Senate Passes Bill to Prevent Arrests of Bus and Taxi Drivers Who Kill

This afternoon, the New York State Senate passed a bill to provide a broad exemption from certain traffic laws for a large class of professional drivers. If the bill is enacted, police will not be able to detain any bus, taxi, or livery driver who strikes a pedestrian or cyclist with the right of way. These drivers would also not be held at the scene for committing reckless endangerment, assault, or other violations that are outside the scope of the state vehicle and traffic law.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Martin Malave Dilan, passed in a 54-6 vote. Thomas Croci, John DeFrancisco, Kemp Hannon, Brad Hoylman, Liz Krueger, and Daniel Squadron voted against the bill. It now heads to the Assembly, where it is sponsored by Walter T. Mosley and 17 other legislators. Transportation Alternatives has launched a petition to Assembly Members to stop the bill.

The bill restricts officers who respond to crashes between “omnibus operators” — that includes bus drivers, taxi drivers, and livery drivers — and a pedestrian or cyclist. Police would no longer be able to detain the driver at the scene. So long as the driver has a valid license, remains at the scene, is not suspected of being drunk or high, and cooperates with police, law enforcement is only allowed to issue a desk appearance ticket.

TWU Local 100 pushed for the bill in Albany, selling legislators on the idea of exempting MTA bus drivers from the city’s Right of Way Law, which made it a misdemeanor to injure or kill people with the right of way.

As drafted, the bill carves out a far broader exemption, not only for other drivers, but also for other violations. Mayor de Blasio, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Families For Safe Streets, and TA oppose the bill. In a memo to legislators, TA and FSS note:

The bill would create a special treatment for a certain set of drivers, mandating different standards for police practices and how the rules of the road are applied. The bill attempts to micro-manage and hamstring the police in an area where police officers must have some level of discretion. Furthermore, the special treatment it seeks does not include an exception for suspected crimes that include more serious degrees of culpability. A police officer could be forced to provide this special treatment even for a reckless or intentionally violent act by a driver behind the wheel.

The bottom line: Anyone who is paid to drive other people won’t face the same consequences as other drivers for behavior that harms pedestrians or cyclists.

Members of TWU Local 100 watched the vote in the Senate gallery and cheered after the bill’s passage. During remarks on the floor before the vote, many senators were proud to stand with the union, but their words betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of both the Right of Way Law and the bill up for a vote.

“You can’t criminalize an accident. An accident is an accident. And no one should be fearful of being arrested on their job for an accident,” said Sen. Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn, who said his brother-in-law is a bus operator. “If you’re on the job and you’re not drinking, you’re not impaired by any other influence, you shouldn’t be arrested.”

“It’s wrong that we’re treating union bus drivers differently than we’re treating other drivers in the state of New York,” said Sen. Marc Panepinto, who represents the Buffalo area.

“People levy all kinds of insults at our bus operators,” said Sen. Diane Savino of Staten Island. “But this is one insult too many, to expect them to be held to a higher standard than the general public.”

She then voted to carve out an exception in the law so that bus operators are no longer held to the same standard as the general public.

  • BrooklynRed

    Good on John DeFrancisco, one of the most conservative of upstate reps, for voting with his conscience on this

  • beigeinside

    Or apparently, the SAME STANDARDS AS EVERYONE ELSE.

  • WalkingNPR

    Crossing mid-block is looking like a smarter and smarter option: only have to worry about the cars going straight, no turning vehicles. If I have no legal protections at the crosswalk, then there’s only drawbacks (turning vehicles, cars speeding through the end of yellow lights) and no benefits to crossing there.

  • Matthias

    Agreed–every morning I see school buses take corners without even slowing down. It’s a miracle that more people aren’t killed. City bus drivers are incredibly safe and courteous by comparison (and most of them objectively so). Obviously everyone should be held to the same standard–no exemptions.

  • Matthias

    How is this not a violation of equal protection?

  • JamesR

    I think there are plenty of us who are more or less done at this point, between this, the NYPD cycling ticket blitzes, and the subways bursting at the seams daily. You can only take so much. I just don’t know where to go that’s relatively affordable and isn’t sprawlsville.

  • stairbob

    This makes me want to leave NYS.

  • Walter T. is my assembly member. I’m now working on throwing him out of office.

  • the_big_bandicoot

    “you can’t criminalize an accident”? Yes you can.

