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Residents rally for stepped-up prosecutions to support street safety measures

A group of New Yorkers who have lost loved ones in traffic crashes, Families for Safe Streets (FSS), rallied outside of City Hall on Sunday, January 11, to call on the city’s district attorneys to prosecute reckless drivers.

“Most New Yorkers don’t understand the reality that a driver can kill or maim your loved one, and then get back in their car and drive off, with no consequences,” said FSS founding member Dana Lerner, whose nine-year-old son Cooper Stock was killed by a cab driver in a crosswalk last January. “D.A.s need to change the attitude that, ‘accidents happen,’ and start bringing charges in connection with these crashes, to keep dangerous drivers from destroying more lives.”

The group members are requesting that the city’s five DAs become active partners in the government’s Vision Zero effort—a new interactive tool that details traffic injury and fatalities while highlighting the city’s response to make the streets safer.

According to Vision Zero’s government website, “The city is making a bold new commitment to improve street safety in every neighborhood and in every borough – with expanded enforcement against dangerous moving violations like speeding and failing to yield to pedestrians, new street designs and configurations to improve safety, broad public outreach and communications, and a sweeping legislative agenda to increase penalties for dangerous drivers and give New York City control over the safety of our own streets.”

Nearly 4,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured and more than 250 are killed each year in traffic crashes, according to NYC.gov. Founding member of FSS Amy Cohen’s son Sammy Cohen Eckstein, 12, was one of them in 2013.

“Crashes caused by aggressive driving are not accidents. When drivers make turns at full speed without even looking, or speed through intersections and kill people, D.A.s never press charges,” said Cohen, who lives in Park Slope. “We need to change the culture on our streets and make it unacceptable to drive recklessly. We will never get to zero fatalities and serious injuries unless we hold dangerous drivers accountable for their actions.”

Along with major changes to come out of the Vision Zero plan, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation in 2014 that lowered the default speed limit in NYC from 30 to 25 miles per hour, unless otherwise posted.

“In the first days of our administration, we made a commitment to decisively confront the epidemic of traffic fatalities and injuries on our streets,” said de Blasio. “The fundamental message of Vision Zero is that death and injury on city streets is not acceptable and that we will no longer regard serious crashes as inevitable.”

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