De Blasio on Right of Way Law: Safety Comes First, Not Placating Unions

Looks like the Right of Way Law isn’t going anywhere.

Testifying in the state legislature earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio was compelled to defend the new city law that makes it a misdemeanor for drivers to injure a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right-of-way. The law had come under attack from the Transport Workers Union, which wants to exempt MTA bus drivers, and the TWU contributes to a lot of Albany campaigns.

Back in New York City, a City Council bill to give the TWU what it wants currently has 25 sponsors, one shy of a majority. With the TWU about to run ads attacking de Blasio, and Council Member Rory Lancman reportedly set to introduce a bill that would add other exemptions, the Right of Way Law is still under threat. But as long as City Hall stands firm, the law should be safe from tampering.

At a press conference on Staten Island today, a reporter asked the mayor about the new TWU ads. De Blasio didn’t equivocate in his response:

They’re absolutely misleading and I think they really should think twice before they continue to spread this misinformation. We made very, very clear that public employees are going to be treated like any other citizens.

There are more rigorous laws. Why? Because people were dying. You know, seniors were dying. Children were dying or being grievously injured. Job one of all of us in public service is to protect people’s safety, not to placate unions.

So, the bottom line here is — we said, if the officer on the scene comes to the determination that it was an unavoidable accident — as with any civilian — there is no arrest. If the officer on the scene determines that it was an avoidable accident, and it would merit arrest for a civilian, there would be an arrest — even for a public employee.

Very obvious example — and I believe a number of the tragic instances we’ve had in the last year fit this example: The pedestrian had the right of way. You know, there was a walk sign. The pedestrian was crossing [with] the walk sign. That should not be a situation where a pedestrian is killed.

So, if the officer on the scene comes to the determination that that is… worthy of arrest, they will engage in the arrest. They will do it respectfully. They will do it in an honorable manner as humanly possible. But it is the obligation of the NYPD to treat everyone equally and they will.

  • AlexWithAK

    I was concerned the mayor might bow to union pressure here. Many of these city council reps now trying to change and weaken the law voted FOR the it in the first place, but when the union started whining about it they quickly changed their tunes. Very glad to see Bill sticking to his guns and standing up safer streets.

  • Reader

    These City Council members should realize that there’s one thing New Yorkers hate more than anything else and that’s double standards. The mayor nailed it. Why should a public sector employee get a pass when Joe Driver (ideally) doesn’t? What’s next? They shouldn’t get speeding tickets or parking tickets? If the TWU wants to play up the “our drivers are a special class of New Yorkers” angle, let them.

  • Kevin Love

    “… is the obligation of the NYPD to treat everyone equally…”

    An admirable sentiment. When is NYPD going to live up to it? For example by obeying the law themselves when parking their private cars?

  • red_greenlight1

    Who put extra iron in his cheerios this morning? Who ever did it keep at it! This guy actually sounds like he has a spine for once.

  • red_greenlight1

    Of all the laws the NYPD breaks that is a relatively minor one. I suspect things we’ll change when the mayor finally grows a pair and stands up to the NYPD.

  • AlexWithAK

    The NYPD are some of the worst traffic violators in the city. They frequently go through red lights, speed, park on the sidewalk and in bike lanes, and I can’t remember the last time I saw one bother to signal a turn. Glad the mayor is standing firm, but he also needs to get the police to actually obey the laws they’re supposed to uphold. And that can be said of traffic laws and otherwise.

  • Mark Walker

    Expensive advertising? Looks like TWU has more money than it knows what to do with. If the city needs to trim the budget, a union that wastes money on anti-public-safety ads is identifying its membership as an excellent place to start.

  • greenlake101

    Glad to see De Blasio is finally showing some teeth

  • J

    If this is really how the transit union feels about safety, then I can’t wait to replace their jobs with driverless vehicle technology. Driverless vehicles certainly won’t want a special ability to kill people and not suffer any consequences. And they’ll cost the public a lot less money. If the union appeared to actually care that their drivers are killing people, then I might have different thoughts

  • Tyson White

    It’s not easy serving as mayor after hizzoner Bloomberg and getting public approval. But I have to say this guy doesn’t pander!

  • Bolwerk

    Well, except to the police union. :-

  • Bolwerk

    The obfuscatory language he uses is almost Kafkaesque. WTF is an “avoidable accident”?

  • J_12

    Good for hizzoner, I hope this marks the start of a new DeBlasio who will have the political courage to stand up to the various special interests … although I will believe that when I see it

  • J_12

    It may not be the most well defined legal term, but the concept is valid. Everyone would agree that there are certain collisions which are true accidents – i.e. a person jumps in front of a moving vehicle with no warning. There are others which are clearly “avoidable” on the part of the driver. There is a lot of gray area in between, and leaving it up to the discretion of a police officer is not the greatest solution, but probably the best we can do right now.

  • Matt

    Just sounds like a way of saying that the driver was at fault or not depending on who has the right of way.

  • Matt

    The police union wouldn’t say that’s true.

  • Bolwerk

    At least their odious leadership has enough faith in sheer falsehoods to be considered a dangerous cult.

  • Andres Dee

    “Hey, New York City! You’re doing it all wrong. Your walk intervals are too long. Do like other cities: Show the “walk” signal for one second, then start flashing the “Don’t Walk”. This way, pededestrians will virtually never have the right of way (“See? She was crossing on the red!”). No pededestrians with right of way will be hit by cars. Problem solved!” (/sarc)

  • Andres Dee

    And those who covet their neighbors horse stables.

  • Andres Dee

    Don’t assume that his private actions and public statements will match.

  • Bolwerk

    That makes it sound like “avoidable” means the driver wasn’t paying attention. And “unavoidable” means someone else wasn’t paying attention when the driver had right of way, which in turn at least still calls into question the driver’s decision matrix.

    The word “accident” has the effect of trivializing tragedy. People should stop using it.

  • johnmassengale

    Mayor de Blasio said, “We made very, very clear that public employees are going to be treated like any other citizens.”

    Public employees should NOT be treated like any other citizens, who are allowed by the speed cameras to drive 36 miles per hour in 25 mile per hour zones, and who are rarely ticketed by police at any speed. The MTA bus drivers—public employees—should be setting an example and saving lives by driving at the speed limit, and not a mile per hour faster.

    If that were to happen, there would be fewer bus drivers running over pedestrians, because a driver sees almost 40% more at 25 mph than at 35 mph, and has more time to react.


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