Data compiled by WNYC shows that in 2014, there were 269 deaths in New York City as a result of a fatal traffic crash. Of those 269 deaths, 144 pedestrians and 20 bicyclists were killed according to the data from WNYC, with several of those deaths resulting from being hit by an MTA bus.
It’s these fatal traffic deaths that New York City’s Vision Zero campaign is hoping to eliminate. While many of the changes proposed, like enhanced street lighting, better protected bike lanes, new road designs, and increased education for both pedestrians and drivers have been welcomed, Vision Zero hasn’t been without controversy.
Vision Zero Controversy
The latest controversy has come from the passing of the Right of Way Law created under Vision Zero. The law seeks to criminalize the actions of drivers who end up killing or seriously injuring pedestrians who have the right of way while at a crosswalk.
However, the bus driver’s union, TWU Local 100, believes the law unfairly and illogically targets bus operators. The TWU Local 100 has been seeking an exemption of the enforcement of the law for its members, unless there is tangible proof of negligence such as texting while driving or being intoxicated.
The Union even staged a work slowdown on June 17, 2015 as a way to protest the law which impacted several routes in the Bronx. The areas chosen were meant to target the district of targeting City Council Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez who helped shepherd the law.
Image caption: During the slowdown, TWU tweeted the photo above showing a bus operator waiting to turn left as a woman in the crosswalk – who had the right of way – checked her phone.
Image credit/link back to: https://twitter.com/TWULocal100/status/610822713196855296/photo/1
In an interview with Gothamist, union spokesperson Pete Donahue had the following to say: “Common sense would dictate that you should not give a bus a green light to make a left turn onto a street and, at the same time, give pedestrians the ‘walk’ signal to cross that same street.”
Donahue believes that drivers should instead be given a left-turn only signal while pedestrians have a do-not cross signal.
New Bill Prevent City Bus Drivers from Being Arrested at the Scene of a Serious Accident
As there are no plans for such signals to be installed, a new bill backed by the union and passed by the State Senate, 54-6, seeks to prevent city bus drivers from being arrested at the scene of an accident as long as there are no signs of obvious negligence.
The law does not prevent an arrest later on after an investigation is completed. Instead, drivers would receive a ticket to show up to court to face any potential charges for violating the Right of Way Law.
Vision Zero advocates fear that the passing of this bill may hinder the investigation of officers at the crash scene as it’s unclear how long a driver can be detained and whether a breath test can be administered.
“It’s anti-Vision Zero,” Caroline Samponaro, Transportation Alternatives’ deputy director, said. “It creates a likelihood of confusion at the scene of the crash for officers.”
The bill still needs to pass the Assembly.
What to Do if You Are the Victim of a Bus Accident
Regardless of whether the bill passes in the Assembly, driving in New York City shouldn’t intrinsically involve an arbitrary number of pedestrian or bicycle accidents or casualties. Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities shouldn’t be dismissed as the cost of doing business in New York City.
If you or a loved one are a victim of a bus accident, your first priority should be receiving prompt medical attention.
Your next step is to contact an experienced bus accident lawyer who has specific knowledge of the laws and rules as they pertain to buses. As the story above illustrates, there are many regulations, laws, and other nuances that relate specifically to bus companies.
A bus accident lawyer will help you figure out whether you can sue for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, and emotional distress. In the case of a wrongful death claim, you may be eligible to sue for funeral expenses, loss of care and companionship and other damages.