Council Member Brad Lander, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson and Street Safety Advocates Announce Driver Accountability Task Force

Council Member Brad Lander, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson and Street Safety Advocates Announce Driver Accountability Task Force

Council Member Brad Lander, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson and Street Safety Advocates Announce Driver Accountability Task Force

Elected Officials Partner with Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets to Improve Prosecution of New Vision Zero Laws in Brooklyn

BROOKLYN, NY – New York City Council Member Brad Lander and Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson in partnership with Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets, announced the creation of a Driver Accountability Task Force for the Borough of Brooklyn. The task force is the first of its kind in New York City.

The task force, made up of stakeholders from the NYPD, local and state governments, advocacy groups and criminal justice experts, will work to increase the prosecution of reckless driving in Brooklyn. The task force will focus on barriers to successful prosecution under current laws (including the Vision Zero laws passed by the City Council last year), advocate for new legislation to eliminate loopholes that allow drivers whose actions result in injury or death to escape punishment, and explore “restorative justice” programs that better support victims and lead to real change.

“We’ve got to do more to stop reckless driving from killing our kids,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “That means changing the culture of tolerance for drivers who act recklessly behind the wheel. I’m looking forward to working with District Attorney Thompson, along with a wide-reaching community of passionate and dedicated advocates. The Driver Accountability Task Force will pilot innovative approaches that advance justice, cause drivers to think twice about their actions, and save lives. Together, we’ll make Brooklyn’s streets safer for all.”

District Attorney Thompson said, “I look forward to working with Council Member Lander, Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets to improve the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists throughout Brooklyn. I am interested in their ideas on how to accomplish this and hope that our work together will result in lives being saved.”

The task force plans to achieve the goal of greater driver accountability in Brooklyn through strategies including:

·         Effective enforcement of existing local laws, including the newly-created “Right of Way Law” (Sec. 19-190) which was sponsored by Councilmember Mark Weprin and passed by the City Council in 2014.

·         Working with State and City legislatures to empower the NYPD and District Attorneys, and eliminate loopholes that currently allow far too many reckless drivers whose behavior results in injury or death to escape prosecution or meaningful consequences for their actions.

·         Improving transparency about the measures that law enforcement officers are taking to deter reckless driving and hold dangerous drivers accountable.

·         Pioneering restorative justice sanctions that better support families and lead to meaningful change, including having reckless drivers meet with the families of victims, improved driver education programming, and expanding available victim and family supports for those who are killed or injured.

“We thank District Attorney Ken Thompson and Council Member Brad Lander for taking a significant step in forming this Driver Accountability Task Force,” says Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “As the people’s prosecutors, district attorneys have an obligation to champion public safety, and that means they must bring charges against drivers when reckless or careless behavior at the wheel results in death or serious injury. The public needs transparency about how D.A.s determine whether to prosecute after serious crashes. We also need City Council oversight hearings on the role of D.A.s in the effort to reach Vision Zero, including legislation similar to the NYPD TrafficStat law, which requires regular public reporting from district attorneys about their cases. We call on the city’s other four D.A.s  to follow Brooklyn’s example. With elections for district attorney coming up this year in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, T.A. will be raising the issue of driver accountability with all the candidates.”

The Brooklyn Driver Accountability Task Force was formed out of a dialogue following the death of fourteen year old student Mohammed Naiem Uddin, a constituent of Council Member Lander’s, who lost his life in a hit-and-run crash on E. 7th Street and Caton Avenue last November. Naiem was walking in the cross-walk, with the walk sign, when a driver failed to yield, hit and killed Naiem, and then fled the scene. Following Naiem’s death, Lander arranged for a meeting of Uddin’s family with District Attorney Thompson and street safety advocates. In addition to moving forward with aggressive prosecution of the driver who killed Naiem, DA Thompson agreed to work with the group to form the new task force.

"New York City now has a policy of Vision Zero, but we'll never reach that goal if we don't change the culture of reckless and careless driving," said Dulcie Canton of Families for Safe Streets, who was injured in a hit-and-run while riding her bike in Brooklyn last August. "District attorneys have an important leadership role to play in changing that culture by holding drivers accountable when their lawless actions kill or maim New Yorkers. We thank D.A. Ken Thompson and Council Member Brad Lander for setting a process in motion that we need to see in every borough."

The task force also includes representatives of the NYPD, who are working aggressively to implement Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to Vision Zero, through expansion of the Highway Division’s Collision Investigation Squad, enhanced efforts to implement the recently-reduced citywide speed limit, as well as Section 19-190 and other traffic laws, training of precinct officers, and regular Traffic Stat meetings with precinct commanders. High-ranking NYPD officials will work with the task force to insure effective enforcement.

In addition to improving the tools used to prosecute reckless drivers, members of the task force, including representatives from Red Hook Community Justice Center and the Center for Court Innovation, hope to increase the use of restorative justice sanctions as a primary form of punishment in cases involving reckless driving. The task force is also investigating an improved system of victim and family supports to work in tandem with the sanctions. 

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