  • Tommy

    We are at higher standards. Random drug tests, physical, lower alcohol limit for CDL drivers when driving their own car,, have to report all accidents to the Transit including those with your own car where the damage is more than $ 1000. We are the safest drivers in the world!! Blind spots cause accidents.. that is not something to be arrested for!! Give us left turn signals. When we ask the DOT they reject the request saying that traffic flow is more important.

  • Tommy, can’t we make improvements to bus design and bus routing without creating double standards in the law that come with a whole bunch of awful unintended consequences?

  • ddartley

    I like how you point out that DOT crazily thinks traffic flow is more important than safety. I’m curious if you’re mainly talking about state or city DOT. City, I’d guess, but MTA surely deals with state a lot too.

  • ThereIveSaidIt

    “Modern slaveowners like Uber” – see, that’s the downside of arguing with lefties. The hyperbole and histrionics just ruin any chance of a meaningful discussion.

  • Andrew

    Perhaps you are unaware of the law, Tommy. Perhaps you are unaware that, at a green light, motorists are obligated to yield to pedestrians legally in the crosswalk. No ifs, ands, or buts. Not “unless there was a blind spot” or “unless I didn’t notice him” or “unless he was on his phone” or “unless traffic was heavy” or “unless I was behind schedule.” If your intended path conflicts with a pedestrian’s intended path, and the pedestrian is crossing legally, then you MUST wait for the pedestrian. Period. End of story. If a blind spot makes it unclear whether a pedestrian’s path conflicts with yours, slow down and wait until you’ve clarified the situation.

    If you’ve gotten accustomed to not looking for pedestrians – or, worse, if you’ve gotten accustomed to nudging pedestrians out of the way – then you’re breaking the law. Even when you don’t come in contact. If that’s how you drive, then it’s no accident if one day you do come in contact with a pedestrian who is crossing legally.

    By all means, work to reduce blind spots. By all means, work to improve signal timing. But until then, the responsibility falls on your shoulders to drive safely and in accordance with the law.

    It’s a heavy responsibility, no doubt, but it’s a responsibility you took on when you obtained a driver’s license and strengthened when you signed up for your job as a bus operator. As a professional driver you should be one of the safest drivers out there, and you shouldn’t be concerned that the ROW law might even come into play.

  • Joe R.

    A couple of flaws here with your logic:

    1) If indeed this is an equipment problem (i.e. blind spots which prevent the driver from ascertaining if a collision with a pedestrian is imminent) then the buses affected by the problem should no longer be operated until the problem is fixed. I tend to think the fixes would be relatively straightforward, basically consisting of cameras to cover the blind spots.

    2) If there is no equipment problem, then it means drivers are not adequate trained to avoid pedestrians. In that case, the MTA must retrain is drivers before allowing them to operate a bus again.

    3) More traffic signal phases isn’t a solution. As it is NYC has too many traffic signals with too much complex phasing. The end result isn’t more safety. It’s more confusion, and also less compliance because the rate of compliance with traffic controls goes down if they are overused or misused. A better idea is traffic signal preemption which turns the walk signal red before the bus arrives at the intersection, allowing the bus to turn without delay, and without endangering pedestrians. If need be you can have gates preventing pedestrians from entering such crosswalks on red when a bus is preempting the signal.

    4) There is no such thing as an accident. I wish everyone would stop using that word with regards to collisions. Collisions is the proper word because that’s what they are, and they have a cause. The cause may NOT always be the driver’s fault, but nonetheless when two objects collide on city streets it’s nearly always because someone made an error in judgement or operation. Even collisions due to mechanical failure aren’t accidents. The cause in that case is either poor maintenance procedures or poor design. The only true accidents might be acts of nature like high winds or earthquakes which cause vehicles to veer from their intended path. In NYC both those things would be as rare as hen’s teeth. We don’t get major earthquakes. We know well in advance of any major wind storms, and typically clear the streets of non-essential users before they arrive.

  • Tommy

    Joe, from your post I can tell you have never operated a bus. First of all , try and get the Transit Authority to fix anything… it takes forever. 2. The blind spot is the left side mirror and the left post, along with the speak easy wire. Right now we have to scan 3 mirrors, plus the windshield while making a turn, now you want us to look at cameras… ridiculous!! 3. The low floor buses were introduced to make it easier for senior riders and kids to get on buses. What it also did was lower the driver in the seat so he doesnt have the same view that he had with the RTS style bus. Whoever bought these buses are the people you should be after. Want proof of blind spots… here it is…I measured an RTS.. from the operators eyes to the top of the left side mirror.. 12 inches…. New Flyer XD-40 .. 7 inches…. instead of looking down into the mirror like we did on the RTS now we are looking through the mirror and not seeing pedestrians. Width of left pillar.. old RTS bus 5 7/8, new bus 8 inches. If the width of the pillar is greater than the width between your pupils you have a blind spot. Also the left side mirror is larger on the new buses… we dont need big mirrors. I disagree with you about accidents… there are two kinds, preventable and non preventable. We should not be arrested for non preventable accidents. Left turn signals… I ask for them all the time… get denied all the time by DOT… they deny us because they want traffic to flow. Bus making a left turn.. some crosswalks have a constant flow of pedestrians… how do we make the turn?

