NYC Vision Zero’s New Penalties for Drivers in Effect

January 5, 2015 Updated: January 5, 2015

A law fining hit-and-run drivers in New York City has gone into effect with the New Year.

Over the past year, 15 bills and resolutions aimed at traffic safety were passed quickly by City Council. It is part of the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce all traffic fatalities to zero within a decade. Some of the new laws have created entirely new penalties all users of the road should be aware of.

The “Justice for Hit-and-Run Victims Act” establishes new civil penalties for drivers who flee the scene of a crash. They will be fined $500 if there is property damage, $1,000–$2,000 if someone is injured, $2,000–$10,000 if there is a serious injury, and $5,000–$10,000 if the crash results in a death.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who sponsored the bill, is starting off the year by reminding drivers to use the roads responsibly.

“I was moved to introduce this bill in response to the death of three people who were killed in my district by drivers who fled the scene,” Van Bramer wrote in a statement.

We will not rest until we achieve Vision Zero.
— Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

Nineteen-year-old Luis Bravo, 20-year-old Karen Pheras, and 64-year old Kumar Ragunath were all crash victims in Van Bramer’s district who lost their lives after being hit by a driver. The drivers of these separate incidents had fled the scenes.

Van Bramer said the goal of the law was to deter drivers from fleeing the scene. In some cases, their stopping to call 911 and check on the victim could have saved lives. Van Bramer has introduced additional legislation to increase penalties for repeat offenders and require the city to report these violations. The city has also started playing hit-and-run alerts in taxis.

“We will not rest until we achieve Vision Zero, and this law brings us one step closer to this goal.”

“We will never know if one or all of our fellow New Yorkers could have been saved had the drivers done the right thing: stop their car, call 911, and get assistance,” Van Bramer stated. “The civil penalties set forth in this bill will not bring back the life of Luis Bravo, Karen Pheras, or Kumar Ragunath, but they will punish the crass actions of those who commit these crimes.”

“I thank Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer for taking action and responding to the death of my son,” said Martha Puruncajas, mother of Luis Bravo, in a statement. “This law gives parents the ability to trust that the authorities will hold drivers accountable for their actions and helps ensure no family ever has to suffer the pain of losing a loved one.”

The city also passed a law last year that makes killing someone who had the right of way a misdemeanor. It is groundbreaking legislation, advocates say, because up until this point there was no criminal penalty for killing or injuring someone while driving. Tickets would have to be issued for other things like driving while intoxicated.

The NYPD is in the process of implementing it department-wide, but some officers have already begun to issue summonses under this law.

New rules have also been implemented to create stricter penalties for taxi drivers who injure or kill someone.