic devices. Don’t paint something as ‘reckless’ when it’s not.

  • nyctuber

    Perhaps that’s your system. Mine is to factor in the difficulties and pressures of the job itself when attempting to demonize cab drivers. You’re all ultimately hypocrites.

  • nyctuber

    Try harder than a silly logical fallacy.

  • Reader

    In what other professions can workers be justified in killing someone due to the way in which they deal with on-the-job stresses? Just trying to understand your point of view.

  • nyctuber

    Absurd strawman argument. Do the job for a month then get back to me on how black and white the issue is.

  • Likely that CM Cumbo wishes to deliberate further before enacting into law proposals to criminalize behavior undertaken nearly 100% by groups of black and Hispanic men.

  • Brad Aaron

    There is no doubt that it’s a brutal, low paying job, and working conditions need to improve. That is completely separate from enacting measures to help keep bystanders from harm. Most cab drivers manage to avoid maiming and killing and will not be affected by these laws at all.

  • Andres Dee

    I’ve heard a lot of “chatter” about pedestrians “distracted by electronic devices” and “texting while walking”. In what percentage of cases involving serious injury or death was electronics use by the pedestrian a factor?

    12 hours does not sound to me like a reasonable shift length for driving a cab in NYC. The question to the cab industry is why cabs are rented out for that long.

    A more fundamental question (one which Bill “in the pocket of industry” D is unlikely to answer) is why the industry is structured in a way that investors are rewarded with ever-appreciating assets, but the people doing the actual driving are treated like chattel.

  • nyctuber

    The shifts are a split 24 hours, there isn’t really any other way. Each shift gets a rush hour. You’re not required to work 12, but it is what you pay for. Don’t know the stats on distracted pedestrians, but I can tell you it’s nerve-racking to drive in all day. An amazing amount of people cross at don’t walk signals with a cellphone plastered to the ear facing traffic.

  • bolwerk

    I do. As is so often the case, it’s a matter of people’s idealism about a transport mode bumping up against reality, which doesn’t care what we want. Weprin probably thinks cars can be safe and most “accidents” really are random, innocent mistakes. He’s wrong.

    The more we invest in transportation compartmentalization, the fewer accidents we’ll have. But presumably we’ll always need some surface transportation (for the foreseeable future anyway), and as a result we’ll always have some casualties related to it. Weprin just tacitly thinks more are acceptable than we do.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    I’m glad the city counsel is doing its job, if we just took the worst 1% of car and taxi drivers off the road, it would be safer for the other 99% (and all the pedestrians).

    Now we need Albany to get off its lazy car seat and the NYPD to learn and enforce these laws.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    If the taxi lobby said that cab drivers should make more money, I’d support them. But saying they should be allowed to hurt people since they are so bad at their job, is just insulting to the 99% of cab drivers who can handle their vehicles safely.

  • nycbikecommuter

    And who exactly will enforce these new codes an resolutions?

  • paul

    It’s not demonizing them. It’s holding them accountable—just like anyone else who has the power to hurt more vulnerable people.

  • paul

    It’s your logical construct—you’re excusing reckless behavior because of a 160 dollar debt.

  • paul

    Not an excuse to drive recklessly. Keep trying to justify irresponsibility because “making a living wage is super hard”.

  • Keith Williams

    Mark Weprin is one of the most-outspoken advocates of safe streets in City Council, so I think your assumption is a bit off.

    Particularly in that light, I’m unsure why he’s bending the lines of common sense here.

  • Joe R.

    I would find a different job but that’s just me. Nobody should start their workday $160 in the hole. The fleets which own the cabs should pay the drivers an hourly wage. If the drivers make more in fares than the fleet is paying them, then the fleet owners will be ahead of the game. If not, then perhaps they should look for another type of business. As many have said in another thread, aggressive driving in NYC rarely, if ever, saves a significant amount of time. All it does is get you to the next choke point faster. I’ll bet taxi drivers who drive sanely can make just as much as those who are reckless.

  • Keith Williams

    If you’re so concerned about how much taxi drivers make, perhaps you should lobby for higher fares. Just because one system is unfair doesn’t mean innocent people should be placed in jeopardy.

  • JK

    Great to see a cabdriver weighing in. What do you think can be done to improve how cab drivers drive? Cabbies set the pace on city streets, so changing their behavior would help change the whole culture on the streets. A lot of cab drivers are safe, so it must be possible to drive safely within the current system. How do we get more drivers to obey the speed limit, change lanes carefully and otherwise be calmer and safer?

  • nyctuber

    I’m concerned about it because I do the job. We already got a raise, and I didn’t claim it’s an unfair system.

  • nyctuber

    Nonsense.

  • Aunt Bike

    Staten Island City Councilman Steve Matteo (District 50) has introduced a bill requiring warning signs in school zones with speed cameras. Because “Traffic enforcement is first and foremost about the safety of those using
    our roads,” says Mr. Matteo. “It is not and should not be a cash cow
    for the city.”

    The local paper has an amusing editorial on this foolishness.

    http://www.silive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/05/speed.html#incart_river

  • Joe R.

    I’ll admit this might seem like a concession to motorists. However, remember to entire point of speed cameras is to get people to slow down. Ideally, everyone would be driving slow enough so the city would never get one dime in fines. Practically speaking, putting up warning signs will get drivers to slow down because they’ll fear getting a fine if they don’t. So long as the city never makes available information on which speed camera locations are active drivers will have to assume they can be ticketed for speeding anywhere they see the warning signs. That can only be a good thing.

  • lop

    It depends. If the signs are only where active cameras are then it’s useless. If they can be anywhere whether or not a camera has ever been active in that area then it’s useful and gets people to slow down.

  • lop

    >12 hours does not sound to me like a reasonable shift length for driving a cab in NYC.

    For reference, truck drivers are limited to 11 hours nationally. Even if 90% of that time is on limited access highways with minimal traffic.

  • lop

    >The shifts are a split 24 hours, there isn’t really any other way.

    How about 3 shifts, 8 hours each, two get a rush hour, the third doesn’t, and is cheaper to rent as a result.

  • lop

    Law enforcement, military, military contractors.

  • nyctuber

    Can’t make enough money that way

  • lop

    Do you think the current taxi fare is a revenue maximizing one? Raise the fare, revenue per hour will rise, so you can shorten shifts without squeezing drivers.

  • nyctuber

    We just got a raise, I don’t think it should be higher, no.

  • lop

    Yellow cabs average 4.6 crashes in reported accidents per million miles traveled in 2004. Don’t see newer info. All vehicles in NYC averaged 6.7.

    Sounds pretty safe to be in a cab. And it is in a sense, as you’d expect from people who drive all day compared to the general population that doesn’t have as much practice. But cab drivers drive a lot more than most people, so the per driver crash rate is higher than the general population.

    At 70k miles per cab, figure splits evenly between 3 people, that’s 23k miles per driver –> one crash per ten drivers. So maybe 90%, not 99% can handle their vehicles safely.

  • lop

    You prefer longer shifts and dead and maimed pedestrians?

  • nyctuber

    I prefer shifts which enable drivers to make a decent living (what we have now), and arguments which are not based on juvenile logical fallacy.

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