  • Tommy

    Some intersections have a constant flow of pedestrians. We need left turn signals so we have a right of way. When we went out and enforced the ” don’t turn until the intersection is clear rule ” we were accused of a work stoppage. So we enforce the unworkable rule and you have a massive traffic jam in the city. Now we are Union Thugs. So what’s it going to be… gridlock? Go after the Transit Authority , they bought these unsafe buses. Go after the DOT when if you get them to tell the truth… traffic flow is more important to them then safety. I have correspondence from high level transit managers complaining that DOT won’t install turn signals because of traffic flow!!

  • Tommy

    We are always looking for pedestrians, bike messengers, cars, trucks… you name it. In the old days pedestrians would make eye contact with a turning bus operator, pedestrians would look at us and we would look at them… now everyone is buried in their phone… they have ear buds…the level of awareness is not what it used to be. The public needs to be informed that there are blind spots on these new buses and the operators are lower to the ground and don’t have the same view.

  • Tommy

    City DOT…. they routinely deny us left turn signals

  • Tommy

    Go rent a bus drive it down 5th Ave in the rush hour and get back to me.

  • Andrew

    Have you figured out how to make left turns at locations that have a constant flow of oncoming traffic? Because the answer to that question is the same as the answer to your question: you wait in the intersection with your turn signal blinking until the left turn can be made without conflict (at worst, that happens when the light changes) and then you complete your turn.

    Do you make left turns even when oncoming traffic is approaching your path? If not, then why do you apparently feel compelled to make turns even when pedestrians are approaching (or in) your path?

    Despite your union’s scare tactics, you’re not going to lose your job because you decide to obey the rules of the road. If that were the union’s actual concern, they’d push for legislation to protect their members’ jobs in light of traffic conditions. Perhaps they would also push for equipment and traffic engineering that would make it easier to drive safely. Instead, they’ve been spending their time and money trying to exempt professional drivers from penalties after they injure or kill pedestrians who they had no business getting close to in the first place.

    I’ve answered your question, Tommy. Now it’s your turn to answer mine: How are pedestrians supposed to cross the street? Keep in mind that (a) the walk phase at many locations is only a few seconds long, so any pedestrian who waits for a bus to turn has missed the light and now has to choose between crossing against the light or waiting a full cycle for the next walk signal; (b) pedestrians don’t have eyes in the backs of their heads; and (c) New York City Traffic Rules §4-03(c)(1) defines the walk signal as follows: “Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal in any crosswalk. Vehicular traffic shall yield the right of way to such pedestrians.”

  • Andrew

    Tommy, I don’t walk while using a cell phone or while wearing earbuds. Personal preference – I’ve found that, when I do, I behave rudely to my fellow pedestrians, so I don’t.

    But when it comes to crossing the street with the walk signal, none of that matters. The onus is on the driver – regardless of whether the pedestrian has made eye contact – to yield to the pedestrian.

    Period. No exceptions.

    You have a blind spot? Then don’t assume it’s vacant – assume it’s occupied. Watch for pedestrians in advance of the turn so that you notice them before they walk into your blind spot and know to wait until they come out the other end.

    There’s no excuse for killing a pedestrian who is crossing the street with the light. None. Ever. Drive accordingly.

  • Joe R.

    I grant you the points about the flaws in the bus design. I’ll also add when I’m walking or biking I’m usually aware of the general places where buses and large trucks have blind spots, so I avoid those areas. Unfortunately most people in this city don’t.

