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Council Approves Laws to Reduce Pedestrian Accidents

Last week, the New York City Council considered several bills designed to improve pedestrian safety on the streets of New York. Last month, eight pedestrians were killed in accidents in New York. Mayor de Blasio has vowed to stop the carnage with his Vision Zero plan. However, more than new crosswalks and stop lights are needed, according to an article in New York magazine.

Last week, the City Council passed 17 traffic safety bills that chip away at the problem but will not solve it. These include:

Cooper's Law, named for a child killed last year on the Upper West Side in front of his building. This proposed statute will give the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) the ability to remove a cab driver who has caused injury and death. Transportation Alternatives Director Paul Steely White said, "Cab drivers set the tone on New York City streets." If they take fewer risks when driving, others drivers will follow suit.

· A ban on motorcycle stunts

· A requirement that the TLC report all accidents involving cabs

· A requirement that the Department of Transportation replace or fix broken signals within 24 hours

· Enhanced penalties for drivers who do not yield to pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way

· Require the DOT to review safety guidelines for bridge workers performing their jobs in traffic

Other parts of the legislative package included resolutions that call upon the State of New York to approve changes that the city cannot make alone. Operation of automated traffic enforcement cameras, speed limits and driving on the sidewalk are examples of traffic violations that are the purview of the state rather than the city.

Mayor de Blasio is dealing with the traffic death problem with the budget as well. The administration's budget includes nearly $100 million to widen sidewalks, improve intersections and add medians. Such measures have a history of calming traffic and reducing accidents and injuries among drivers and pedestrians.

Some experts point to the statistic that shows pedestrian deaths down by around 30 percent. However, others say that the drop reflects unusually bad weather this year, rather than any real improvement in pedestrian safety.

Source: New York Times, "Council Passes Bills Aiding de Blasio's Quest to End Traffic Deaths," May 29, 2014.