NYPD Starts Using Vision Zero Law, Charges Driver for Killing UES Pedestrian

NYPD has filed misdemeanor charges against a cab driver who killed an Upper East Side pedestrian, marking the first time police have employed a new law that makes it a crime for drivers to strike pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way, according to a report in DNAinfo.

NYPD filed criminal charges against the cab driver who killed Silva Gallo on the Upper East Side in August, marking the first time police applied a new Vision Zero law intended to hold drivers accountable for harming pedestrians who have the right of way. Image: WCBS
NYPD filed criminal charges against the cab driver who killed Silvia Gallo on the Upper East Side, marking the first time police applied a new Vision Zero law intended to hold drivers accountable for harming pedestrians who have the right of way. Image: WCBS

Silvia Gallo, 58, was in the crosswalk at E. 79th Street on the afternoon of August 29 when MD Hossain hit her while turning left from Madison Avenue. Gallo was dragged beneath the cab until Hossain came to a stop and witnesses overturned the vehicle, which was still running, to free her. She was pronounced dead at Lenox Hill Hospital.

DNAinfo reports that Gallo, a Pilates instructor, was preparing to leave for Ireland the next day, to work and live with her boyfriend.

Hossain’s hack license was suspended after the crash. Police initially said both the driver and the victim had the right of way — an impossible scenario, since the motorist would have been required to yield, but one that suggested Gallo was in the crosswalk with the walk signal.

Available information indicated the driver could have been charged under Intro 238, now known as code Section 19-190, which took effect on August 22. The law was one of a number of new measures intended to reduce traffic deaths and injuries as part of the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative, but NYPD wasn’t yet ready to put it to use. Motorists have killed at least nine pedestrians and cyclists, including Gallo, since the law took effect.

DNAinfo reports that police filed charges in Gallo’s death last week.

After a month-long probe, the NYPD Collision Investigations Squad determined last Thursday that Hossain had violated the new law. He was arrested at his Bronx home and formally charged. Hossain, who has no previous criminal record, faces a $250 fine per offense and possible jail time under the new law, officials say.

Hossain was issued a desk appearance ticket. Charges have yet to be brought in criminal court. If convicted, possible sentences range from a fine to jail time, or both. As attorney Steve Vaccaro wrote in an Intro 238 explainer:

A misdemeanor charge is categorically more serious than a traffic violation. The offender is arrested, and then must appear in court and enter a plea. A plea of guilty or a conviction means a permanent, public criminal record. First-time misdemeanor offenders may not be sentenced to imprisonment, but it can happen. In contrast, common traffic offenses like “failure to yield” or “failure to use due care” … have in practice proven to mean fines and nothing more.

As Vaccaro pointed out, under Section 19-190, police and prosecutors are not going to start systematically putting drivers away for hurting and killing people. Ideally, if NYPD applies the law as it should, the threat of a criminal record and the possibility of jail time will send a message to city motorists that traffic violence will be taken seriously, making streets safer for everyone.

We will follow this case as it develops.

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