    I already gave you an answer about how to make a turn, namely having the bus preempt the traffic light perhaps one block prior to turning. This will allow the walk phase to finish, and those in the crosswalk to get to the other side, before the bus arrives. It will also mitigate DOT’s concerns about traffic flow since the signal would only be preempted whenever a bus wanted to turn. The problem with dumb timed left turn signals is the steal from the green phase every single cycle, whether someone wants to turn or not. That’s probably why DOT doesn’t like them. Another alternative to having the bus preempt the traffic signal is an on demand left turn signal. This wouldn’t require buses to have special equipment to change the traffic signal. Rather, a sensor would detect a vehicle in the left turn lane, and give a left turn signal until all the vehicles in the left turn lane cleared. Again, this can give you what you want without disrupting traffic flow as much. Why do you suggest either or both of these ideas to DOT? They might be more receptive.

    My sister’s ex-husbands brother-in-law used to drive a bus for the MTA. This was about 15 years ago but one thing he mentioned stood in my mind regarding the constant flow of pedestrians. The person who trained him said just keep turning very slowly in that situation. The people will get out of your way. I’m not saying the MTA still trains bus drivers this way now, but at least one person did in the past.

  • Andrew

    The person who trained him said just keep turning very slowly in that situation. The people will get out of your way.

    Um, Joe, this isn’t yielding to pedestrians. This is bullying pedestrians out of the way – or, to be more explicit, this is forcing pedestrians to yield to you by threatening to kill any who don’t.

    It’s blatantly illegal. If we had a police department at all interested in pedestrian safety, drivers who did it would be regularly ticketed on the spot. It’s no accident when a bus operator who routinely drives like that kills or injures a pedestrian.

    As for the rest of your suggestion, granting all left-turning traffic the right of way would obviously cause major disruptions to traffic flow. Left turn arrows make sense at some locations but they will never make sense at all. Regardless of how many are implemented, the basic law still applies: that all drivers, including bus drivers, turning on green balls (not arrows) are required to yield to both vehicular traffic and pedestrians lawfully making conflicting moves. Bus drivers have figured out how to do it with oncoming vehicular traffic, even heavy oncoming vehicular that keeps them waiting a long time. They can figure out how to do it with pedestrians as well. And if they’re still being trained to bully pedestrians out of the way, they need to stop NOW.

  • Joe R.

    I’m just repeating what I had heard. Yes, I totally agree it’s bullying pedestrians out of the way. Whether this was MTA standard operating procedure at the time or not I don’t know. Most likely it was just the trainer passing along some of his own unofficial suggestions, however bad those suggestions might be.

    Left turn signals activated on demand may make sense at some locations. The real solution is as I mentioned, which is to reduce the motor traffic which is the primary source of bus delays. Also, perhaps bus routes can be changed in some cases so there is no need to turn at intersections with heavy pedestrian traffic.

    Bus drivers have figured out how to do it with oncoming vehicular traffic, even heavy oncoming vehicular that keeps them waiting a long time.

    Based on what I’ve seen, their method is often similar to the method used to turn with heavy pedestrian traffic. They bully smaller vehicles out of the way. I recall an incident which occurred to my brother about 25 years ago. He was driving in the right traffic lane when a bus starts pulling out right in front of him. Now he had the right-of-way in this situation, so he laid on the horn and kept going. He hit the bus and there was minor damage to one of the panels near the back. The driver got out. My brother pointed out he had the legal right-of-way. The driver was at fault. The driver’s response was “When you see 40 feet coming at you, you stop”. So yes, bus drivers often do the same things to people in vehicles as on foot. The only difference is at least the people in vehicles have some protection.

  • walknseason

    You see – there it is!

  • Tommy

    Unfortunately Andrew you are speaking from a theoretical

    point of view. There is a lot to look at on a left turn and to assume that the blind spot is occupied would mean that no bus moves. You can’t focus only on pedestrians on a left turn, you have oncoming traffic, and 3 mirrors to scan. We do look for pedestrians in advance but these low floor buses don’t give us the same view as an RTS. I have had situations where I picked the pedestrian up in the crosswalk , started the turn and the pedestrian dropped something and bent down… scary stuff when you are operating a bus. Pedestrians also abruptly change course sometimes, school kids fooling around.. you name it. Streets dimly lit with someone wearing dark clothes. With all that we are still the safest operators in the world.

  • Tommy

    Another theoretical answer, Andrew. Give us left turn signals so we have a right of way. The Union does not buy buses the NYC Transit does.The Union does not set the routes. You should cross the Street without looking down at your phone and having ear buds. Safety is a two way street. So when the Union went on the road and told operators not to move their bus until the intersection was clear… you know what happened? We were threatened by the NYPD with arrest for causing gridlock. Bus riders were calling the politicians and telling them they were late for work. Transit dispatchers and Supt were sent to the scene and threatened to write operators up. Dam if we do , dam if we don’t. With your solution we would have more accidents and deaths.. gridlock causes people to get angry, people to get impatient. When I cross the street, I look behind and to the side of me at turning traffic.

