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City Council Passes 'Cooper's Law' to Yank Cab Licenses After Crashes

By Emily Frost | May 29, 2014 3:55pm
 Cooper Stock, 9, was killed in January 2014.
Cooper Stock, 9, was killed in January 2014.
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Dana Lerner

UPPER WEST SIDE — The City Council passed legislation Thursday to revoke the license of taxi drivers who kill or critically injure a person after being convicted of breaking a traffic law.

"Cooper's Law" was introduced by City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal in response to the death of 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was killed in January when a cabdriver failed to yield to him while he was crossing the street with his father.

Under the bill — which passed 46 to 1, with two abstentions a cabbie's taxi license would automatically be suspended immediately after a crash in which a pedestrian is killed or critically injured. It would be permanently revoked if the cabbie is eventually convicted by the Taxi & Limousine Commission of violating traffic laws at the time of the crash, such as failing to yield to a pedestrian, officials said. 

The legislation defines "critical injury" as "any injury determined to be critical by the emergency medical service personnel responding to such crash."

In the case of young Cooper, the driver was given a $300 summons following the crash for failing to yield but was not convicted of any other wrongdoing and allowed to continue driving his cab. The lack of consequences he faced provoked outrage from the boy's family and local residents. 

"If we are serious about changing the tone on our streets, there needs to be serious consequences for violations like these," Rosenthal testified at City Hall Thursday, congratulating her colleagues for "changing history."

Rosenthal has said that she has spoken to Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose Vision Zero plan seeks to eliminate pedestrian deaths in the city, and that he has told her he supports the plan. De Blasio's office did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Taxi & Limousine Commissioner Meera Joshi said in a statement that she was grateful for the legislation.

"These powerful tools will go a long way in helping us to achieve our goal of ending traffic deaths and injuries through Vision Zero," she stated. 

Cooper's Law will go into effect in 90 days after it is signed into law.

Queens City Councilman Mark Weprin was the lone member who voted against the bill, arguing that there are vast differences between reckless driving, such as going 80 miles per hour on a city street, and reasonable driving that leads to a no-fault accident, such as a rolling stop that ends with a crash. He said the legislation should be amended to reflect the difference. 

"They lose their license to drive a car which is their livelihood," Weprin told the council.  

Cooper's mother, Dana Lerner, expressed gratitude to Rosenthal and her staff for pushing the bill forward. 

"It's a bittersweet day for me," Lerner said. "This is a huge triumph for pedestrians in NYC...and to those of us who have been affected by a tragedy by a reckless cab driver we can feel a little better."

But Lerner's efforts to make city streets safer are far from over, she said. 

"Now comes education and reinforcement... there is still a lot of work to do!"