NYC Bus Drivers Fire Back at Mayor De Blasio

     BROOKLYN (CN) – A recent New York City law criminalizes bus accidents and is unconstitutionally vague, a union representing drivers says in Federal Court.
     Transport Workers Union of Greater New York, AFL-CIO, Local 100 and six bus drivers with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority sued Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City of New York on Monday over his championed “Vision Zero” bill.
     City council members enacted that bill, local law No. 29, in June 2014 as part of de Blasio’s campaign to curb pedestrian and bicyclist accidents involving city buses.
     It was one of a “raft” of 11 bills and six resolutions with the “admirable goal of reducing traffic fatalities in New York City,” according to the 25-page complaint.
     But the union complains that the law is “unconstitutionally vague,” doesn’t give officers “clear direction” of protocol, and threatens “disparate and arbitrary” enforcement by police as they deal with bus accidents.
     The City Council announced that drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians or bicyclists face a $50 fine and up to 15 days in jail under misdemeanor charges. If there’s an injury, the driver faces $250 in fines and up to 30 days in jail, according to the complaint.
     The union says the law is unreasonable given that bus drivers operate “immense vehicles with built-in blind spots, on heavily populated New York City streets, that are governed by traffic control systems that, among other shortcomings, irresponsibly encourage motorists to make left turns and pedestrians to proceed at the same time.”
     Bus drivers, who have to make turns “day in and day out,” now find themselves threatened with arrest for “innocent conduct under an unclear law,” according to the complaint.
     At least 17 drivers have been arrested since August 2014 for “misdemeanor failure to yield” under the new law, according to the complaint.
     Several representatives with other drivers’ unions balked when the proposed law was up for public discussion before the council.
     “I hope that it is not the intention of this council to declare someone a criminal and imprison them for being involved in a traffic accident,” Erhan Tuncel, managing director of the League of Mutual Taxi Owners, testified, the lawsuit states.
     In an email, Wiley Norvell, deputy press secretary to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, said “The new ‘Failure to Yield’ law is a vital tool in our efforts to protect pedestrians and make our streets safer.
     “We will work with our partners at the MTA and push for the training and support drivers need to do their jobs safely, and we are looking closely at change we can make on our streets to prevent crashes between buses and pedestrians,” Norvell added.
     The union says the law fails to give authorities clear guidance on protocol. “While the language is a muddle, and the legislative intent unclear, it is clear that if defendants had intended to articulate a rebuttable presumption of negligence whenever it was evident that a motorist failed to yield, they had a responsibility to convey that legislative intent unambiguously so that a layperson of ordinary intelligence might be put on notice that defendant council had promulgated a crime of strict liability,” the complaint states.
     Though de Blasio defended the law to the state Legislature in February, calling it a “clear standard,” the complaint says de Blasio’s interpretation gives the determination of what constitutes safe driving to officers who didn’t see incident and “misstates the settled and familiar definition of due care.”
     Bus drivers who joined the action as co-plaintiffs describe facing arrest and termination for accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists while working their routes. Others complain they now work “under an ever present threat of arbitrary criminal prosecution under the challenged law.”
     The current law on the state’s books requires an officer to be present at the time of an incident to make an arrest. The city’s resolution invited legislators to allow cops to now make arrests even if they didn’t see the incident.
     The Legislature has so far denied that request, according to the complaint.
     The union seeks to void the law as vague and unconstitutional.
     It is represented by Edward Kennedy.

%d bloggers like this: