Despite the need for increased safety protections for pedestrians and bicyclists, the State Senate has passed a bill that would exempt taxi and bus drivers from being detained at the scene of a serious accident involving bicyclists or pedestrians. The new law would conflict at least to some extent with the right-of-way law that makes it a misdemeanor for a driver to fail to yield to a pedestrian or cyclist that has the right of way. If the law is passed by the Assembly, it will be considerably harder for the police to investigate and arrest cab drivers and bus drivers who are involved in a serious or fatal accident with a cyclist or pedestrian.
Under the bill, if a cabbie or bus driver has a valid license and is not suspected to be under the influence, they cannot be detained at the scene of a serious accident. The New York City district attorney expressed that the law would even make it more difficult in general to prosecute drunk driving arrests. The bill is being pushed by the Transportation Workers Union Local 100.
Opponents to the bill expressed dismay that professional drivers would not be held to the highest standards. Also, the bill would work against ongoing efforts to identify and get rid of reckless cab drivers in the city, according to the bill’s opponents. The Union answered that drivers could still be arrested after an investigation, but they would not be treated like criminals as a matter of course.
The bill clearly will not help ongoing efforts to reduce the serious and fatal accident numbers in New York City that involve pedestrians and cyclists. However, it is possible that monetary compensation may be obtained for those cyclists or pedestrians who are seriously injured or killed in a fatal accident. If the driver is negligent under the circumstances, the victim has a right to compensation for lost wages, permanent disability, medical expenses and pain and suffering. If it is a fatal accident, the next of kin may file an estate and pursue the apparent negligent operator for wrongful death damages.
Source: nypress.com, “Right of Nay”, Daniel Fitzsimmons, June 29,2015