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Hit-and-run, taxi driver assault bills get mayoral support

A green New York City taxi travels in

A green New York City taxi travels in lower Manhattan on June 10, 2014. Photo Credit: Theodore Parisienne

The de Blasio administration Wednesday backed bills that would hike fines on hit-and-run drivers and notify taxi riders of the jail time they’ll face for assaulting a driver.

The NYPD testified at a hearing in support of a bill from Councilmembers Jimmy Van Bramer and Ydanis Rodriguez that would hit drivers with a penalty of up to $5,000 for the most serious hit-and-run cases on top of any criminal charges and fines the state can hand down.

Van Bramer said current penalties for fleeing the scene are less severe than drunken driving, giving a "perverse incentive" for intoxicated motorists to speed off from the scene of a collision.

"We've got to make it imperative to drivers that if you hit anything, whether it be another car, a person, a cyclist, you have a legal and moral obligation to stop," Van Bramer said. "If you don't, we in the city ... are stiffening the penalties, literally doubling down on the penalties on the civil side."

Meanwhile, Taxi and Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi lent support to another bill that would require a sign in cabs that says an assault on a driver can carry a maximum 25-year jail sentence-a similar warning featured on buses. She also would consider putting the warning on the backseat information screens as well and recommended the bill cover all TLC-regulated vehicles commuter vans and paratransit service.

Erhan Tuncel , director of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, said the sticker is a good start, but would like to see those who assault drivers get hit with felony charges, similar to laws protecting other transportation workers.

"The public might view that assaulting a cabdriver is like an assault in any other case," Tuncel said. "Meanwhile it's not. It is punishable up to 25 years, but we feel that doesn't happen often enough."


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