New Penalties for Careless Drivers

Daniel SquadronElisa LagosState Senator Daniel L. Squadron discusses Hayley and Diego’s Law, a measure that makes it easier for prosecutors to seek penalties against careless drivers. The law goes into effect today.

Traffic accidents are nothing new in a neighborhood like the East Village where pedestrians, drivers, and bicyclists rush along the road. But a new state law that goes into effect today aims to prevent and punish careless driving.

The law, called “Hayley and Diego’s Law,” will impose a $750 fine, a 15-day jail term, and suspension or revocation of a driver’s license for reckless driving that injures pedestrians and bicyclists for a first offense. A second offense could have the same consequences and land a driver in jail for a year.

“Every driver in New York State should know driving carelessly is not just something to fix next time,” said State Senator Daniel L. Squadron, who represents the East Village, the Lower East Side and parts of Brooklyn. “Driving carelessly is not a minor problem that you should laugh about. Driving carelessly puts people at risk. Driving carelessly can have devastating consequences.”

Senator Squadron sponsored the legislation in the State Senate following the deaths of Hayley Ng, 4, and Diego Martinez, 3, in Chinatown last year. The two children were struck and killed by a delivery van that had been left in reverse as the driver stepped out.

“To all the careless drivers out there across New York, I know you’re busy, I know the phone is ringing, the Blackberry is buzzing, the coffee is spilling but focus on the road – do it for the safety of all the other users of the road,” the senator said at a news conference on the corner of Essex and Delancey Streets. That intersection is one of the 10 most dangerous for pedestrians in the city, according to an analysis of crash data by Transportation Alternatives.

Prior to “Hayley and Diego’s Law,” prosecutors could only charge careless drivers with minor traffic violations or a more serious charge of criminal negligence. There was no middle ground. In the crash that killed Hayley and Diego, that meant the driver of the delivery van was not charged after the children’s deaths. The new law will make it possible for prosecutors to charge drivers in similar circumstances.

“Careless driving already exists in the law,” Senator Squadron said. “The problem is we don’t have any penalty structure to distinguish it from non-careless driving and this law will fix that as well. There is standard due care that must be exercised.”