New York

Peter Vallone, City Council Public Safety Chair, on Making New York’s Roads Safer


Yesterday, Runnin’ Scared reported that Transportation Alternatives wants the NYPD to give out more speeding tickets, telling City Council that hurried, harried drivers cause unnecessary deaths.

By the group’s calculations, more New Yorkers were killed in traffic — 3,647 — than
murdered by guns — 3,558.

Indeed, TA is lobbying the City Council to put an end to dangerous driving, and told the Public Safety Committee on Thursday that cops just don’t do enough to prevent people from going over the speed limit.

After the meeting, Juan Martinez (TA’s general counsel) told Runnin’ Scared: “We need data-driven traffic enforcement policies to figure out what’s killing people in traffic.”

“There’s education that the NYPD can do,” he said, pointing to successful anti distracted-driving campaigns. “Really, it comes down to enforcement. Everyone who speeds thinks that they can speed because they wont get a ticket. Once people get a ticket, they won’t speed.”

And it looks like key Council Members are on board with TA’s thinking — and are continuing the momentum from a recent transportation safety hearing.

Runnin’ Scared caught up with Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr., who chairs the Public Safety Committee, to chat about this.

Asked what he wanted to do to address safety concerns, the Queens Democrat said: “We can get more cops.”

“We also have to change the laws around to make it possible to arrest people based on witness testimony for some of these offenses, without the necessity of a police officer observing it.”

Vallone says that this can be addressed by better enforcing current statutes.

“There’s a law on the books called ‘reckless endangerment.’ There’s absolutely no need for police officers to witness something to enforce that, and yet when I asked the police officers: ‘When was the last time a police officer used reckless endangerment to charge a motorist who endangered a biker?,'” they didn’t give a single example.

“Their policy is that they only investigate accidents when there’s a death or the cyclist is likely to die. That seems like a very arbitrary decision. If somebody speeds backwards through an intersection and hits another person, whether that person dies or gets two broken legs should not matter when it comes to prosecuting the reckless driver — but it does right now.”

Vallone says that he’s submitted a resolution demanding that lawmakers in Albany make it easier to uphold current regulations, and plans on organizing a task force with the Transportation Committee and Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s office to address the issue.

Vallone said that budget cuts had decimated the department’s enforcement capabilities.

“We had over 390 officers in highway patrol, now we have 211,” he said.

Still, he does not think that re-allocating money away from other elements of policing — namely, controversial intel-gathering ops and stop-and-frisks — is the solution.

“There’s no debate that the surveillance that the police department is doing and that the policy of stop-and-frisk are both extremely effective,” he said.

“While we can always continue to improve them and do oversight to ensure that they’re done with respect to people’s rights, I disagree with Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams on that.”

Runnin’ Scared reached out to the NYPD for comment on enforcement. We’ll update if we hear back.

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