Safe street advocates joined City Council members in a rally on the steps of City Hall where they hailed the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Law that was approved on Tuesday.
Led by Council Speaker Corey Johnson and bill sponsor Brad Lander, the new law, Intro 971, would pursue owners of vehicles that get five or more red light violations or 15 or more school speed camera violations in a 12 month period and require those owners to take a driver accountability course. Companies or organizations whose vehicles meet these thresholds will be required to designate an individual responsible for fulfilling the requirements of the program.
If a driver fails to take the course, the vehicle will be subject to impounding by the Sheriffs office.
Amy Cohen, co-founder of Families for Safe Streets, was elated that they were finally going to pass this legislation.
“This is a big step forward today. We shouldn’t have had to wait this long an so many people should not have had to suffer — we are finally going to get reckless drivers off the road,” Cohen said. Her son Sammy was killed by a van on October 8, 2013 while chasing a soccer ball into the street.
“We are going to be booting bad drivers who are repeat offenders,” Cohen explained. “The vast majority of drivers get one or two speeding or red light camera tickets, but under a half a percent of New Yorker’s — there are 5,000 of them who are driving so dangerously that they are poised to kill somebody. We are going to stop them in their tracks before they do.”
Councilman Brad Lander representing Park Slope, the lead sponsor of the bill, said he was not willing to give up, especially after the death of two children on Ninth Street in Park Slope several years prior by a woman who was found to be dangerous driver.
“Today we are taking a big step forward, launching the first program of its kind in the country to require owners of the most dangerous vehicles to consider the impact of their driving on their neighbors,” Lander said. “Thanks to the powerful advocacy of Families for Safe Streets who shared their painful stories of loss over and over again to make the case for this bill. We are ready to move forward with an innovative, data driven scalable program to begin getting reckless drivers off the road.”
Council Speaker Corey Johnson said the bill would protect people from dangerous drivers.
“We are taking these steps to say that our streets need to be safe streets,” said Johnson as he complimented Lander for “going over every line and detail of this bill to make it happen.
“When there were difficult legal challenges, when there were folks telling us we didn’t have the legal authority, when people said we can’t go this far, it would’ve been easy to step back and tinker around the edges on something we already did before – Brad lander didn’t do that and he decided to keep forging ahead,” Johnson said.
“Whatever vehicle you are driving could be a deadly force and we want you to slow down and if you don’t and you get the number of violations that are outlined in this legislation, we are going to have to take the drastic step of getting you off the streets,” Johnson continued, “Because you are a danger to New Yorker’s, children, seniors. The vast number who get a speed camera ticket, pay it and slow down. But for the really reckless drivers who speed, speed, speed, we needed to come up with a blunt instrument to figure out how to get them off the streets.”
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg hailed the new law and said it would help to “deliver on our Vision Zero goals.”
“Most drivers learn their lessons from these cameras. However, under this bill, the drivers who do not learn that lesson will be accountable,” she said.
Ted Brook hailed the new law as a step in the right direction. He recalled people getting killed — two people on Second Avenue and two children in Park Slope. But he said there should be stronger penalties for those who cause harm.
“Somebody makes a wrong turn they should be accountable – somebody has a record of running red lights and not driving safely, there should be stronger laws, especially if they are killing people in the streets. Too many people are getting back to driving the next day or the same day.”
Jane Martin Lavaud of Bensonhurst said this was a step in the right direction. She wore her Coney Island Polar Bear club jacket, a group that her daughter, Lenora swam with and now she goes in ever year. Her daughter, who’s pictures she held at this rally, was killed in a drunk driver crash on Avenue U in Brooklyn in 2013.
“Her crash would not have been prevented by any of the measures we are taking today – drinking and driving with a car load of teens,” she said sadly.