NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A judge has declared a key law under the city’s “Vision Zero” pedestrian safety initiative unconstitutional.
The law makes it a misdemeanor to hit a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way, but Queens Judge Gia Morris ruled it violates the right to due process because it applies criminal penalties without the need to prove criminal intent, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.
She threw out the case against a bus driver who hit and killed an elderly woman.
“Legislators can and do apply criminal penalties based on negligence all the time, yet the judge’s decision failed to acknowledge that,” said Caroline Samponaro with the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.
The ruling comes at the trial level so no precedent has been set, Silverman reported.
“If we look back at drunk driving, domestic violence, there always are examples like this of the status quo pushing back,” Samponaro said. “This bill was passed into law years ago to address a real public health crisis that needs to be addressed and that we are addressing with the use of the law. So we’re confident that it will continue to be used.”
A spokesman for the mayor’s office said the law is a “a vital tool” to hold drivers accountable and the city will continue to investigate, enforce and charge the law.
“This is an important piece of Vision Zero’s comprehensive approach to reducing death and serious injury on our streets,” the spokesman said. “We disagree with the court’s non-binding decision and will continue to investigate, enforce and charge this law.”
So far the Queens District Attorney’s Office hasn’t decided whether to appeal in this case.