Standing outside City Hall in front of a row of all white, “Ghost Strollers” symbolizing children killed by drivers—street safety advocates blamed Mayor de Blasio for the death of a three-month-old last Saturday.
The baby, Apolline Mong-Guillemin, was killed by a driver in Clinton Hill who reportedly had over 90 speeding tickets. Tyrik Mott, 28, was arraigned on charges related to an alleged attempted carjacking while trying to flee police; the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office says the investigation is continuing and additional charges are expected.
“As more New Yorkers are dying, as we’re facing a record year of traffic violence on Mayor de Blasio’s streets, Vision Zero isn’t failing, Mayor de Blasio is failing,” Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said.
Harris said the Reckless Drivers Accountability Act signed in February of 2020 should be fully in effect by now, and may have prevented the death of the 3-month old, and possibly others.
“What we’re seeing now with traffic violence is the predictable and preventable outcome of Mayor de Blasio continuing to prioritize a driver’s convenience…over human life,” Harris said.
The Reckless Drivers Accountability Act wasn’t funded in the 2020 budget because of the pandemic, but was included in this year’s budget passed in June. The program requires drivers who receive more than five red light tickets or 15 speeding tickets in one year to take a training course or risk losing their vehicle.
A spokesperson for the mayor said the program is expected to begin later this year, but did not have further details.
“Dangerous driving has no place in our city and we are working diligently to implement the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program courses. We expect notifications to drivers that qualify to go out this fall, with classes beginning later this year,” DOT spokesperson Alana Morales wrote in a statement.
“That’s on all of us,” City Councilman Brad Lander, who introduced the driver safety bill, said Tuesday. “It’s on Mayor de Blasio most of all. That program, he signed the law, it should be in effect.”
So far this year, 189 people have been killed by vehicles compared to 150 at the same time last year, according to the latest city statistics. The city’s Vision Zero map hasn’t been updated since the end of July. Last year was the deadliest year for pedestrians and cyclists since Vision Zero launched.
Advocates, like Harris, and City Councilman Brad Lander, don’t blame Vision Zero for the deaths, but believe aspects of it need to be scaled up. The city needs to add more protected bike lanes, redesign intersections, and install “traffic calming” devices like wider means that are proven to slow cars down, they say.
Catherine Lepp’s husband Ray Deter was a cyclist who was killed in Lower Manhattan in 2011 by, according to Lepp, a driver who ran a red light. She’s a member of the advocacy group Families for Safe Streets and said the city should be safer for pedestrians.
“I crumbled, I was just devastated,“ she said. “It shouldn’t be happening, the roads could be safer, people could be driving much better than they are, the whole system has to change.”
The Democratic nominee for Mayor Eric Adams held a press conference at the site of the crash Monday calling for a “holistic re-thinking of our streetscape.”
Adams and advocates are calling on state legislators to give the city the power to lower the speed limit itself to 20 miles per hour, and to keep the speed cameras on 24 hours a day, without having to rely on legislation in Albany to approve those changes. Currently, the speed cameras are only turned on during school hours.
This article has been updated with a statement from the Department of Transportation.