Legislation

Laws and regulations that effectively protect everyone on the street are instrumental to driving traffic crashes down in New York City. While the City Council has some authority to enact safety legislation, many of the laws that determine the safety of our streets are controlled in New York State law and regulations. New York City will work closely with the Governor's office and the state legislature to improve laws and regulations that affect the safety of New York City streets.

Vision Zero will require cooperation between City and State on a broad legislative and regulatory agenda to (1) give New York City control over speed limits and speed and red light cameras, (2) increase penalties for dangerous driving, and (3) improve standards for vehicle design and technology.

City Control of Street Safety

In 2014, New York City needs control over its red light and speed camera programs and the authority to lower its citywide speed limit to 25 miles per hour. These are essential components of a robust, sustained safety agenda. Camera enforcement of drivers who run red lights in the city has resulted in a 31% decline in pedestrian injuries at the affected intersections. Lower speed limits and their enforcement slows cars and protects people: a person struck by a car traveling at 40 miles per hour has a 70% chance of dying. At 30 miles per hour, she has 80% chance of surviving.

The City is proposing working with the State to change laws or regulations in order to:

Grant New York City local control over its speed camera and red light camera enforcement programs

State law currently allows the City to place red light cameras at 150 intersections and speed cameras at 20 locations near schools during school hours. These programs both have sunset provisions—the red light camera law sunsets in December 2014 and the speed camera law sunsets in 2018. To ensure public safety, the City must be able to decide the scope and duration of its camera enforcement programs. A7328/S3750 of 2009 and A4327-A/S4459-A of 2013 respectively authorize the City’s existing red light and speed cameras program.

City proposal

The de Blasio Administration proposes full local authority of the placement and number of red light and speed cameras to allow New York City to develop a red light camera and speed camera strategy without the influence of Albany politics.

Allow New York City to lower its citywide speed limit to 25 mph

In 2013, families who lost loved ones in traffic fatalities, City Council Members, and government agencies were eager to reduce New York City’s speed limit, but hit a legal hurdle. State law today grants the city authority to reduce speed limits on certain streets, but citywide speed limits cannot be lower than 30 miles per hour. The City needs the ability to lower its speed limit citywide to 25 miles per hour, rather than go street-by-street or neighborhood-by-neighborhood. Coupled with aggressive education and enforcement campaigns, a lower city wide speed limit will save lives.

This change can be achieved by giving New York City specific authority in Section 1643 of the State’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, which sets municipal speed limits. As of February 2014, legislation has been introduced to change certain elements of city law, but no proposals exist to allow New York City to reduce its speed limit under State Vehicle and Traffic Law.

If New York State pursues this change, it would follow other states that have recently passed legislation giving cities more control over citywide speed limits. For example, Washington State passed legislation in 2013 allowing localities to lower speed limits to 20 mph.

City proposal

The de Blasio Administration proposes modifying State Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 1643, to allow New York City to reduce its citywide speed limit to 25 miles per hour.

Other State Legislation

Additional legislative changes, ranging from criminal sanctions to vehicle design, will also be necessary to fully implement Vision Zero.

Reduce severity of truck crashes

Current federal regulations require rear impact guards for the wheels of trailers and semitrailer trucks in order to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries occurring when passenger vehicles crash into the back end of a truck. However, there are no national or local requirements for side guards to protect pedestrians and bicyclists from the risk of falling under the sides of trucks and being caught under the wheels. Side guards are required on certain motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers in Japan and in some European Union countries. Additionally, some side guards may provide environmental benefit through improved fuel efficiency through the reduction of aerodynamic drag on certain types of vehicles.

City proposal

The City supports the the Amar Diarrassouba Life-Saving Truck Guard Law (A6418 /S4326 of 2014), which requires trucks operated within the city to be equipped with rear wheel guards. Before passage, this legislation should be strengthened to include side guards as well.

Strengthen Penalties and Sanctions for Dangerous Driving

Those who operate vehicles in a dense and vibrant city like New York have a special responsibility to take care when driving. Reckless or dangerous driving that puts New York families at risk should not be tolerated. In order to crack down on dangerous driving, the City proposes legislation to:

Strengthen laws that punish drivers who carelessly harm pedestrians or bicyclists

New York State is one of a number of states that has created a special traffic violation that can be brought against dangerous drivers who, through carelessness, kill or seriously injure people on foot or riding bicycles. The Hayley and Diego law, named after two children who were killed in 2010 by a van driver in Chinatown, expanded the traffic violation of “failure to exercise due care” to provide additional enforcement tools against drivers who drive carelessly and injure pedestrians and bicyclists. Since its passage, the law has not been used as much as elected officials had hoped, partly because, for a traffic infraction, public policy generally requires police officers to be present to witness a crash in order to use the provisions of the law, unless they possess special expertise in crash investigation. The current law also fails to include highway workers as a category of protected street users.

