Vehicular Crimes

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Stoked by the global pandemic, New York City is experiencing an alternative-transportation boom: weekday bike trips are up by 30 percent and weekend bike trips are up 50 percent. This uptick is a silver lining to this awful period, attracting thousands of new bike riders and bringing transportation relief to millions of New Yorkers. But the reality is that cycling and walking in this city comes with an inherent danger — namely cars.

In 2020, 35 of the 45 recorded hit-and-run crashes with critical injuries are unsolved, and 234 people have been killed in car-related crashes citywide — making it the deadliest year since Mayor de Blasio announced Vision Zero in 2014. Too many families have felt this tragedy firsthand, including Diana, whose 91 year old grandfather was struck and killed by a cable van while crossing the street in the crosswalk twenty years ago.

In order to ensure that all New Yorkers who move in and around this city can do so safely,

  • Diana will create the Vehicular Crimes Task Force, which will criminally investigate every traffic incident that results in a death or serious injury. It will be modeled on the successful Construction Fraud Task Force that Diana created and led, which investigated every construction-worker death and serious injury
  • The Unit will include the voices of community organizations, advocates and family members, who will be able make direct requests for cases to be investigated. It will be adequately staffed with multiple attorneys, investigators, analysts, and community liaisons who will also focus on fraud-related vehicular crimes, including organized theft rings, placard fraud, and insurance fraud.
  • Every time a person dies or is critically injured as a result of vehicular contact, an assistant district attorney will be alerted in real time and will immediately conduct a thorough criminal investigation, which will be led by an experienced prosecutor who aims to uncover what happened and whether criminal charges are warranted, considering all relevant vehicular and traffic law and penal law crimes including criminally negligent homicide. This new proactive approach will eliminate the Manhattan DA’s dependence on the under-resourced NYPD Collision Investigation Squad and which only examines a tiny fraction of the more than 250,000 crashes citywide every year.
  • The Task Force will notify and work side by side with the victim and/or their family, keep them informed throughout the process, and ensure that their role in the disposition of their case is meaningful, not an afterthought.
  • In most cases, the Task Force will focus on non-incarceration alternatives to hold drivers who jeopardize New Yorkers’ lives accountable. Rather, the Task Force will utilize and expand restorative justice alternatives, such as the Center of Court Innovation’s Driver Accountability Program, and with few exceptions, require the suspension of driver licenses in each disposition.
  • The Task Force will publish and release quarterly reports that detail how many cases are investigated by the Task Force, how many result in charges, types of dispositions and sentencing. It will share its findings in meetings with advocates, community organizations, and the New York City Department of Transportation. This sharing of information will aid the government agencies and experts to increase safety on the streets and better design bike and bus lanes. 

Legislation

If in the course of its work, the Task Force identifies loopholes in current laws that prevent justice, we will partner with legislators to close them. The Vehicular Crimes Task Force will ensure that once and for all, traffic fatalities and injuries will be treated with the gravity they deserve.

Diana supports Sammy’s Law, which is named after Samuel Cohen-Eckstein, a 12-year-old boy killed by a speeding driver in 2013, which seeks to repeal the long-standing state limitation that prevents NYC from lowering the speed limits on streets without state approval.

Florence wrote an op-ed on this issue – the Manhattan DA Must Put Muscle into Traffic Safety.