Democrat Abinanti: 'We Want To Make The DOT Accountable. Immunity Breeds Neglect'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A New York lawmaker wants drivers across the state to be able to get reimbursed for repairs to vehicles damaged by potholes during the winter months.

The state is exempt from any liability during the peak pothole season thanks to Section 58 of the State Highway Law.

According to The New York Times, Section 58 is an anachronism dating back to the turn of the 20th century when asphalt companies shut down in winter, WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported Wednesday.

Thus the state is only liable from May 1 to Nov. 15.

In the winter, it is all driver beware.

“That’s ridiculous, when between those times is when they’re putting down the most salt on the roads and that’s what caused the erosion,” Bronx motorist Ashley Vee told CBS 2’s Lou Young.

“You have to swerve out of the way to avoid (potholes). It’s their responsibility to fill the potholes on the highways,” Stephanie Fornasari added.

Thomas Abinanti, a Democratic assemblyman from Westchester County, called the law “outrageous” and “unfair.” He believes the law should catch up with technology since potholes can now be patched up in the cold, Adams reported.

Abinanti added the winter exemption has to go.

“This is not just about compensating drivers, it’s also to foster accountability and to foster the state to pay attention and fix the roads as soon as possible,” said Abinanti, who lost two tires this past winter to potholes on the Taconic State Parkway and Interstate 95, respectively.

At Enzo’s Auto Body in Mamaroneck, the owner told CBS 2’s Young just how expensive repairs can be.

“Between the tire and rim, $700 to $800,” Enzo Stoia said, adding when asked how high the cost can go, “A couple thousand dollars.”

The proposed legislation would create a statewide pothole registry as well as keep track of conditions. Once a pothole is listed on a state road it would become the state’s responsibility to fix it — the same situation most cities, towns and counties have, Young reported.

Most localities require prior written notice of a pothole’s location before it compensates victims for damages.

Abinanti said he wants a similar law for the state.

“We want to make the state liable, just like the state makes local governments liable,” Abinanti said. “We want the state in the future to be on top of its game and fill in the potholes as soon as possible, at least the potholes that are very severe and are causing the damage. This is not just a question of quality of life, this is a question of safety.

“We want to make the Department of Transportation accountable. Immunity breeds neglect. We want the DOT to stay out there and inspect the roadways and fix these dangerous conditions,” Abinanti added.

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