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Councilwoman Pushes Law to Yank Cabbies' Licenses After Pedestrian Crashes

By Emily Frost | February 17, 2014 11:24am
 Helen Rosenthal has submitted a change to the city's administrative code that would mean tougher penalties for taxi drivers who fail to yield. 
New Legislation Calls for Stricter Rules for Taxi Drivers Who Injure Pedestrians and Bikers
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UPPER WEST SIDE — A city councilwoman is proposing a law that would yank the hack licenses of any cabdriver involved in a serious pedestrian crash — a month after a cabbie got only a slap on the wrist in a fatal collision with a 9-year-old boy.

City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal has introduced legislation calling for mandatory license revocations of taxi drivers who seriously injure pedestrians or bikers when failing to yield, a significant penalty increase from the current system. 

Under current TLC regulations, a driver who hits — or even kills — a pedestrian while failing to yield is allowed to keep driving with just three points on their license and a small fine.

"I haven’t spoken to one individual who isn’t horrified that [the penalty] is so de minimis," Rosenthal said. 

The cabbies' licenses would be temporarily suspended at the time of the incidents while an investigation is conducted, the proposed measure states.

After the investigation, if it's deemed that "the driver is guilty of 'failure to yield,' the driver’s TLC license would be automatically and permanently revoked," Rosenthal's director of communications Stephanie Buhle said of the legislation, which was submitted on Friday.

If passed, the legislation would change the city's administrative code regulating the Taxi and Limousine Commission. 

"We haven't yet seen the legislation. Once we have it, we will immediately review it with great care and interest," said TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg. 

Cooper Stock, 9, was killed on Jan.10 when driver Koffi Komlani, 53, failed to yield as the boy crossed the street at West End Avenue and West 97th Street while holding his father Richard Stock's hand. 

Komlani kept his license, but has been voluntarily staying off the road since the accident, TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg previously said.

"I’m so impressed with him that he’s taken himself off the road," Rosenthal said. "That’s a very powerful statement about his integrity."

The lack of consequences for Komlani and other drivers involved in pedestrian crashes has caused Stock's family even more heartache, said Cooper's mother, Dana Lerner.

"I don't want anyone else to have to experience the agony that our family is going through and then find out that the driver faces only a ticket and a small fine," she said, adding she feels betrayed by the city where she chose to raise her children.

"Right now cabdrivers have an incentive to go too fast.  This bill will both give them an incentive to be careful and ensure that professional drivers who kill or maim are taken off the road."

Lerner said the proposed legislation is only the first step toward larger changes that need to be made on the state level.

"We need to change New York State law to make it a criminal offense to drive in a manner that seriously injures or kills a pedestrian or bicyclist who is following the law," she said. "It's wrong for the state of New York not to address this immediately."

Community Board 7 has proposed an even steeper penalty for drivers — an automatic license revocation for anyone who kills or harms someone while breaking a traffic law. 

Rosenthal said she's hoping to have a hearing on the legislation in the next two months, if not sooner. 

"It seems like such a common-sense reaction to the tragedy with Cooper," Rosenthal added.