Families for Safe Streets to Call on DAs to Prosecute Reckless Drivers

Left to right: District attorneys Richard Brown, Dan Donovan, and Robert Johnson are up for re-election in 2015. NYC DAs have emerged as a major obstacle to Mayor de Blasio's Vision Zero program.
Left to right: District attorneys Richard Brown, Dan Donovan, and Robert Johnson are up for re-election in 2015. NYC DAs have emerged as a major obstacle to Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero program.

Update: Sunday’s event has been postponed, according to a TA press release, “in solidarity with those protesting the grand jury decision not to indict in the Eric Garner case.”

The cab driver who killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock is scheduled to appear in court Friday. Koffi Komlani was issued two traffic tickets, but unlike most drivers who kill New York City pedestrians, his case will be adjudicated in criminal court, the venue preferred by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

The top “charge” against Komlani is careless driving, which carries a maximum penalty of up to 15 days in jail, a fine of up to $750, a license suspension of up to six months, and a mandatory drivers’ ed course. The minimum penalty is no penalty. As Jill Abramson wrote Wednesday: “It is unclear whether [Komlani] will be fined or otherwise punished. D.A. Vance wanted him to be forced to appear in court, in part to blunt criticism of his office for not bringing criminal charges in the case.”

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, on Sunday Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets will hold a rally on the steps of City Hall to call on city district attorneys to prosecute reckless drivers who cause death and serious injury. Along with NYPD and the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, New York City district attorneys have emerged as a major obstacle to Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. A TA press release says victims and their loved ones want DAs “to become partners in the Vision Zero effort.”

“Why is it that if you kill someone while driving drunk, the district attorney will press charges, but not if you kill or maim someone through reckless behavior on the road,” said Amy Cohen, whose 12-year-old son Sammy Cohen Eckstein was killed by a motorist last year, in a press release. “Crashes caused by aggressive driving are not accidents. When drivers make turns at full speed without even looking, or speed through intersections and kill people, D.A.s never press charges. We need to change the culture on our streets and make it unacceptable to drive recklessly. We will never get to zero fatalities and serious injuries unless we hold dangerous drivers accountable for their actions.”

“District attorneys are the people’s prosecutors, and they must champion public safety,” said Paul Steely White, TA executive director. “The public needs more information about how D.A.s determine whether to prosecute after serious crashes, and how often they bring charges.”

White called for City Council oversight hearings and legislation to requiring DAs to report to the public on traffic crash prosecutions.

Richard Brown of Queens, Robert Johnson of the Bronx, and Dan Donovan of Staten Island are up for re-election in 2015. Transportation Alternatives “will press the issue of driver accountability with all the candidates,” White said.

Sunday’s rally begins at 2 p.m.

  • JudenChino

    They should straight up call out the City for the cynical invocation of #VisionZero. Reminds me of how diry companies love to cover themselves in Pink for Breast Cancer http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/yosyx6/pink-fracking

  • Justin

    I was just reading up on an upcoming trip, saw this on the U.S. State Department’s travel page (http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/nicaragua.html). No commentary needed.

    “Nicaraguan law requires that a driver be taken into custody for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or when involved in an accident that causes serious injury or death, even if the driver is insured and appears not to have been at fault. The minimum detention period is 48 hours; however, detentions frequently last until a judicial decision is reached (often weeks or months), or until a waiver is signed by the injured party (usually as the result of a cash settlement). In accidents that result in death, drivers are usually detained until they reach an agreement with the family of the victim even if they are not at fault.”

  • Mike

    If things continue as they have been, Sunday’s rally may be swallowed by Eric Garner protests. Any alternate plan?

  • Ser Ponce

    Actually, that sounds terrible.

  • Lindsay

    Here is a link to the facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/885294921495657/

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Cy Vance: $580 Fine for Driver Who Killed 9-Year-Old Cooper Stock

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In separate stories published yesterday, family members of Marilyn Dershowitz and Cooper Stock, both lost to traffic violence, criticized Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance for his reluctance to file serious charges against motorists who kill people. Vance declined to apply criminal charges against Koffi Komlani, the cab driver who struck 9-year-old Cooper and his father as the two walked hand […]