City proposal

The City supports amendments to the Hayley and Diego law to make this violation a misdemeanor, increasing the penalties associated with carelessly harming a pedestrian or bicyclist. By making this a crime rather than a traffic infraction, the law would explicitly allow a police officer to issue a summons to a person who failed to exercise due care and seriously injured or killed a pedestrian or bicyclist, based upon probable cause, even if the officer was not present to witness the crash. The City would also support adding highway workers to the list of vulnerable road users protected under the law.

Increase penalties for driving with a suspended license

Chronic reckless drivers are a danger to the public: 75% of drivers with suspended or revoked licenses still get behind the wheel.

Although State law indicates that drivers may be subject to a "permanent" revocation of their driver's license, this action is not necessarily "permanent," as violators can — and often do — apply to get their license reissued. Strengthening penalties for repeat offenders would keep the most dangerous drivers off the street.

City proposal

The City supports legislation that would make it a class E felony for motorists who drive unlicensed or with a revoked or suspended license and kill or seriously injure someone in the process. This crime would carry a sentence of up to four years in prison.

Increase penalties for leaving the scene of an crash

Currently the penalties are more severe for a drunk driver who stays at the scene of a crash than they are for a driver who hits and runs. This perverse incentive must be changed. Increasing penalties for leaving the crash scene will deter drivers from leaving injured victims on the road, facilitate police investigation, and permit chemical testing of drivers by the police.

City proposal

The City supports legislation that would increase the penalty for leaving the scene of a crash, currently a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in prison, to match that of causing injury while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, a Class E felony that can carry up to four years imprisonment.

Protect workers in work zones from reckless driving

On a typical work day, DOT employees set up more than 20 work zones across the city to perform essential services that keep the driving public safe, including resurfacing roadways, repairing damaged traffic signs and potholes, clearing roadway debris, and repairing bridge structures. Much of this work is to implement the very safety and redesign improvements that are key to improving street safety.

When drivers intrude upon work zones, they can kill or seriously injure the people working. On September 22, 2005, a driver recklessly entered a closed off, active work zone and fatally struck DOT Assistant City Highway Repairman Nicholas Antico and injured two other workers who were performing maintenance work on a major street in Staten Island. Tougher penalties are necessary for drivers who are convicted of either killing or injuring construction workers or for those who intrude into work zones.

City proposal

The City supports legislation that defines the new crime of intrusion into an active work zone and creates the new crimes of vehicular manslaughter in an active work zone, helping to prosecute drivers who threaten DOT workers. The City also seeks to amend State Penal Law 120.05 to cover DOT employees engaged in work or inspecting work on a highway among those workers with enhanced protection against assault.

Improve state driver education to improve interactions with pedestrians and bicyclists

In New York City, large numbers of pedestrians and drivers co-exist in close proximity. The City has also seen bicycle riding quadruple over the last decade, with a 50% increase in the last five years alone. In addition, the launch of the Citibike program in May 2013 added millions of new bike trips. In the DMV mandated pre-licensing course, prospective drivers are not tested on safe roadway practices around pedestrians and cyclists, despite their heavy presence on city streets.

City proposal

The City supports legislation or regulatory changes that would update the mandatory pre-licensing course for drivers to include topics on bicyclist and pedestrian safety such as how to safely pass a bicyclist on the road, how to navigate an intersection with pedestrians and bicyclists, and the dangers of motorists to bicyclists and pedestrians.

Reform the DMV “point” system to re-evaluate point levels for dangerous driver behavior and to increase deterrent value of points

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s driving record “point” system is a powerful tool for shifting driver behavior. High point offenses, or a number of offenses in a short period of time, can result in license suspension or revocation, as well as consequences for automobile insurance premiums. Under current DMV policy, the failure to exercise due care, in which careless driving results in the death or injury of a pedestrian or bicyclist, results in just 2 points on a driver’s record. Meanwhile, texting while driving yields 5 points.

In addition, current DMV policy requires the “points” to be assigned based on the date of the violation rather than by the date of the conviction of the offense. This allows widespread gaming of the points system by delaying adjudication of offenses until after the statute of limitation on points has expired.

