NYPD Training Precinct Cops to Charge Drivers Who Violate Right of Way Law

All 35,000 of New York City’s uniformed police officers will be trained to file charges against drivers who violate the new Right of Way Law, according to NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Image: NYPD
NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Photo: NYPD

The law, also known as Section 19-190, established misdemeanor penalties for drivers who strike and injure pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way, part of a Vision Zero legislative package Mayor de Blasio signed earlier this year. Now, a reckless driver who harms someone else could end up with a permanent criminal record instead of facing no meaningful consequences, which has typically been the case even when a motorist inflicts grievous injury or death.

Since the law went into effect in August, however, charges have remained scarce. Most citations for violating the Right of Way Law have been filed by the Collision Investigation Squad, which is staffed by fewer than 30 officers and can handle only a small fraction of crashes that result in serious injury. To date, only one reported Right of Way violation has been issued by a precinct officer. Since precinct officers are far more numerous than CIS investigators and are usually the first to arrive at a crash scene, the success of the Right of Way Law hinges on equipping them to enforce it.

I asked Chan about how the department enforces the Right of Way Law after the mayor’s press conference yesterday on the city’s new 25 mph speed limit. Here is his response, in full:

We’re in the process. We’re working with our police academy, and we’re taking a look. Because we have a large [department] — 35,000 officers are going to be doing the enforcement on that area — it’s not only on the level of CIS. We want to make sure that they have the proper guidance and the proper protocol for that.

Right now, it’s running through the course of channels, the legal bureau within the police department. And then ultimately, we will touch base also with the DA’s offices, because again, we want to make sure that we get it out there, and we get it out there correctly, because it’s a very important law that will make an impact out there. Again, with 35,000 people, we don’t want to get variations, different interpretations, and that’s part of why it’s important for us to make sure we get our people on board and get it done correctly.

I asked to confirm that precinct-level officers will be enforcing the 19-190 law. “Yes. Yes. Yes. Absolutely,” Chan said. Streetsblog has filed a freedom of information request for more information on how the department is training officers to enforce Section 19-190.

  • IlIlIl

    “Yes. Yes. Yes. Absolutely, not.”

  • BBnet3000

    Has enforcement of turning without signalling increased? Getting hooked is a major danger while cycling and drivers turning without warning isnt exactly great for pedestrians either.

    Of course, the last car that nearly hooked me by turning without signalling was a white Ford Fusion with “NYPD” on the back.

  • Andy

    Take the lane and stop filtering up the side and you won’t get hooked.

  • Morris Zapp

    Where were Bratton and Chan during the months before 19-190 became law? After the bill was written and it was all but certain to become law, and fairly soon? Between the time de Blasio signed it and the law took effect? Where were they?

    How many victims will see zero justice because NYPD wasn’t prepared to enforce from day one?

    How in the hell has NYPD not “touched base” with the DAs before now?

    Why does there continue to be a gulf between what the mayor says and what NYPD does and doesn’t do?

    Who is in charge of NYPD?

  • BBnet3000

    1970s Anglosphere cycling advocacy at its finest. I’m among the more vehicular cyclists I see on a daily basis, but simple fact is that VC only works for a small portion of the population, an even smaller portion than are cycling in New York already.

    I’m to the right most of the time because I want to go around car traffic when its slow, not sit in it, and because I can’t maintain the 20+mph that most people would expect of someone not using the bike lane or staying to the right when car traffic is moving.

    This would actually work OK if all drivers signaled or if we had good infrastructure. The latter isn’t coming, so I’m at least hoping for the former since the NYPD seems to be receptive to enforcement at the moment.

  • qrt145

    That’s not enough. My experience suggests that many drivers think that bicycles are stationary obstacles, meaning that even if they see you and pass you safely, they feel it’s perfectly OK to turn across your path right after they pass you.

    The only protection against hooks is to assume that every vehicle will turn across your path at the intersection, regardless of which lane the vehicle is in. Just this morning I was cut off by a truck making a turn across four lanes of traffic (and it was a small truck, so it was not a question of the truck having a limited turning radius).

