By Paul Steely White
We at Transportation Alternatives are outraged that Albany lawmakers have ended the session without taking action on a number of bills related to street safety. We are profoundly dismayed by the lack of leadership and cooperation in both the Assembly and the Senate to address urgent transportation safety issues.
Lawmakers failed to advance the Every School Speed Safety Act, which would have allowed New York City to deploy more cameras in school zones and operate them during after-school hours, when many serious crashes take place.
Assembly members and senators also failed for the second year in a row to take an important step to combat the scourge of hit-and-run—which is particularly galling at a moment when New York City has seen five fatal hit-and-run crashes in eight days. The bills before state lawmakers would have taken the long-overdue step of aligning the penalty for injury hit-and-run with the penalty for Driving While Intoxicated. Under current law, drivers who may have consumed alcohol and are then involved in a collision have a perverse incentive to flee, since the penalty for a DWI is now more severe than the penalty for leaving the scene.
Other measures that have not moved for two years in a row would have increased penalties for violations like drugged driving and unlicensed driving. Lawmakers failed to take action on bills to establish a school transportation safety task force, require NYS DOT to establish five- and 20-year plans for the state’s transportation network, put safety cameras on school buses, regulate e-bikes, and require drivers to give bicyclists three feet of distance when passing. Though several bills passed one chamber or the other, none passed both chambers.
Actually, there was an exception, but its demise is especially frustrating. The bills would have required the DMV to educate license applicants about driving safely in the presence of bicyclists and pedestrians. The legislation passed both chambers but died in committee after the two versions could not be reconciled because one used the word “may” instead of “shall.” In this case, it appears that inaction combined with the habit of passing bills in the final week, caused another piece of safety legislation to wither in Albany.
Too many New Yorkers continue to be killed and maimed in preventable crashes. Street safety advocates will be back in Albany in the fall to call on lawmakers to step up and take action on these life-saving measures in the next session.
Paul Steely White