TLC commissioners look askance at Vision Zero laws

Outside of the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s office Thursday, Dana Lerner, whose son Cooper was killed by a cabdriver last year, praised the agency as the “first organization who has been trying to help.”

But inside, members of the TLC board balked at the new Vision Zero laws, including one that bears Cooper’s name, which they must turn into enforceable rules. The board members raised concerns about how they could affect drivers’ livelihoods.

“I do understand there’s a law that was passed and as an agency we have to kind of go along with it,” said Commissioner Lauvienska Polanco. “But I have serious concerns with these rules.”

The TLC met to hear testimony on implementing three Vision Zero laws, including Cooper’s Law, which goes into effect Sunday and will let the TLC suspend a hack’s license after a crash causing serious injury or death where there is also a traffic summons or charge. The license would be revoked after conviction. The other laws combine points on a driver’s license from the TLC and the DMV while cutting points for 38 non-safety infractions, and require the TLC to examine NYPD crash investigation results.

A vote on the rules is expected to take place at an October hearing.

Commissioner Nora Marino said the rules could be a “slippery slope that could lead to severe punishment” after an incident caused by negligence.

“It’s almost like a shoot-now-and-ask-questions-later approach,” she said after the TLC meeting. “I think it’s a little Draconian and it just has an assumption of recklessness as opposed to negligence.”

Lerner, who formed Families for Safe Streets, joined Vision Zero supporters Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives and Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, author of Cooper’s Law’s, whose district covers the Upper West Side intersection where he was killed.

“I am unfortunately,” Lerner said before the meeting, “worried that these laws, Cooper’s Law, is not going to be enforced properly.”

A spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio referred request for comment to the TLC.

“Rule-making is always a deliberative process that follows legislative passage. It often results in clarification, sometimes generated by input, that enables laws to be enforced – as it should, but those won’t, and by definition cannot, change the governing laws,” TLC Commissioner and chief Meera Joshi said in a statement. “The TLC will act on Cooper’s Law as it was written.”

Alana Miller, policy coordinator for Transportation Alternatives, which advocates for Vision Zero, said the commissioners’ remarks were “alarming and concerning.”

“Our goal is never to punish people or put them in jail and take their livelihood,” she said. “We believe these rules provide a strong disincentive for reckless behavior. TLC drivers should be held to the highest standard.”

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