  • Andy

    Except for the few times when someone turns across multiple lanes, I successfully avoid nearly all right-hook incidents because I don’t ride in the gutter.

  • Andy

    Nothing to do with VC, and doesn’t require riding fast. Just don’t ride the gutter near intersections, and you’ll find it becomes impossible to get hooked (unless someone crosses multiple lanes). You call it a “major danger”, but there are simple and effective ways to avoid that situation.

  • cmu

    MIsdemeandor?! I guess we should be thankful for small mercies. So striking and/or injuring a pedestrian with the right of way is the same as having an ounce of weed or painting graffiti?

    Btw, how does this result in a ‘criminal record’ if the penalty is not criminal?

  • BBnet3000

    If they’re convicted of the misdemeanor (a crime), it goes on their record. If they have a decent lawyer they’ll plead it down so this will only apply to poor scofflaw drivers.

  • J

    This interview is a positive step in an otherwise abysmal public relations effort by the De Blasio administration and the NYPD regarding Vision Zero. So far the company line has been ignore all negative events and criticisms, plan everything positive behind the scenes, and only address the public when a new strategy is unveiled.

  • BBnet3000

    So in other words, I have to stick out my arm and get into the flow of traffic. If this is how we’re going to expand cycling in New York we are going to have to start from scratch because most current cyclists are not comfortable doing this. I do it all the time to get around double parked cars but to do it at every other corner (every ~400ft) is asking too much.

    How are you supposed to reliably be able to get out into the flow of traffic without riding fast? This requires an extremely assertive cyclist to begin with even assuming there isn’t a substantial speed differential. Are you really going to get into a stream of cars going 25mph while going 10mph?

  • walknseason

    The NYPOST’s headlines, of course.

  • Andy

    “I do it all the time to get around double parked cars”

  • Joe R.

    I’m going to say it’s possible *sometimes* but in general I agree with you. Only an outlier of cyclists can mentally and physically pull it off. You have to overcome two obstacles-getting into the traffic stream to start with, then keeping up. The first part is actually the most difficult. My technique is to wait until traffic slows enough so there’s no more than a 10 mph differential between your speed and traffic speed. I time things to start accelerating into the first available gap at 100% effort. If you’re not strong enough to go from 15 mph to 25 mph in under about 4 seconds, don’t even both trying this. If you do, you’ll depend upon someone letting you in the gap in order to not be rear-ended.

    The second part-keep up with traffic once you’re in the stream, isn’t as hard as it might sound. Remember you’re drafting off the vehicles in front of you. I actually find I can maintain 25 to 35 mph speeds without killing myself once I get into the traffic stream, depending upon what’s in front. If you’re really lucky, you’ll be behind a bus or 18-wheeler. In that case, you can go past 50 mph, provided your bike has a high enough gear, and provided you can match the acceleration rate of the bus or truck (possibly with a loaded 18-wheeler, often NOT possible with a bus). Anyway, once you’re in the stream, be prepared to get out the second you can no longer keep pace with traffic. Typically that happens when you hit the hills. A cyclist just doesn’t have the power to climb even a mild grade at 30+ mph.

    Almost forgot-if you decide to run with traffic at prevailing traffic speeds, make certain it’s on a street which you already know is in good shape. At high speeds, you’re just not going to have time to react to potholes which are hidden by vehicles until the last minute.

    If all this sounds physically and mentally demanding, then that’s because it is. As I said, only a minority of cyclists can pull it off.

  • Andy

    You account is certainly different than mile. I rode 40 miles through LA yesterday, much of it in traffic, and not once was I forced to sprint to be safe. I ride along at my generally reasonable pace, take the lane to avoid right hooks, and didn’t have any issues.

  • Joe R.

