Brooklyn officials want to force speeders to install governors in their vehicles
A pair of Brooklyn officials want to force persistently reckless drivers to install speed governors in their vehicles to slow them down.
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (Brooklyn Heights, Bay Ridge) and Assemblymember Emily Gallagher (Greenpoint, Fort Greene) introduced their new legislation on Tuesday, in order to build up support before heading back to Albany in January.
Joined by local representatives and traffic safety advocates, the officials marked the occasion with a press conference at the site where Cobble Hill resident Katherine Harris, 31, was struck and killed by an allegedly drunken driver in April. (Gallagher, who is on jury duty, was represented by her Chief of Staff, Andrew Epstein.)
Police say that Erick Taxilaga Trujillo, 27, was speeding when he plowed his Volvo into Harris, who was crossing the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Clinton Street. The police report made clear that Harris was doing everything correctly — walking inside the marked crosswalk and with the pedestrian signal.
The tragic event took place at the same intersection where Brooklyn Heights resident Martha Atwater was struck and killed in 2013, and where local store owner Muyassar Moustapha was run down in 2015.
“Atlantic Avenue is one of the deadliest streets in Brooklyn. How many more people have to die?” Gounardes asked. “We have solutions we can deploy right now. Lower speeds save lives.”
Speed is a contributing factor in a third of all traffic fatalities; for every 10 miles per hour of increased speed, the risk of death in a crash doubles. Speed-limiting devices, also known as governors, have been shown to reduce traffic deaths by 37%, Gounardes said.
The bill would apply to:
– Drivers who accumulate 6+ speed camera violations in 12 months, or
– Drivers who accumulate 6+ red light camera violations in 12 months, or
– Drivers who get a combination of 4+ speed camera and red light violations in 12 months
– Drivers who accumulate 11+ points on their license in 18 months.
If a driver is found to be still driving unsafely, the period of the speed limiter could be extended up to 36 months.
The worst 3% of drivers
Drivers who collect more than six speed camera tickets in a 12-month period represent the worst 3% of the city’s reckless drivers, and that’s why the number of six-plus violations was chosen, Gounardes said.
The speed-limiting device would still allow the driver to go up to 5 miles above the speed limit, which is 25 mph on most city streets.
The bill wouldn’t disadvantage people who need their vehicles to get to work or school, Gounardes said. “If you’re not going to drive safely on your own, if you speed time and time again, you can keep your car — but now we can force you to drive within the speed limit.” He compared the measure to the requirement that drunk drivers install technology in their vehicles ensuring they can’t drive while under the influence of alcohol.
Epstein said that the average vehicle on the street now weighs 4,000 pounds.
“Three percent of drivers have shown they can’t operate a 4,000-pound, metal-clad vehicle,” he said.
“Katherine Harris was killed crossing Atlantic Avenue with the light right here,” Councilmember Lincoln Restler said. “She didn’t have to die. The driver was consistently reckless.”
Requiring speeding drivers to install governors on their vehicles “is the only way we should allow them to be on the streets of New York City. The only other way is to revoke their license,” Restler said.
Councilmember Shahana Hanif said Mayor Eric Adams was “trying to undo safety standards.” When asked to explain, she said Adams’ decision [to backtrack] on McGuinness Boulevard’s redesign “prioritizes a donor over the people’s lives and takes us backwards … We cannot achieve traffic safety if the mayor is not on board.”
“Repeat offenders are an overall small number of drivers that are disproportionately responsible for carnage on our streets,” said Kate Brockwehl, co-chair of the Families for Safe Streets Policy Committee and herself a crash survivor. “When you drive drunk, we put a device in your car that prevents you from doing that again. When you speed, repeatedly, we should use similar technology to stop that.”
Brockwehl said the only reason she is alive today is because the car that hit her in 2017 was traveling at a slow rate of speed after having made a turn. “When a car is traveling less than 20 mph, fewer than 10% of victims die,” she said.
Another survivor and member of Families for Safe Streets, Clarita Bailon, said, “I’m mad about what happened. We as humans have the capacity to change our bad habits.”
The Cobble Hill Association led a safety walk and memorial for Harris on Atlantic Avenue on April 29.
Speakers at the memorial pointed out that literally hundreds of crashes, injuries and deaths have taken place over the years on the avenue, which they said was designed more like a highway than a neighborhood street. In 2014 the speed limit was lowered to 25 mph — yet the design of the street itself encourages rampant speeding.
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