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Speaker Adams on Reckless Drivers: ‘Going Forward, We’ll Look at Next Steps’

The City Council does not currently have a plan to replace or reauthorize the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program, which expires later this month.

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman/Streetsblog Photoshop Desk|

Here’s Council Speaker Adrienne Adams on Thursday, with the background blurred because, really, all eyes are on her.

The City Council does not currently have a plan to replace or reauthorize the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program, which expires later this month, nor does the legislature seem all that urgent about it.

The countdown to Oct. 26.Graphic: The Streetsblog Photoshop Desk

Asked on Thursday about the forthcoming Oct. 26 sunset of the Council-created initiative, which obligated the Department of Transportation to create a safety course for drivers with 15 or more camera-issued speeding tickets and subject some drivers to auto seizure, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams did not offer anything concrete.

"The DVAP was legislation intended to address reckless and dangerous driving," said Adams after being asked about reauthorizing or strengthening the three-year-old program. "As we consider possibilities going forward, we are going to take a look at next steps."

She said she was "proud" that the previous Council — overseen by then-Speaker Corey Johnson — passed the program. But she only that said she and her colleagues would "evaluate" the program and "hopefully, we will make recommendations" for a new one.

Hopefully? Activists were unimpressed.

"It’s really disheartening that our City Council would spend time and energy on creating a program only to react with disinterest as it fails," said Sara Lind of Open Plans (full disclosure: a sister organization of Streetsblog). "DVAP had the potential to get the most dangerous drivers off the road, but this feels like checking a box rather than actually putting in the work to craft an effective program. It’s appalling to see our leaders’ ambivalence to get this right before another New Yorker is hurt or killed by a reckless driver."

Adams also declined to comment on a recent DOT report that called the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement program a failure for multiple reasons: the very few numbers of drivers who actually took the safety course, the cost of setting up the program, challenges in determining if safety courses even work, and the shockingly low number (12) of cars belonging to the most reckless drivers that were eventually towed away for failure to comply with an order to take the course. (Ten of those cars were returned after a driver completed the course, according to DOT.)

In its report, the DOT called for the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program to simply sunset so that the agency can focus on a "two-pronged strategy" to rein in reckless drivers — though neither prong involves matters over which the city has full power.

First, the agency said it will back bills on the state level to remove reckless drivers, though the report only mentioned one bill, S451/A7621, which would allow the DMV to suspend the registration of any vehicle with five or more red light camera violations within 12 months. (A suspended registration does not guarantee that a driver stops using his or her car.)

The DOT also said it would "explore opportunities to expand driver education to driver populations more likely to benefit, including inexperienced new and young drivers," such as through a DVAP-style course "in high schools and colleges."

Transportation Alternatives has been calling for the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program to be reauthorized and strengthened.

"It's incredibly frustrating to see that the program was under-invested in, under-prioritized, and had no commitment to actually making this work," said Elizabeth Adams, the group's deputy executive director for Public Affairs. "We believe the Council needs to reauthorize and strengthen DVAP as part of a package of policies."

Both Adamses' comments came as news broke that a 26th cyclist had been killed in the city so far this year, the highest total at this point in any year in decades.

"Obviously, any death is distressing for the Council," Adrienne Adams said.

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