NEW YORK - Two years ago, a driver ran a red light in Park Slope, Brooklyn, killing two children and injuring the mother of one of them. The mom, actress Ruthie Ann Miles, was pregnant and later lost the child she was carrying. Now the City Council is taking aim at the city's most reckless drivers.
"This bill targets them and says you've got to change your behavior or take a driver accountability program, if not we're going to tow or impound your car," said Councilman Brad Lander, who represents Park Slope and is the bill's primary sponsor.
The bill targets a small segment of city drivers, an estimated 5,000, who have racked up either five red-light camera tickets or 15 speed-camera violations in a year. The driver safety course they would be required to complete will be similar to one that has already proven effective, Lander said.
"The program we are looking at is modeled on a course that they're operating at the Red Hook Community Justice Center that they've been doing about five years that has shown about a 40% reduction in recidivism in reckless driving," he said.
Part of the course would require violators to watch a video featuring people like Amy Cohen, whose son Sammy was struck and killed by a van outside the family's Brooklyn apartment on Prospect Park West in 2013.
"It's too late for my family but it might not be too late for someone else's," Cohen said, of her efforts to work on legislation to make streets safer. She is a co-founder of the group Families for Safe Streets.
"It's a huge step forward, it's the first program of its kind in the nation to really target New York City's most dangerous drivers," she said.
The bill has the support of Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Mayor Bill de Blasio, and is widely expected to pass, despite concerns from some it doesn't go far enough or target enough dangerous drivers.
Still others, like Shelia Dunn of the National Motorist Association, say the part of the law that would seize the vehicles of motorists who don't complete the course is an overreach.
"Once again, it's the City of New York trying to get money from the backs of motorists," Dunn said. "It's a policing-for-profit scheme and that's all this is."
The Transportation Committee approved the bill on Monday. It is up for a vote by the full council on Tuesday. It establishes the program as a three-year pilot, after which time supporters say it could be expanded to include an even larger pool of reckless drivers.