All drivers on New York City streets must be subject to the same laws. Bus drivers in particular, as professionally trained operators of multi-ton vehicles, have a responsibility for the safety of others. This requires that you, as my elected Council Member, help ensure that bus operators drive with the highest level of diligence, due care, and compliance with our laws.
I am writing to ask you not to co-sponsor or vote for Intro 0663-2015. This new bill would add a dangerous blanket exemption for bus drivers from liability under the existing Right of Way Law. The Right of Way Law was passed to protect pedestrians in the crosswalk. Failure to yield is the leading cause of injury for people walking in New York, and elevated driver accountability is a core Vision Zero strategy to end this dangerous driver behavior.
Bus drivers can't be held to a lower standard than all other drivers. They set the standard for safe driving on our streets. We know from experience that non-uniform application of traffic laws breaks the public trust and undermines adherence to those laws.
Last year, MTA bus drivers struck and killed nine pedestrians. In eight out of those nine cases, the bus operator failed to yield when the pedestrian had the right of way. Clearly the TWU and MTA's current administrative review and sanctioning measures are failing to protect other road users. They failed to protect 15-year old Jiahuan Xu, who was severely injured in a Brooklyn crosswalk on February 13, 2015. And they failed to protect 22-year old Seth Kahn, who was killed when in 2009 he was hit by a bus in the crosswalk. Before the crash, the driver had been suspended by the MTA because of his reckless driving record. But the TWU successfully fought for his re-instatement. The day Seth was killed was the driver's first day back behind the wheel. We need strong laws to prevent such tragedies.
The existing Right of Way Law contains two safe-harbor provisions for motorists. If drivers are at a standstill in an intersection, or if they can argue that they used due care, then they may be protected from liability.
But fully exempting bus drivers from liability under the Right of Way Law would be a step backwards in the City's effort to reach Vision Zero, the policy goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries.
Please help keep us on this path towards safety for all, by saying "NO" to Intro 663.