A short time ago, elected officials, pedestrian safety advocates and community leaders crowded onto the bustling sidewalk on the Lower East Side to acknowledge a legislative achievement. Today, “Hayley and Diego’s Law,” which cracks down on careless drivers, went into effect.
The law was named for Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, two toddlers who were killed when an unoccupied van jumped a curb in Chinatown last year. The driver responsible was not charged with any crime. The bill’s sponsors, State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh and Senator Daniel Squadron, say the legislation sends the clear message that careless driving is unacceptable and can have deadly results.
The law imposes penalties on drivers who fail to “exercise due care” in accidents that result in injuries to pedestrians and cyclists. For a first offense, a judge could order a $750 fine, 15 days in jail, participation in a driver training course or revocation of a driver’s license. For a second offense, all of these same penalties would apply, as well as a misdemeanor charge.
In the past, prosecutors have had few options in cases like the Chinatown tragedy. A driver could be charged with vehicular manslaughter (difficult to prove) or given a citation. Kavanagh said the new law gives district attorneys a third option — one which will enable more prosecutions and also serve as a deterrent.
The legislation was championed by Transportation Alternatives, which advocates for pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit.
Today’s press event was held at the corner of Essex and Delancey, one of the most dangerous intersections in the city.