By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio last week urged lawmakers in Albany to put aside politics and pass tougher state laws to keep dangerous drivers off the streets after two children were killed in a crash in Park Slope earlier this month.
De Blasio used the success of his Vision Zero initiative on Queens Boulevard as an example. In the three years since the implementation of the initiative’snew street design, there have been no fatalities along the thoroughfare once known as the Boulevard of Death. In 1997, its worst year, Queens Boulevard had 18 fatalities.
“I want to say to everyone in Albany this cannot be about politics. Everyone at this point has to recognize it’s a matter of life and death,” de Blasio said. “And I’ll tell you one thing we learned from Vision Zero, a lot of people said in the beginning that it you lower the speed limit, you’d get a lot of political opposition. If you redesign the streets, you’ll get a lot of political opposition; if you put bike lanes on Queens Boulevard you’ll get a lot of political opposition. We can listen to communities, we can work with communities, but this is about saving lives.”
The city is seeking to extend and expand its speed enforcement camera program, escalate fines and suspend the vehicle registrations of repeat offenders, and require physicians to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles following medical events that could cause a driver to lose control of a vehicle. To implement all three programs, state laws would need to be changed.
“In the wrong hands a car can be a deadly weapon,” de Blasio said. “We are fighting on every front to make our streets safer, but we need Albany’s help to keep dangerous drivers off the road, before we lose another life.”
City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), the chairman of the Council’s Committee on Public Safety, said every lost life on the street is a tragedy and “we must do everything in our power” to make sure dangerous drivers do not get behind the wheel.
“Having safe streets for our families is one of the most important elements of public safety, so we must take action now to protect New Yorkers and support law enforcement to ensure this never happens again.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) introduced legislation last year that would add 610 speed cameras in school zones, up from the current 140 citywide. Speed cameras have been proven to reduce speeding in school zones by 63 percent, but Peralta’s bill stalled in the Senate during the last legislative session in Albany.
“Speeding and reckless drivers put New Yorkers’ lives in danger every day, and we must ensure we all work together to keep our streets safe,” Peralta said. “As part of my efforts to protect children, pedestrians and cyclists, I have worked tirelessly to pass my proposal to expand and extend the school zone speed camera program. With more than one million schoolchildren traveling to and from school every day, we have the responsibility to protect them, Unquestionably, the safety of our children and all New Yorkers should come first. The time for excuses is over.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr