Thanks to the Right of Way Law, it’s a misdemeanor if a driver hurts or kills a person by violating their right of way in the crosswalk. Families for Safe Streets — moms, dads, partners and children of people killed in traffic — brought this important law to life.
But now, Council Member I. Daneek Miller is attempting to weaken your protection in the crosswalk. His bill will exempt New York City bus drivers from the Right of Way Law.
Recently, 15-year-old Jiahuan Xu’s leg was crushed when she was struck by a bus in Brooklyn. She was in the crosswalk with the right of way. MTA buses struck and killed nine pedestrians last year. Eight out of those nine times, the bus driver failed to yield when the pedestrian had the right of way.
No one should be exempt from safe streets. Together we can stand up for our right of way in the crosswalk.
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.