City Council Transportation Committee Hearing

<h2>Taxi and Livery Driver Safety and Crash Reporting</h2> <p>Testimony by Noah Budnick, Deputy Director, Transportation Alternatives<br/><br/></p> <p>Wednesday, September 3, 2014<br /> <br/><br/><br /> Good morning, Chairman Rodriguez and members of the Transportation Committee. My name is Noah Budnick, and I am the Deputy Director of Transportation Alternatives, New York City’s advocates for safe streets, biking, walking and public transportation. Thank you for convening this important hearing.<br/><br/></p> <p>I’m very happy to be at the City Council this morning to testify in strong support of these important legislative proposals. Thanks to Council Majority Leader Van Bramer and Council Member Lancman for moving the bills forward. They will advance Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero agenda and help eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries in New York City by 2024.<br/><br/></p> <h3>Protecting Professional Taxi and Livery Drivers and Protecting New Yorkers</h3> <p><br/></p> <p>Transportation Alternatives supports Councilmember Lancman’s proposal to post warnings in taxis and liveries that it is a serious crime to assault the drivers. This commonsense bill will make drivers, passengers and the public safer.<br/><br/></p> <p>Transportation Alternatives is a long-time supporter of taxis, liveries and for-hire vehicles because we view them as part of New York’s public transportation network. They enable New Yorkers to take advantage of the city’s great car-free way of life by providing convenient, on-demand transportation for more than 250 million people a year.<br/><br/></p> <p>Taxis, liveries and other for-hire vehicles also set the pace on New York City streets, which means that they are inseparable from achieving Vision Zero. Their drivers must be able to give their undivided attention to navigating our dense urban landscape, filled with people of all ages who are walking, biking, strolling, and who are extremely vulnerable to injury or death if struck by any driver.<br/><br/></p> <p>Taxi and livery drivers work demanding jobs that expose them to the breadth of the city and, as such, they have earned legal protections. We are all familiar with the signs the MTA posts in subways and buses, informing passengers that it’s a crime to assault MTA workers. Councilmember Lancman’s proposal simply extends a similar provision to another form a public transportation and its workers.<br/><br/></p> <p>The potential of being assaulted should be the last thing on a taxi or livery driver’s mind, and promoting the laws that protect these drivers is a commonsense step towards their safety and towards road safety at a higher level.<br/><br/></p> <h3>Creating a Culture of Justice and Responsibility on Our Roads</h3> <p><br/></p> <p>We’ve all read the lede in the papers so many times that we can recite it by heart: “Police are searching for the driver of a vehicle who struck a pedestrian and fled the scene.” We’ve all worked with families to bring them justice after a loved one was struck and abandoned by a driver. To hit and run—i.e. to leave the scene of a crash without reporting it—to leave a fellow human being to die is beyond unjust, it’s immoral and heartless.<br/><br/></p> <p>Nonetheless, it feels like we read about it daily in the newspapers:<br/><br/></p> <p>From November 27, 2009: “Funeral arrangements have been released for the Great Kills couple killed on their way to Thanksgiving Eve mass in a hit-and-run accident,” the Staten Island Advance announced.<br/><br/></p> <p>The next day, November 28, 2009: “A 40-year-old woman walking with her fiancé in the Bronx was killed by a hit-and-run driver who had a suspended license, records show,” wrote the Daily News.<br/><br/></p> <p>From March 4, 2013: “A close-knit ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn was plunged into a new round of mourning Monday by the death of a baby who was delivered by cesarean section after his parents were killed in a grisly hit-and-run crash a day earlier,” reported the Huffington Post.<br/><br/></p> <p>And, from August 18 of this year: “One pedestrian was killed and another critically injured in separate collisions involving hit-and-run drivers in Queens and the Bronx on Monday,” the Daily News wrote.<br/><br/></p> <p>There are roughly three-dozen hit and run deaths a year in New York City. Three-dozen instances where a victim and their family are deprived of help and answers. The more time that passes after a crash, the faster the evidence disappears, and the harder it is for the police to investigate.<br/><br/></p> <p>Transportation Alternatives strongly supports Council Member Van Bramer’s bill to create civil penalties for leaving the scene of a crash without filing a report—otherwise known as “hit and run.”<br/><br/></p> <p>Striking someone with a car, causing them serious injury or death, and then fleeing the scene, is one of the most heinous crimes. Not only does the driver ignore their own responsibility to another person’s life, but they also leave victims exposed and without treatment in the street, and they deny families closure and justice. Drivers who hit a person and flee, also remain on the streets to continue driving recklessly, putting more lives at risk.