By Bill Parry
A weekend hit-and-run collision in the Bronx has one city councilman in Queens reminding his constituents of stiff new civil penalties under a new Vision Zero law.
Shawn Williams, 26, was arrested on charges of fleeing the scene after allegedly hitting 16-year-old Dylon Ramirez, who died, and a 15-year-old girl who were walking home from church.
In addition to potential jail time, Williams faces a $10,000 fine under the new “Justice for Hit-and-Run Victims Act” that became law this week.
“This will save lives by deterring those who would think to flee the scene of a collision and leave a fellow New Yorker to die in the street,” the act’s co-author, Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), said. “I was moved to introduce this bill in response to the death of three people who were killed in my district by drivers who fled the scene.”
Van Bramer remembered Luis Bravo in Woodside, Kumar Ragunath and Karen Pheras when the bill was passed in September.
“We will never know if one or all of our fellow New Yorkers could have been saved had the drivers done the right thing: stop their car, call 911 and get assistance,” Van Bramer said.
The passage of the legislation came five days before the one-year anniversary of Louis Bravo’s death. The 19-year-old was killed on Broadway in Woodside by a hit-and-run driver.
“This law gives parents the ability to trust that the authorities will hold drivers accountable for their actions and help ensure no family ever has to suffer the pain of losing a loved one,” Bravo’s mother, Marta Puruncajas, said.
Safe streets advocates praised the new law and are confident it will help save lives.
“The (law) will help bring answers and resolution to people affected by this particularly heinous form of traffic violence,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said. “By compelling drivers involved in collisions to stay at the scene and provide information to officers it will bring the city closer to the goal of Vision Zero by delivering aid to the victims, and by deterring the kind of reckless driving that leads to crashes in the first place.”
Dr. Laura Newman, who co-founded Make Queens Safer last year, said, “In Queens alone, six pedestrians and cyclists were killed in 2014 by hit-and-run drivers; Karol Grzegorczyk, Kaneez Hussain, Mosa Khatun, Kumar Ragunath, Wayne White, and an unnamed cyclist. Many others have been injured. We applaud this (law), as it will serve as a motivator to drivers to do the right thing—call for emergency services and law enforcement if you are involved in a motor vehicle crash.”
In an effort to continue cracking down on reckless drivers, Van Bramer has introduced two additional bills which propose to increase civil penalties for repeat offenders who leave the scene of a hit-and-run collision as well as require the city to report violations under the “Justice for Hit-and-Run Victims Act.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4538.