Bill Creating the Offense Careless Driving Introduced in New York to Protect Pedestrians, Bicyclists and Other Vulnerable Road Users

Known as The Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez Law, bills have been introduced in the Assembly (A.7917) and the Senate (S.5292) establishing the offense of careless driving under a new section 1146-b to the Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL), and imposing penalties when a violation results in the serious injury or death of a vulnerable user of a public way.

The law defines careless driving as driving without due care or in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property. A vulnerable user is defined as a pedestrian, highway worker, person riding an animal, or person operating a farm tractor, skateboard, roller or inline skates, scooter or bicycle on a public way, crosswalk, or highway shoulder (new section 159-a of the VTL).

Passage of the law is being heavily supported by civic organizations such as CHEKPEDS (Clinton Hell’s Kitchen coalition for Pedestrian Safety) and Transportation Alternatives. On the morning of January 22, 2009, Diego Martinez, age 3, and Hayley Ng, age 4, were walking with their preschool class on East Broadway in Manhattan when an unattended three-ton delivery van jumped the curb in reverse and killed them. The driver had double parked while making a delivery and left the truck running and in reverse, when it rolled onto the sidewalk, killing the two preschoolers and injuring twelve others.

The law mandates, under a new paragraph (e) of Subdivision 2 of Section 510 of the VTL, suspension or revocation of a driver’s license and imposition of a fine of up to ten thousand dollars when the violation results in the serious injury or death of a vulnerable user.

Serious physical injury has the meaning specified in subdivision ten of section 10.00 of the penal law. It appears that these penalties can be avoided if the person completes a traffic safety course and performs up to sixty days of community service which includes activities related to driver improvement and providing public education on traffic safety.

The bill’s Justification section notes the particular risk of injury or death from collision facing pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians, farm workers and other recreational road users that travel on New York State’s public roads. In 2007, 322 vulnerable users were killed and 20,845 vulnerable users were injured on New York State roads. While vulnerable users were involved in only 6% of total crashes in New York State, they accounted for 24% of all crash fatalities. Among vulnerable users, children and seniors account for a disproportionate number of deaths and injuries.

In New York City, motor vehicles remain the leading cause of accidental child death and, on average, 85% percent of these children are pedestrians. Seniors are more prone to fatality if involved in a crash than the general population. In New York City, people aged 65 years and older make up about 12% of the population, yet comprised 39% of the city’s pedestrian fatalities from 2002-2006. Almost half of vulnerable user injuries and fatalities occur within the five boroughs.

The legislation states that it is intended to provide district attorneys who are unable or unwilling to pursue criminal charges with an additional option, creating a greater measure of justice and social deterrence against careless drivers who seriously injure or kill vulnerable roadway users. The proposed law is similar to existing laws in Oregon and Illinois.

The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims including those involving auto accidents. For over 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas.

If you or someone close to you has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. To learn more, watch our videos.

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