Hsi-Pei Liao Tells Pete Donohue Why the Right-of-Way Law Matters
In the skirmish over the Right-of-Way Law, which allows for misdemeanor charges when a driver strikes a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way, the rationale for enacting the law sometimes gets lost.
Last night on NY1, Inside City Hall host Errol Louis interviewed Daily News reporter Pete Donohue, who has taken up the cause of TWU Local 100’s opposition to the law, and Hsi-Pei Liao, who helped found Families For Safe Streets after his 3-year-old daughter Allison was killed in a Flushing crosswalk while she and her grandmother had the right of way.
“The Right-of-Way Law is because of situations like ours,” Liao said. The driver’s blood alcohol level was elevated but below the legal limit, so he got off with two summonses, one for failure to yield and another for failure to exercise due care. Both were dismissed by the DMV, which Liao and his wife learned about months later. Under the Right-of-Way Law, the driver who killed Allison would likely have faced consequences.
“To have this law implemented is to make sure that they understand this is their responsibility. This is what they have done,” Liao said. “The police, the DA, they never once mentioned that our daughter’s right of way was taken… It was like, ‘It’s an accident, sorry. I can go home now.’ And we want more answers than just that.”
Louis said that many advocates prefer the word “crash” instead of “accident,” and noted that Donohue’s coverage “seemed like a visceral response” to the issue.
“In their view, there’s no such thing as an accident anymore. It’s like everything is criminal,” Donohue said. “The idea of criminalizing what is an accident with no intent and no obvious recklessness and no speeding, it did strike a nerve with me.”
Liao responded that we shouldn’t be so quick to write off crashes like the one that killed his daughter as mere accidents. “When your tire explodes, that’s an accident. When you skid on black ice, that’s an accident,” he said. “But for someone that has total control of his vehicle and basically runs into somebody, there’s got to be some kind of negligence behind this.”