<br/><br/></p> <p>Transportation Alternatives has five recommendations to strengthen Intro 371 with the goal of holding hit-and-run drivers accountable and protecting the most vulnerable people.<br/></p> <ul> <li>Since the City of New York cannot pass laws that assign jail time for hit and run, Transportation Alternatives urges the City to increase the monetary penalties for all sections in Intro 371 to compensate. This will help ensure that the law is an effective deterrent to hit and run and compel people from leaving the scene of a collision.</li> </ul> <p>It is our social responsibility to protect the most vulnerable people in our city, which is why New York has laws like “Hayley and Diego’s Law” (Vehicle and Traffic Law Article 1146) and the City’s important new section of Administrative Code section 19-190 that require drivers to exercise due care and yield the right-of-way to people on foot and bicycle (Intro 238-2014/Local Law 29-2014). In New York, on our roads, the most vulnerable are the old and the young and those on foot and on bicycle, and they need extra protection in any way we can provide it, laws included.<br/><br/></p> <p>Pedestrians and bike riders account for over half the traffic deaths in New York City every year. In a collision with a vehicle, they are ten times more likely to die than vehicle occupants. For New York City kids 14 and younger, traffic is the number one cause of injury death, and for older New Yorkers traffic is leading cause of injury death after falls —and, though they make up only 13 percent of New York City’s population, people over 65 years old account for 35 percent of the pedestrian deaths.</p> <ul> <li>Transportation Alternatives urges the City to include similar protections for vulnerable road users in Intro 371 by increasing the penalties for drivers who leave the scene of a crash with a pedestrian or bicyclist and to raise them further if the walker or bike rider was under 14 or over 65 years old.</li> </ul> <p>Hit-and-run drivers are often serial reckless drivers. In the 2013 crash that killed the family in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the driver had been arrested for drunken driving two weeks earlier. The pattern of repeat offenders raises important issues to consider in developing this legislation.<br/><br/></p> <p>Under New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law (Article 22, Section 600), anyone who is convicted of hit and run more than once may face a penalty of $1,000 to $2,500 in addition to any other hit and run and other penalties set in relation to the crash.<br/><br/></p> <ul> <li>Transportation Alternatives urges the City to include a similar provision for repeat offenders in Intro 371, so that it continues to mirror the fiscal penalties in the New York State statute.</li> </ul> <p>Traffic safety and traffic enforcement experts believe that many hit-and-run drivers are intoxicated and flee the scene in order to sober up. In New York State, the penalties for hit and run are less severe than for DWI, so, perversely, it is in an intoxicated driver’s own best interest to leave the scene after a crash and get the drugs or alcohol out of their system.<br/><br/></p> <ul> <li>To prevent intoxicated drivers from leaving the scene of a crash, Transportation Alternatives recommends that the City include additional penalties in Intro 371 for any driver who leaves the scene of a crash and is found to have been intoxicated at the time of the collision. (These additional penalties might mirror the fine structure under New York State Driving While Intoxicated and Driving While Ability Impaired laws.)</li> </ul> <p>Similarly, unlicensed drivers or people with suspended licenses may flee the scene of a crash because they think they can escape penalties. The 2009 crash in the Bronx was perpetrated by a driver with a suspended license. These people are four times more likely to be involved in crashes than those with valid licenses. According to US DOT data, 10 percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes in New York State did not have valid licenses (of these, 20 percent had previously been involved in crashes).<br/><br/></p> <ul> <li>To prevent unlicensed and suspended license drivers from abandoning a crash victim, Transportation Alternatives urges the City to include additional penalties in Intro 371 for these drivers who hit and run.</li> </ul> <p>The goals here are all the same: to deliver aid and justice to crash victims as quickly as possible, and to deter reckless driving and prevent crashes in the first place. As the City Council and de Blasio Administration continue to develop this proposal, we hope that you will invest in a sustained, high-profile public education campaign to ensure that New Yorkers know it is illegal and culturally unacceptable in the five boroughs to leave the scene of a collision.<br/><br/></p> <p>The best possible outcome would be for the City Council and Mayor to pass this law and for the Police Department to never enforce it because New Yorkers know that it is their civic responsibility, and that it is the right thing to do to stay by the side of an injured party and get them help.<br/><br/></p> <p>This is the leadership that brought Vision Zero to New York City, and this is the leadership that will help us achieve it.<br/><br/></p> <p>Thank you.<br/><br/><br/></p>
Secondary Title
Hearing on Introductions 82 and 371