    If you’re lucky to be on a street where traffic goes something like 15 to 20 mph, then nearly any cyclist should be comfortable taking the lane. On quiet side streets, I pretty much always take the lane, even with cars behind, and I never need to sprint, nor do I have any other issues. If we’re talking arterials, then that’s where the “fun” begins. Don’t get me wrong-it’s awesome on many levels to be in a stream of motor vehicles going at high speeds. At the same time though I realize if cyclists really need to ride like this on certain roads to avoid being right-hooked, then it’s not going to help increase mode share.

    Also, LA drivers from what I’ve heard are quite a bit more polite than NYC drivers. I’ve been run off the road by cars trying to get around me even going downhill at 50 mph in a 30 mph zone. That’s not a typo. I was going 20 mph over the speed limit, but these jackasses in cars still felt some primeval need to get in front of me.

  • Sick of It

    I think this guy is blowing smoke up our asses. He runs a para-military organization. Sure, culture is hard to change. But the whole point of a para-military organization is that commanders can issue orders and percents and officers can execute those orders quickly. So, I’ll believe Chan and friends when I actually see NYPD taking meaningful action against drivers who maim, kill and behave recklessly on NYC streets. Until then, I think this guy is completely full of sh*t along with Bratton, Ameri and the rest of these politicians in blue. They still do not view motor vehicle violence as a form of crime in need of policing. It’s all “accidents” to these guys. If they were really taking action then they certainly would’ve done more than “question and release” the woman who killed the 8-year-old girl on the sidewalk in front of her school in the Bronx. Right? I mean, can anyone think of a more heinous crime than that? Do any of these f’ing NYPD people have children of their own?

  • BBnet3000

    There are certain areas where double parked cars are concentrated so I dont have to literally do it the entire time. Through most of my commute the blocks are 200 feet long (this is typical in much of Manhattan and Brooklyn), with right hook potential every 400 feet.

    This would more or less require me to take the lane the entire time to get rid of the hook potential, which frankly I don’t feel like doing. It would be too slow in traffic and too fast for me to sustain when cars are flowing smoothly, which would piss drivers off. Like I said, only possible for a small portion of cyclists.

    If we are trying to encourage cycling for more than .5% of the population we have to do better than saying “take the lane”.

  • Andy

    My risk of right hooks dropped to zero when I realized that being visible and predictable yielded a much nicer ride than hugging the gutter for the convenience of drivers around me. They pass and there’s never an issue. People claiming that cycling requires sprinting along with traffic, or staying out of their way are only making the issue worse. They are the ones getting hooked, and making cycling dangerous for themselves.

  • qrt145

    I’m glad that taking the lane is never an issue for you. I support it in theory, but in practice, in my experience, it sometimes is very much an issue. I guess LA is just nicer.

    Here in NYC, people honking at you for taking the lane is the least of the issues, annoying as it is. More serious and even more frequent than honking is when people pass you unsafely, maybe even on purpose to make some kind of point, but who knows. Even when there’s a second lane, empty and available for drivers to pass, they pass with inches to spare by only changing “half a lane”. (Admittedly, riding in the gutter does nothing for the unsafe passing issue.)

    Even worse is when enraged drivers crash into cyclists on purpose, as was reported last week.

    (I do take the lane much of the time, but try to be pragmatic about it.)

  • Andy

    It has nothing to do with LA – staying out of the gutter, the door zone, and eliminating the risk of typical right hooks is because of how I ride. I didn’t start that way, but the more I realized that I could ride for my own safety instead of the convenience of drivers, I got to enjoy riding much more without fear. People will come up with excuses by saying it can only be done fast or in other cities, but I’ve ridden in many places, and can enjoy riding in all of them at any speed, in safety and without fear.

    Drivers certainly do need to be charged when they do idiotic things, but riding the gutter just entices them to use the remaining space, which just isn’t enough on city streets. When I’m in control of my space, I don’t get passed unsafely, save for some rare idiots.

    What I’ll never understand is why some people think that the only way to promote cycling is by letting drivers continue to terrorize them. It took me some time to figure this stuff out, but I’m so glad I no longer am putting myself in danger just to let someone get to a red light 2 seconds faster.