  • neroden

    You know what you’re supposed to do when you’re driving into a place where you can’t see who’s coming and they might not be able to see you coming? It’s a standard piece of driving instruction.

    USE YOUR HORN. That’s what it’s actually FOR.

  • neroden

    The union (TWU local 100) is NOT ADVOCATING for left turn signals. If the TWU local 100 was advocating for left turn signals, we would be *supporting* them.

    Instead, the TWU local 100 is advocating in favor of killing and maiming pedestrians. Could you PLEASE remove your dangerous, vicious, and incompetent union leadership? I hear they’re supposed to be elected by the union members — replace them with competent people.

  • neroden

    Pull a gun and shoot the bus (and car) drivers, then continue across once they’re dead and the buses and cars can’t move?

    Not a serious suggestion at ALL. But if the Assembly passes these lunatic bills it’s going to sound rational by comparison.

  • neroden

    Many unions are fine. The TWU local 100 leadership has repeatedly proven itself SICK SICK SICK. Objectively pro-manslaughter. It is fair to criticize politicians for blind support of a blatantly corrupt union.

  • Tommy

    I am the Union Safety person for buses and I file for left turn signals all the time and they are rejected.

  • dporpentine

    Hi,
    My name is Tommy and I believe I kill people for a living.
    Please believe I’m a rational person.
    T’anks,
    Tommy

  • dporpentine

    I’ve driven all kinds of vehicles in New York City, even when I was very young, and I’ve managed to never kill anyone.

    Multiple family members of mine have been truckers. Also, no dead bodies there. Not even injuries!

    And yet there’s your rationalization engine chugging along, telling you that all the blood on the hands of MTA bus drivers was just the Lord’s work.

  • dporpentine

    Dearest TWU;

    I love public transportation. Love it. I love buses. I love trains. I spend a lot of time on both and a lot of energy advocating for more of them and therefore for more public transit workers.

    The vast majority of Americans, on the other hand, either hate public transportation or tolerate it as a necessary evil that they wish they had the money to avoid.

    Taking the position that your job requires you to kill makes it basically impossible for me–and other fierce advocates like me, who frequent this site and similar ones–to advocate for public transportation.

    That means your friends are . . . the haters.

    How you don’t get this I do not know.

    But you should get it.

    Skittles,
    dporpentine

  • Andrew

    Please answer the question, Tommy. How do I cross the street? Spell it out, please, from start to finish. To make it interesting, let’s assume we’re at a crosswalk with a 7-second walk phase.

    Nobody’s going to arrest you for yielding to pedestrians, but thank you for readily admitting that you are perfectly capable of yielding to pedestrians if you choose to do so.

  • Andrew

    With all that we are still the safest operators in the world.

    The safest operators in the world don’t need a special exemption from the law that protects pedestrians who are crossing the street exactly as pedestrians are supposed to cross the street from drivers who make illegal turns.

  • Andrew

    How does the Union Safety person feel about bus drivers who nudge pedestrians out of the way while they are trying to cross the street in the crosswalk with the light in their favor?

  • Andrew

    My apologies, I thought you were recommending that style of turning.

    Bus routes are being changed. Intersections are being redesigned. But it’s a slow process and it’s never going to eliminate all turns that bus routes make across active crosswalks.

  • Alicia

    Tommy, can you tell us what routes you drive on? I want to know the buses I should avoid next time I visit New York.

  • Spifford

    “There is a lot to look at on a left turn and to assume that the blind spot is occupied would mean that no bus moves.”

    Why is it ok for you to drive a huge bus where you can’t see, when you wouldn’t close your eyes and drive a car where you can’t see?

    DO NOT DRIVE WHERE YOU CAN’T SEE!

    It’s really that simple. Blind spot? Do not drive there, at all!

  • Spifford

    “So we enforce the unworkable rule and you have a massive traffic jam in the city.”

    Exactly! When are people going to learn that the current system doesn’t work and stop breaking the law to force it to work?

    “So what’s it going to be… gridlock?”

    Yes, because there’s too many vehicles on the road. If people actually obeyed the laws it’d be impossible to drive and people would find alternatives.

    Instead you have idiots making exemptions for the laws that don’t work and not addressing the cause.

  • Stewart Hughes

    they still havend adressde the design poblem, many bus drivers to ru naway after runing over in the 3 wor..

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