One of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s programs since he took office last year is “Vision Zero”, which is designed to reduce traffic and pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries in New York City. The Vision Zero program has already resulted in a reduction of the standard speed limit in the city from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour, the installation of additional red light cameras and traffic reconfiguration at dangerous intersections.
Another element of the program which is encountering some strong resistance, particularly from transportation unions, is a regulation designed to increase the penalties for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians crossing the street, resulting in fatalities or serious injuries. This aspect of Vision Zero has come to the forefront recently after a tragic accident on February 13, 2015. A fifteen year old girl walking to school was crossing Grand Street with a walk signal when she was struck by an MTA bus operated by Francisco DeJesus. The young girl was pinned under the front wheel of the bus while Mr. DeJesus was making a left turn, and suffered serious left leg injuries.
Based on the new right of way law with enhanced penalties for pedestrian fatalities or serious injuries, a violation of the law is now classified as a misdemeanor, rather than a traffic ticket. Drivers who are found to have violated the law can be sentenced to up to thirty days in jail and face fines of up to $250.00. Mr. DeJesus was arrested for violating the failure to yield law, which his union, the Transportation Workers Union Local 100, feels is unfair. They contend that DeJesus was not distracted by texting or using a cell phone, was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and was not driving recklessly. Rather, this was simply a tragic accident, due to a combination of the chaotic nature of making a left turn on city streets and the blind spots on a bus.