City proposal

The point values of driving offenses should be reassessed in order to ensure that the most dangerous offenses are punished with the most severe point values, and the point value of “failure to exercise due care” should be increased. In addition, the DMV should explore changing their policy to have points take effect on the date of conviction rather than the date of violation, which currently allows delays in traffic hearings to dilute punishment.

Encourage Safe Driving by Drivers of Taxis and For-Hire Vehicles

Every day New York City’s professional taxi and other for-hire vehicles carry more than one million passengers, making them a vital and valued set of street users. But those who drive professionally in the City of New York, with licenses extended by the City, have a special responsibility to be models of safe driving. In order to improve Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) enforcement against dangerous driving among those in the vehicle fleet it regulates, the City will seek legislation or rule changes to:

Increase penalties for those who flee TLC inspectors

TLC enforcement officers frequently encounter “runners” - drivers who flee TLC enforcement officers who are attempting to question them or issue them a summons. This poses an obvious impediment to enforcement as well as a serious safety hazard for officers, other drivers, and pedestrians.

City proposal

The City supports City Council legislation to create criminal misdemeanor penalties for drivers who flee TLC enforcement so that TLC inspectors can take down the runner’s license plate number and forward it to NYPD for arrest on TLC’s complaint.

Increase sanctions for dangerous TLC driver behavior

Under current rules, TLC drivers involved in deadly crashes involving dangerous driver behavior can remain licensed and on the road, potentially putting New York families at risk.

City proposal

In order to more expeditiously remove unsafe drivers from the road, TLC will pursue rule changes at the Commission to increase the number of TLC points accrued for safety-related violations, including failure to exercise due care in circumstances resulting in a serious injury or death of a pedestrian or bicyclist. In addition, TLC will pursue City Council legislation to increase the number of DMV Critical Driver points associated with safety-related violations for TLC drivers. The TLC will pursue adding “failure to exercise due care” to the list of offenses for which a pre-hearing suspension can be issued, taking drivers off the road while potential charges are pending.

Combine critical driver (DMV) and persistent violator (TLC) points

Today, taxi drivers can accrue DMV points for moving violations as well as accrue TLC points for violating TLC rules but, under local law, suspension and revocation penalties are assessed separately. City Council legislation is needed to allow the TLC to issue suspension and revocation penalties to drivers who have accumulated both TLC points, under the Persistent Violator Program, and DMV points, under the Critical Driver Program, for serious traffic violations. Six points results in suspension and more than 10 in revocation.

City proposal

The City will pursue City Council legislation to permit TLC to count both DMV points and TLC points together when evaluating whether to suspend or revoke a license.

Require additional driver education and pilot new technologies

TLC Commission rules do not allow TLC to require additional driving instruction for drivers involved in frequent crashes or to pilot black box technology or to include a left turn reminder sticker in vehicles. While TLC requires taxi drivers to attend taxi school and pass an English exam, it does not require any additional behind the wheel instruction beyond passing the State DMV road test.

City proposal

Pursue rule changes to require additional behind the wheel driving instruction for drivers involved in frequent crashes. Additionally, TLC will pursue rule changes to pilot the use of black box data recorders, pilot technology that alerts passengers and drivers that they are traveling over the speed limit, and permit drivers to include a left turn reminder sticker in their vehicle.

Allow TLC to use speed cameras to sanction law-breaking drivers

State law on speed and bus lane cameras currently prohibits TLC from using images of TLC vehicles caught on camera speeding or blocking bus lanes in its tribunals.

City proposal

The City also supports changing the speed and bus lane camera laws to allow TLC to issue tickets to TLC licensed drivers caught speeding or driving in the bus lane. Convicting on a TLC summons to the driver would result in penalty points towards suspension and revocation.

Improve Vehicle Safety

New York City families deserve assurances that large and dangerous vehicles on the street are designed with pedestrian and bicyclist safety in mind. Truck and bus crashes are nearly three times more likely to result in a pedestrian fatality than crashes involving passenger vehicles. The City recommends legislation that would:

Require rear wheel and side guards for trucks operating in New York City

Current federal regulations require rear impact guards for the wheels of trailers and semi-trailer trucks in order to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries occurring when passenger vehicles crash into the back end of a truck. However, there are no national or local requirements for side guards to protect pedestrians and bicyclists from the risk of falling under the sides of trucks and being caught under the wheels.

Side guards are required on certain motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers in Japan and in some European Union countries. Additionally, some side guards may provide environmental benefit through improved fuel efficiency through the reduction of aerodynamic drag on certain types of vehicles.

City proposal

The City supports legislation that would require large trucks operated within the city to be equipped with rear wheel guards and side guards.