Council Raises Unattended Idling Fines. Will NYPD Enforce?

The City Council on Wednesday approved a bill that could prevent future disasters like last January’s Chinatown tragedy, which claimed the lives of preschoolers Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez.

chinatown.jpgA revised law attaches a stiff fine to the type of carelessness that caused the deaths of two children in Chinatown, but it’s up to NYPD to make it stick.

Queens Council Member Elizabeth Crowley’s Intro 947 raises the fine for leaving an idling, unattended vehicle to $250, up from $5. Crowley introduced the bill in response to the deaths of Martinez and Ng, as well as Robert Ogle and Alex Paul, who were run down by a driver who had stolen an unattended car in Middle Village. Having cleared the council’s transportation committee with widespread support early this month, the measure also eliminates a three-minute idling "grace period."

The obvious question: What good is it to jack up idling fines, even by a factor of 50, when police can’t be counted on to ticket for traffic fatalities? That’s where Council Member Dan Garodnick comes in. Last year he introduced legislation that would allow Traffic Enforcement Agents to issue idling tickets using their hand-held computers. The bill stalled some time ago, but a Garodnick spokesperson says it hasn’t been forgotten. Since learning that such a change can be handled administratively, Garodnick’s office has been waiting for NYPD to carry it out.

Streetsblog has word that the department has completed programming and testing the hand-held units, and now plans to begin training agents, though no timetable was available.

"Obviously it’s still something we’d like to see done," Garodnick’s spokesperson said, adding that unattended vehicles should be covered under the new protocol. At $250 a pop, it probably wouldn’t take many tickets before companies start telling drivers to take two seconds to shut down their trucks.

  • Once drivers know that they COULD be cited for $250, many will not risk idling, even if there’s no enforcement. For the few that Do idle, NYPD has an incentive to ticket. Cops dont like to write tickets for $5, as they feel it’s a waste of time. They do write big tickets though.

    Personally, I dont understand why anybody would want to idle. It’s a waste of gas and your car could be stolen. Last I checked, the modern car is built with engines that dont need to be warmed up to start.

  • Thank goodness. Enforcement of Crowley’s bill by implementing the tech/administrative change sought by Garodnick’s bill is precisely what I was hoping would happen, but I didn’t know if “unattended” was covered by Garodnick’s idling bill.

    But I don’t understand something–is Garodnick’s office saying that his bill is not needed because the change it seeks can be implemented wihtout legislation, or are they going to keep working on his bill?

    If eventually both “attended” and “unattended” idling can be ticketed by TEAs, but “attended” has a weaker penalty than unattended, then I hope TEAs know which to cite a given offending vehicle for.

    But again, thank goodness, I’m so happy there’s actual hope of finally curbing one of the overall worst motorist behaviors out there.

  • Nate Briggs

    I actually think that traffic enforcement is the cutting edge of alternative transportation.

    A career officer can rise through the ranks of law enforcement much faster by finding miniscule amounts of marijuana than he (or she) can by writing tickets.

    The perception is that motorized vehicles are just not a significant threat to public safety.

    And motorists are well aware of this bias. They know that – no matter what laws are out there – if the police don’t enforce the law … then the law doesn’t really matter.

    Nate (SLC)

  • > At $250 a pop, it probably wouldn’t take many tickets before companies start telling drivers to take two seconds to shut down their trucks.

    Don’t these companies already pay reduced-or-no fines, via the fleet Commercial Collections Programs?

  • Nate: “if the police don’t enforce the law … then the law doesn’t really matter.”

    Right. But why don’t the police enforce the law? Perhaps because many of them perceive our neighborhoods as places they drive through on their way to work — as opposed to places where they and their children live.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: residency requirement.

  • Wow, Kaja. Thanks for sharing that link. That’s totally @#$%ed up. That program has to go. Or at least be seriously changed. Did everyone else already know about it? I sure didn’t. Is it a huge find for people who care about idling?

    I’ve often babbled here about how so often it’s commercial drivers who do the unattended idling thing. Well, I’d bet that program explains it.

    So perhaps this article doesn’t foretell of reduced idling after all, depending on how big an impediment to effective anti-idling enforcement this program is.

    So how do we change the program? Are the pre-set fines determined enrollee-by-enrollee, or are they program-wide? Perhaps it’s time to make them uniform, public, and to raise them significantly. Or get rid of the thing entirely.

  • dd: Right — the bill won’t be necessary if the PD acts. I got the impression that if nothing happens Garodnick may revive it.

    Kaja: Good question. It may be time for us to revisit the stip fine program.

  • Could just be me, but I think it’s time for us to revisit factionally representative democratic government, not the stip fine program.

    All this occurs because groups of people can lobby legislators to bribe said factions with slices of the public trust and treasure. I’m sure if you dig down you’ll find that a load of corporations which use trucks requested the program, cited examples where other cities had done it, and kicked in for re-election bids for the folks who helped pass it.

    This isn’t our system malfunctioning. This is our system working /exactly as it was designed/.

  • Emily Litella

    Idling infuriates me like nothing else. You know, the plumbers eating lunch in the van with engine going and the adjacent sidewalk filled with pedestrians. Good weather or not, this mindless activity is pervasive. But here’s the thing, people (such as mechanics and bean counters waiting for wife to get off the subway) know they are wasting gas, polluting yet they continue to do it. I’m all for upping the penalty and enforcement, but the root problem of people’s ignorance (willful or innocent) of the most basic common sense things is troubling. I think it will be impossible for americans to make the lifestyle changes needed to meet the challenges of the near future in an orderly and voluntary manner.


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