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Not long ago we posted on the topic of the Vision Zero law that now applies to motorists in New York City. The law is actually a combination of laws and initiatives that include revised speed limits, street improvements and other ordinances intended to make the city streets safer for cars and pedestrians alike.

The new laws have caused some drivers to grumble, but one in particular has caused bus drivers and their union to protest arrests of their members. That law is the one that increases penalties for failing to yield right of way to pedestrians and cyclists in crosswalks.

The prior law made such failure to yield a traffic infraction; the current law has raised the penalty to a misdemeanor with up to one month in jail upon conviction if the pedestrian or cyclist suffers an injury or dies.

The objection of the bus drivers' union is that the stiffer penalty provisions are unfair. So far six bus drivers in New York City have been among the 17 people arrested under the new misdemeanor provision.

The fairness argument of the union is basically that bus drivers should be exempt from the law unless they were engaged in culpable conduct, such as texting, speeding or driving in a reckless manner, even though the law does not contain any requirement for recklessness as the threshold of driver behavior. Thus far, this argument has not worked.

The good news for ordinary drivers is that it is clear that the city intends to apply the law in an even-handed manner. The other news is that the city intends to apply the law strictly, and that defenses based on notions such as a clean driving record or that the law "criminalizes" conduct will generate little if any sympathy.

If you are cited for any traffic violation under New York City’s Vision Zero legal framework, you will be better served by retaining an experienced traffic attorney to represent you than by making appeals to the court based on irrelevant considerations or asking for special treatment.

Source: New York Daily News, "New York City law criminalizing bus drivers who don’t yield to or strike pedestrians draws ire of MTA officials," Pete Donohue, Feb. 23, 2015

Secondary Source: New York Daily News, "MTA bus driver charged after running over 15-year-old girl in Brooklyn, seriously injuring her leg," Pete Donohue, Barry Paddock, Feb. 13, 2015

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