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Queens Chronicle

Council plays heavy hand in road safety

Approves 11 bills to help improve traffic and protect pedestrians

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Posted: Thursday, June 5, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 12:36 pm, Thu Jun 12, 2014.

The City Council is hoping to cover all bases when it comes to traffic safety to coincide with the far-reaching Vision Zero initiative.

On May 29, 11 bills were approved by members to crack down on dangerous drivers and pedestrian deaths, and Queens lawmakers made up a majority of the sponsors — introducing seven of the 11 pieces of legislation.

Councilmembers Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows), Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), Elizabeth Crowley (D-Maspeth) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) each sponsored at least one piece of road legislation.

“From removing unsafe drivers from our streets to strengthening penalties for reckless and dangerous behavior, we send a clear message that traffic-related deaths and injuries will no longer go unchecked,” Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Manhattan), chairman of the Transportation Committee, said. “We must stem this terrible tide that leaves only tragedy in its wake.”

The bills cover a wide range of issues. For example, Weprin’s bill would create penalties for drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians or bikers.

Wills is asking the Department of Transportation to conduct studies on left-hand turns and their influence on accidents.

Lancman’s bill differs in that it would apply to DOT workers as opposed to traffic rules. He is asking the DOT to conduct a review of safety guidelines of workers on bridges.

Though the bills were voted through together, many of them had been pending since the last Council session.

“The two bills I introduced were introduced during the last Council,” Crowley said. “It’s the unfortunate nature of the business and luckily this administration has made this a priority.”

The councilwoman’s bills call upon the state Legislature as opposed to city agencies like the DOT. She wants to remedy deficiencies in the law regarding leaving the scene of an accident as well as increase penalty for reckless driving.

Van Bramer’s bill is perhaps one of the more ambitious pieces of legislation.

He is calling for city control over the red light camera program, which is normally done by the state.

The hope is that councilmembers would be able to enforce traffic violations more efficiently and quickly by sidestepping the state Legislature.

“If we could save just one life by deterring reckless driving with a city-run red light program, then this program will have served its purpose,” Van Bramer said when the bill’s passage was announced. “The success of Vision Zero heavily relies on this much-needed program. Our city’s residents cannot continue to wait.”

All but three proposals — a law on stunt driving, an amendment to the administrative code for traffic violations and serious crashes and an amendment to city law in relation to the Taxi and Limousine Commission’s critical drivers and persistent violators programs — were passed unanimously.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance called the amendments to TLC regulations “unfair.”

The DOT did not return requests for comment, so it is unclear how the agency feels about the bills, a majority of which call out the DOT specifically.

Mayor de Blasio will more than likely pass all the bills in the coming weeks.

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