Rory Lancman Will Introduce Bill to Hamstring NYPD Crash Investigators

City Council Member Rory Lancman thinks NYPD is playing fast and loose with the Right of Way Law, and he’ll soon introduce a bill that would make it more difficult for police to apply it.

Rory Lancman

A key facet of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, the Right of Way Law allows NYPD to file misdemeanor charges against drivers who harm people who are walking and biking with the right of way. Lancman voted for the law, but has complained that NYPD uses it too often.

Motorists have injured or killed over 8,000 pedestrians and cyclists since the Right of Way Law took effect last August. As of April, NYPD had applied the law 22 times. As of now virtually all cases resulting in Right of Way Law charges were worked by the Collision Investigation Squad, which is trained to investigate serious traffic crashes.

In an email to fellow council members today, Lancman called on them to sponsor a Right of Way Law amendment that would place additional burdens on NYPD crash investigators, and create loopholes for motorists who harm people who are following traffic rules.

Wrote Lancman:

[I]t is unclear whether the police department is conducting a “due care” analysis before deciding to arrest and charge drivers with a misdemeanor, or what factors are incorporated into such a “due care” analysis. Indeed, the Transport Workers Union has filed a lawsuit to declare the law unconstitutional and unenforceable in part because of this ambiguity.

This amendment clarifies the meaning of “failure to use due care” by requiring the police department to consider visibility, illumination, weather conditions, roadway conditions, and roadway design as well as whether the pedestrian was in violation of any vehicle and traffic laws at the time of the accident.

Adding a provision to the bill to require an analysis of due care will penalize drivers who hit pedestrians out of recklessness and gross negligence, while sparing drivers when accidents are caused by poor road conditions, bad weather and scofflaw pedestrians.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan has explained publicly that the department files charges under the Right of Way Law only when probable cause can be determined based on evidence. Given the number of pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths since the law was adopted, if anything it seems NYPD is exercising excessive restraint in applying the law.

“In assessing whether a driver used all the care that is due, the driver must be charged with knowledge of all the existing circumstances,” says attorney Steve Vaccaro. “Lancman’s statement suggests that to the extent weather or road conditions play a role in causing a crash, the driver is exonerated, when in fact a driver should take these factors into account, slow down, and use added caution when they are known to be present.”

“The reference to scofflaw pedestrians is baffling,” Vaccaro says. “‘Scofflaw pedestrians’ presumably do not have the right of way, so the law doesn’t apply to them or the drivers who strike them.”

Lancman’s intro will be the second bill intended to weaken protections for New Yorkers who walk and bike. Council Member I. Daneek Miller has proposed legislation to exempt MTA bus drivers from penalty under the Right of Way Law. Miller’s bill has 25 council sponsors.

  • Flushing before it was cool

    If you’re on a bus, on a bike, or just walking in the street, this guy doesn’t give a fuck about you. Rory is a boil on the ass of Queens.

  • BBnet3000

    The reference to scofflaw pedestrians is only baffling if you assume Lancman to be acting in good faith. Rather, Lancman wants to encourage this conflation to trick people into rolling back this law.

  • c2check

    If there is snow on the roads, you should be driving quite slowly.
    If there is fog, you should be driving quite slowly.
    If there is sun in your eyes, you should be driving quite slowly.

    If there is anything that might jeopardize your ability to have full control of a multi-ton machine on crowded city streets, you should be going more slowly, and exercising large amounts of caution.

    If you get in an accident due to these conditions, there’s a good chance were going too fast, or not paying enough attention, and thus, not exercising due care.

    For example, if you hit the gas instead of the brake, you were not being careful enough.
    If you think a red light is green, you were not being careful enough.
    If you end up sliding onto the sidewalk, you were not being careful enough.

    Drive more slowly. New York City streets aren’t speedways. Take the train if driving is too slow for you, and if you need a vehicle for deliveries, for work, or due to mobility issues, you should also be driving slowly and with great care.

    Not sure why this seems confusing.

  • Reader

    Let me get this straight. Rory Lancman is essentially saying that NYPD isn’t doing its job well and is conducting investigations so poorly that it’s ensnaring otherwise innocent drivers? Therefore we need a law telling NYPD how to conduct investigations? Is that a position he really wants to take? He wants to stake out a position AGAINST the NYPD? I’m no political consultant, but this seems really dumb.

  • ohhleary

    I’m sure everyone will be shocked to learn that Rory Lancman received the most campaign donations from TWU Local 100 in 2013 of any current City Council member.

  • Not a lawyer, but…

    “Indeed, the Transport Workers Union has filed a lawsuit to declare the law unconstitutional and unenforceable in part because of this ambiguity.”

    Lancman is a Columbia Law School grad and apparently doesn’t realize that the mere fact that a lawsuit has been filed means absolutely nothing and is not precedent.

  • Simon Phearson

    There’s a cruel irony in the reference to “scofflaw pedestrians” since, as has been mentioned, not only are they not protected by the ROW law, that increasingly looks like it’s the NYPD’s go-to fabrication for avoiding ever having to enforce it even when it’s supposed to apply.

    Basically, the ROW law is already a, “pedestrian-who-happened-to-land-in-the-ROW” law. Rory wants to make it moreso.

  • Simon Phearson

    Rory’s stated rationale for requiring officers to consider weather and road conditions in their assessment of “due care” makes sense only if there were some kind of problem with the police imposing too strict or too lenient a standard of care on drivers in the particular circumstances in which they’ve harmed someone with the ROW.

    In other words, the “problem” that Rory’s addressing is police applying “wet road” rules to “dry road” drivers (i.e., too strict a standard) or “dry road” rules to “wet road” drivers (i.e., too lenient a standard). We know that the former has obviously not been the case, and given Rory’s stated concern, he doesn’t seem to think that the latter is much of a problem, either.

    What Rory wants this law to do, essentially, is to give “wet road” drivers the license to drive like “dry road” drivers, which is the exact opposite of “due care.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    I don’t recall this sort of attitude in the handful of cases in which a cyclist ran someone over.

  • Reader

    Those people are usually tried in the media and with leaked NYPD statements about guilt, so no investigation is needed.

  • KillMoto

    God I wish I could up-vote this more than once.

  • You might even call these decisions “due care”. Of course, seems the framers of the law had a different definition. They seem to think “due care” is “driving”.

  • Key is to hit pedestrians hard enough to knock them out of the crosswalk when you kill them. Only suckers get tickets for killing pedestrians.

  • neroden

    So, Lancman is objectively pro-manslaughter. Who’s running against him?

  • Some Asshole

    This would be funny or an Onion piece if it weren’t deadly serious. I mean, which one of the 22, of thousands that weren’t subject, received the ear of Councilman Clueless?

  • chekpeds

    Miller has 25 sponsors? This is horrible !


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