Feb. 12, 2020 By Kristen Torres
The City Council passed landmark legislation Tuesday that would force drivers who rack up tickets for running red lights or speeding to take a traffic safety course– or else risk getting their car impounded by the Sheriff’s Office.
Council Member Brad Lander, who represents parts of western Brooklyn, sponsored the bill that would require drivers who get more than five red light camera violations or more than 15 speed camera violations in a year to take a defensive driving course mandated by the Department of Transportation.
Drivers who fail to complete the course would have their vehicle seized by the city.
Lander said the bill, informally referred to as the Reckless Driver Accountability Act, was inspired by a 2018 crash where a woman with a history of reckless driving ran a red light and killed two children in Park Slope.
“When Abigail Blumenstein, 4, and Joshua Lew, 1, were killed by a driver with a history of speeding and running red lights right outside my office two years ago, we pledged to do something to intervene with the most reckless drivers before they kill or injure any more of our neighbors,” Lander said in a statement.
A previous version of the bill was much tougher, requiring drivers with with five or more red light or speeding tickets to undergo the course. However, this would have snagged nearly 26,000 drivers—a number too high to manage. The current version is expected to a affect 5,000 drivers city-wide.
“The reason for the lower number of covered vehicles, though, is really a combination of our belief in a restorative justice approach—to repair harm and help people change—and [the] need to run the program effectively, so we can prove it works,” Lander wrote in a tweet last week.
Research by the city’s DOT revealed a correlation between frequent red light and speed camera violators and injury-related crashes.
The bill’s passage comes after a deadly year for drivers and cyclists across the city– with 220 people killed in 2019, up from 204 in 2018. The number of cyclists killed tripled last year, with 29 fatalities.
“Passing this bill is a major step forward in this Council’s fight for safe streets,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said.
“We should be proud of our efforts to make this law a reality, and we will continue to build on this success in our ongoing fight for a city where people don’t have to live in fear of death or injury from cars.”