Citylab interviewed Steve Vaccaro about Intro 238 (now AC 19-190), which criminalizes driver’s violation of pedestrian’s right of way.
Earlier this year, a 9-year-old boy named Cooper Stock was struck and killed by a New York City taxi cab while crossing the street with his father. They were in the crosswalk and had the walk signal at the time; Cooper was holding his father’s hand. It was a tragedy of the worst proportions—and became one degree still worse when it emerged that the driver wouldn’t face any severe charges such as manslaughter or criminal negligence, but would receive only a traffic violation and a small fine.
The “rule of two” operates on the presumption that drivers who are violating two traffic laws at the time of a fatal crash are being criminally negligent behind the wheel.
Regardless of the fact that drivers do honestly lose control of a car sometimes, the list of problems with the “rule of two” is a long one. For starters, it should be reiterated that this is not an actual law but rather a legal precedent. (Dana Lerner writes that she wanted Cyrus Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, to use her son’s case to challenge the “rule of two,” but he refused.) Nor is the rule applied uniformly; Brad Aaron of Streetsblog has reported that many New York drivers who exceed the two-violation threshold still aren’t charged. So the “rule of two” isn’t just arbitrary, it’s biased against the victim.
The most obvious shortcoming is also the most absurd and upsetting: The act of hitting the pedestrian or cyclist with right of way doesn’t count as one of the two violations. You typically need two abuses over and above the collision itself to face criminal charges.
This last problem might finally have been addressed in the eyes of the law with the recent passage of legislation called “Intro 238.” The new law makes drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians and cyclists with the right of way “guilty of a traffic infraction” by the very nature of the accident—in other words, no further negligence is needed. As attorney Steve Vaccaro explains, again at Streetsblog, the law “should mean … an end to the ‘rule of two.’ ”
Click here for the full report.