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Road to change: Hizzoner demands Albany pass suite of laws to make streets safer

Bill’s bills: Mayor DeBlasio proposed new legislation to make city streets safer at a press conference in Prospect Heights on Thursday.
Community News Group / Colin Mixson

State leaders must pass laws that put more speed cameras on city streets, heighten punishments dealt to reckless motorists caught on those devices, and mandate doctors inform officials of drivers’ potentially debilitating health conditions, Mayor DeBlasio demanded on Thursday.

“For too long people could negligently kill another human being with a vehicle and essentially walk away, we’ve got to end that once and for all,” Hizzoner said at a press conference inside the 78th Precinct’s Sixth Avenue station house, not far from where a driver blew a red light and killed two young kids crossing a Park Slope street last week.

The mayor first called for a bill to install an extra 150 speed cameras around schools citywide, in addition to expanding what constitutes a school zone so that the devices can be placed on streets that approach learning houses, not just roads that border them — which are the only streets state law currently permits cameras on, regardless of where local officials believe they’d be the most effective, DeBlasio said.

“We need to be able to put the cameras where the NYPD and DOT know they will do the most good,” he said.

Mayor DeBlasio claimed that if his proposed law was already in place, it would have allowed speed cameras at the intersection of Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, which is a few blocks away from Park Slope’s MS 51 and where Staten Island resident Dorothy Bruns plowed into five people on March 5, killing 1-year-old Joshua Lew and 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein, and injuring each child’s mother and another man.

DeBlasio then demanded legislation that suspends the vehicle registration of cars caught more than five times by speed and red-light cameras within a two-year period.

Motorists currently captured speeding or running red lights on camera are subject to fines, which the mayor said would increase under his proposed law. But unlike cops, whose traffic-violation summonses come with points against individual drivers’ licenses, the state cannot revoke a license for infractions caught on film, because cameras only record the car’s license-place number, not the person behind the wheel.

The white Volvo Bruns was driving, for instance, had no less than 12 violations when she smashed into the youngsters, city records show, but none of those infractions were dealt to the motorist herself.

And it shouldn’t matter whether a car owner is personally reckless or permits another rogue driver to operate their vehicle, because either scenario results in less-safe streets, according to DeBlasio, who implored Albany to pull four-wheelers that rack up repeated camera infractions from roads.

“You shouldn’t be able to hide behind the fact that the car is registered to you, but maybe someone else was driving,” DeBlasio said. “You have to take responsibility for your own vehicle.”

Under the mayor’s proposed legislation, registrations for a total of 34,134 cars would have been suspended between April 2016 and March 2017 because they were caught more than five times on traffic cameras, according to city records.

DeBlasio’s third legislative demand would require physicians to notify the Department of Motor Vehicles upon diagnosing patients with illnesses such as recurring seizures — which investigators believe may have caused Bruns to slam into the victims — or sudden losses of consciousness that can impair their driving ability.

The bill is modeled after a law in New Jersey, which requires doctors to file a medical-emergency report with the distant state’s motor-vehicle agency if they deem a patient unfit to drive. The report can result in indefinite license suspension, license restrictions, additional tests, or no action, with a little more than half of cases being referred to physicians on the motor-vehicle agency’s medical-advisory panel.

If passed, New York state’s legislation would similarly empower its motor-vehicle agency to revoke a person’s license at the advice of a doctor.

The mayor’s last proposed law followed similar legislation introduced on March 9 by State Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D–Crown Heights) and Assemblyman Robert Carroll (D–Park Slope), who also crafted a bill that would put registrations of repeat offenders caught on camera in jeopardy, but under less stringent criteria than DeBlasio demanded, and with no provision to increase fines.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.

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