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Two bus accidents highlight NYC's tougher failure-to-yield law

Last week, we wrote about one of the many initiatives outlined in Mayor de Blasio's "Vision Zero" campaign. For too long, the status quo in New York City has been to treat car accidents, pedestrian accidents and bicyclist accidents as unpredictable and unpreventable mishaps. Those who injure or kill other travelers rarely face criminal charges, even if they violated traffic laws.

This attitude may be starting to change, and police are using two bus accidents as high-profile examples of how failure to yield is now a misdemeanor offense (as part of the Vision Zero campaign). Both bus drivers work for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and both were arrested following accidents involving pedestrians.

The first such incident occurred in December, when an MTA bus driver struck a 78-year-old man in Brooklyn, killing him. Earlier this month, another MTA bus driver in Brooklyn made a left turn and struck a 15-year-old girl crossing the street legally in the crosswalk. Although she did not suffer life-threatening injuries, the girl was trapped underneath the bus for a time.

The transport workers' union has consistently been opposed to the new failure-to-yield law. Union representatives argue that New York City streets are chaotic, and bus drivers cannot always predict the behavior of pedestrians and other drivers.

But it is precisely because streets are so chaotic that New York needs to enforce traffic laws by implementing significant consequences for violators. Failure to yield may seem like a minor violation, but it is a factor in a high number of pedestrian and bicyclist accidents. What better way to promote this new law than by holding city bus drivers to an appropriately high standard of safety?

Source: The New York Times, "Teenager Pinned Under Bus in Brooklyn; Driver Charged," Benjamin Mueller, Feb. 13, 2015

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