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New NY Traffic Laws Protect Pedestrians

By Dave Lucas


Albany, NY – The Streets of New York State are safer thanks to a pair of new laws signed over the weekend by Governor David Paterson. Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas reports.

Paterson signed two bills designed to keep dangerous drivers off the road. Under Elle's Law, any driver who causes serious physical injury to another person while committing a traffic violation will automatically have his or her license suspended for a period of six months by the DMV. Drivers who have been involved in any similar incidents within the previous five years will have their licenses suspended for a full year.

Upper East Side representative Micah Kellner introduced the bill after Elle Vanderberghe, 3 years old at the time, suffered serious brain injuries when a motorist backed up through a crosswalk, two blocks from Kellner's house, to grab an open parking space. Although the motorist was ticketed for a "moving violation", paid a small fine and was back behind the wheel, subject to no further penalty. Elle remains in physical therapy.

Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng were killed when a van left idling and unattended careened backwards into a group of pre-schoolers on a Chinatown sidewalk. The driver was not charged. Hayley & Diego's Law creates a traffic violation called "careless driving" -- which prosecutors can use in cases where criminal convictions seem unlikely. Co-sponsor Senator Dan Squadron says the upside of these laws is that although they began as responses to incidents that happened in New York City, they'll benefit residents throughout the state.

According to data from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, in 2008 nearly 5,000 New Yorkers were injured because of a driver's violation of the state's vehicle and traffic laws. Only 2% of these violations resulted in criminal charges.