  • this is useless without first making failure-to-yield on left and right turns a MAJOR priority for the police to enforce. at the moment i am cut off dangerously on every corner on the 8th avenue and 6th avenue bike paths.

  • Vernon6

    I’d be lying if I said the NYPD’s brutal dealings with the public were not a factor in my decision to move away from NYC. There are bad cops everywhere, but at least where I live now I don’t feel as if they are an aggressive paramilitary force with no accountability.

  • J_12

    misdemeanors are crimes. the highest misdemeanor charges can result in jail time, if convicted, although such a sentence is unusual in NYC courts.
    They do create a criminal record, and therefore have consequences for certain types of employment.

  • J_12

    I’m assuming your were on surface streets and not the freeway. I don’t know that much about LA driver habits (not sure if you get aggressive behavior on par with NY) but I do know that most road surfaces are in far better condition due to lack of winter snow and ice.

  • Andy

    Maybe. Hard to compare though. LA still has plenty of awful streets, probably because they don’t have to keep up with them as crazy as the northeast does and the concrete ones form huge cracks, and they let a lot deteriorate for too long.

    Yet another reason to stay out of the gutter though – I like being able to move to either side to avoid a hazard, rather than be forced to quickly merge into traffic to the left or suddenly stop if that’s not possible but a pothole is ahead. I’ve done it that way before, and it’s more dangerous and makes cycling suck. Seriously, just ride safe and predictable in the lane and you’ll never get stuck in those nasty situations again. I get treated much better when it’s clear what I’m doing, rather then when it’s not clear when I’m going to dart around around a car or pothole.

  • Rationally Speaking

    Lets see how about reckless bicyclists ? Idiots that ride bicycles against traffic. Not stopping at red lights or stop signs while riding a bike…is this not hazardous? or would it be a step in preventing an accident to begin with to rational.

  • Cold Shoaler

    Sometimes the “gutter” is a “bike lane” here in NYC.

  • happily retired from the NYPD

    What bullshit so if a driver doesn’t see a pedestrian or bicyclist and accidentally bumps them he will be charged criminally? Are you fucking kidding me? Yet they let savages commit civil disobedience and let West Indians enjoy recreational gunfire on jouvet. This city admn has its head up its ass

  • Morris Zapp

    Glad you’re enjoying your retirement.

  • Erik

    They fu*#ed me with this tonight. I made a left off white plains rd onto cross Bronx service rd 2 merge onto highway and a young girl , with ear buds on , all dark clothing at night, in the rain , stepped out and into my truck. Thank god I was going very slow, and she didn’t have a scratch on her. As I got out 2 check on her, an adult male in a Camry stopped and yelled to her in Spanish before driving off. she then took off her backpack and laid on the floor. There were officers across the street who said they saw me stop but also didn’t see the girl . The officer repeatedly said he was sorry for the summons to appear for the 19-190, but his lieutenant was insisting it be issued to me . Now I will have this hanging over me even though there was no reckless driving whatsoever , and I believe I was caught in a scam !! I’ve had a ticket , and accident free driving record my whole 48 years on the planet without an arrest on my record ever !
    F – NYC …. Florida here I come !

  • Erik D.

    They fu*#ed me with this tonight. I made a left off white plains rd onto cross Bronx service rd 2 merge onto highway and a young girl , with ear buds on , all dark clothing at night, in the rain , stepped out and into my truck. Thank god I was going very slow, and she didn’t have a scratch on her. As I got out 2 check on her, an adult male in a Camry stopped and yelled to her in Spanish before driving off. she then took off her backpack and laid on the floor. There were officers across the street who said they saw me stop but also didn’t see the girl . The officer repeatedly said he was sorry for the summons to appear for the 19-190, but his lieutenant was insisting it be issued to me . Now I will have this hanging over me even though there was no reckless driving whatsoever , and I believe I was caught in a scam !! I’ve had a ticket , and accident free driving record my whole 48 years on the planet without an arrest on my record ever !
    F – NYC ….florida here I come !

    Reply

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