Julia Kite, Policy and Research Director
May 2nd, 2017
Intros 1418 and 1463 - with recommendations
Thank you, Committee Chairs Rodriguez and Gibson for calling this hearing. My name is Julia Kite, and I am the Policy and Research Director of Transportation Alternatives, New York City’s 44-year-old membership organization dedicated to walking, biking, and safer streets.
Hit-and-runs have long been an epidemic in New York City - one that is only becoming worse. While traffic deaths decreased in 2016, the number of people killed in hit-and-runs actually increased by approximately one-third over 2015’s totals. In the first nine days of 2017 alone, four New Yorkers lost their lives in hit-and-run crashes.
What fuels hit-and-runs is a culture of reckless driving. We thank the Council, and Committee Chairs Rodriguez and Gibson for their leadership regarding Vision Zero initiatives, including passing previous legislation regarding hit-and-run reporting and increased penalties for re-offenders. We support both Intro 1418, which establishes a reward for information leading to the apprehension, prosecution, or conviction of hit-and-run drivers who kill or seriously injure their victims; and Intro 1463, which establishes a public notification system for hit-and-run incidents. This legislation is desperately needed: According to the most recent publicly available NYPD data, in fiscal year 2016, over 5,000 people were injured in hit-and-run crashes, but less than 10% of drivers in these cases were arrested. If measures can be taken to facilitate and incentivize the identification of these drivers, then they absolutely should be taken. This legislation will help establish public deterrence against hit-and-runs and create the awareness that, as a driver, you must never leave a victim behind.
However, we have concerns that the definition of hit-and-runs and injuries in this legislation may limit the City’s ability to issue alerts and rewards following suspected hit-and-runs.
- Intro 1463, which would create a public notification system, refers to leaving the scene “when any driver who, knowing or having cause to know that serious physical injury has been caused to a person due to an incident involving the driver’s motor vehicle.”
- Similarly, Intro 1418 currently allows for a reward to be established in crashes involving serious physical injury or death.
- Serious physical injury, as defined in Section 10.00 of the New York Penal Law, is “physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes death or serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.”
- This limited definition is problematic because drivers who leave the scene of a crash rarely stop long enough to assess the severity of injuries to their victims, nor are most drivers equipped to make a diagnosis. Additionally, first responders often require a significant amount of time to determine injury severity.
- Finally, we believe the NYPD and City should have the ability to issue alerts and establish rewards in hit-and-run crashes even when a victim’s injuries are less than life-threatening, reflecting that leaving the scene is egregious in and of itself, regardless of injury severity.
- Therefore, we suggest adding “personal injury” (as defined in the NY Penal Law) to Intros 1418 and 1463, so that alerts and rewards can be initiated for crashes involving both “personal injury” and “serious physical injury” or death.
The NYPD must also expand and reform its Collision Investigation Squad to conduct more thorough hit-and-run investigations, especially with regard to the thousands of cases where the victims survive. We also urge the City to continue to work closely with Albany lawmakers to align the penalty for hit-and-runs with that of certain DWI offenses, so that drivers who may have consumed drugs or alcohol will no longer have a perverse incentive to flee crash scenes, which undermines investigations and prevents devastated families from getting their day in court.
Thank you for your continued leadership on this matter.
 Available at http://www.nyc.gov/html/nypd/downloads/pdf/traffic_data/leaving_scene-fy-2016nycc.pdf