By Patrick Hedlund
DNAinfo News Editor
MANHATTAN — New legislation that creates "real penalties" for careless drivers was signed into law by Gov. David Paterson on Friday.
The “Hayley and Diego Law” is named for pre-schoolers Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, who were killed last year on East Broadway near Chatham Square by a delivery van that was left in reverse and backed up onto the curb.
The new law will punish drivers whose failure to exercise caution behind the wheel results in injury or death to pedestrians or bicyclists. Penalties under the new legislation include 15 days in jail or a $750 fine for a first offense, and a misdemeanor charge for a second offense.
Prior state law did not mandate any punishment for careless drivers who unintentionally harmed pedestrians with their vehicles.
No charges were filed against the driver in the January 2009 incident involving Ng, 4, and Martinez, 3, who were walking hand-in-hand with fellow classmates after a trip to a nearby library when the delivery truck hit them.
“By creating real penalties, this law will send a message to drivers that they have an obligation to drive carefully and keep our streets safe,” state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents Chinatown and introduced the bill in the Senate, said in a statement.
The new law was also heralded by the bike and pedestrian advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, which also helped stump for the measure.
“We call on the NYPD and the boroughs’ district attorneys to use the Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez law as the prosecutorial tool to a safer city,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White in a statement.
Hayley’s mother, May Ng, who attended an emotional press conference last month to push for the legislation, also lauded the new legislation.
"While nothing will ever undo the crash that took Hayley away from us, this new law will prevent tragedies like ours from happening to other families by holding drivers accountable for careless behavior,” she said.