Families for Safe Streets Meets With Cuomo Rep to Talk DMV Reforms
In a meeting with representatives from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration Tuesday, members of Families for Safe Streets called for reforms to New York State Department of Motor Vehicles protocols, with the goal of discouraging reckless driving and obtaining some measure of justice for crash victims and their families.
Karen Rae, Cuomo’s deputy transportation secretary, met with relatives of crash victims at the governor’s Manhattan office. The meeting was arranged by Congresswoman Grace Meng [PDF], and was prompted by news that the DMV voided both traffic tickets issued by NYPD to the driver who killed 3-year-old Allison Liao in Queens in 2013.
A recording obtained by WNYC reveals that the administrative judge rushed through the hearing and declared the driver, 44-year-old Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh, “not guilty” in a matter of seconds. The video that captured the collision was never screened.
Allison’s parents, Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao, attended yesterday’s meeting. Also present were Amy Cohen, mother of Sammy Cohen Eckstein; Kevin Sami, whose father was killed in a crash; and attorney Steve Vaccaro. J. David Sampson, the agency’s executive deputy commissioner, represented the DMV. DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala was expected to attend but was not there.
Officials and advocates discussed the January DMV “safety hearing” scheduled for Abu-Zayedeh, as well as last January’s hearing for the driver who killed Brooklyn pedestrian Clara Heyworth, when a DMV administrative judge relied mainly on the motorist’s own testimony to determine whether or not he would be allowed to drive legally again.
Families for Safe Streets presented the following recommendations to DMV:
- A mandatory three-month license suspension for serious offenses while driving, including (a) hit and run; (b) aggravated unlicensed operation; (c) failure to use due care (VTL 1146); and (d) striking someone with the right of way (per NYC Administrative Code Section 19-190).
- Reform the DMV point system so that higher point values apply to violations where someone is seriously injured or killed; prevent drivers from using adjournments to push points outside the 18-month window and avoid suspension.
- Greater accountability for commercial drivers, enforced by a mandatory three-month or longer license suspension upon accrual of six or more penalty points.
- Mandatory, prompt and publicly-noticed safety hearings at which victims, their families, and NYPD crash investigators can attend, present evidence and make statements; quarterly reporting of aggregate safety hearing outcomes and other statistics.
- DMV’s adoption of the equivalent of the Federal Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights for victims’ families at traffic ticket hearings related to fatal crashes.
“The recent dismissal of tickets against the driver who killed 3-year-old Allison Liao, described by NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg as ‘shocking,’ is unfortunately not unusual,” said Families for Safe Streets in a statement. “Traffic tickets against other killer drivers also have been dismissed, despite videotape and other clear evidence. DMV typically waits years before holding safety hearings for reckless drivers. The DMV must make traffic safety a higher priority, apply meaningful penalties when reckless drivers kill, and get them off the road.”
“These changes are essential so that no other families suffer as we do every day,” the statement said.
Advocates told Rae and Sampson they want a response within a month.