BREAKING: Council to Pass ‘Reckless Driver Accountability Act’ on Tuesday

Council Member Brad Lander is the driving force behind the Reckless Driver Accountability Act. File photo: David Meyer
Council Member Brad Lander is the driving force behind the Reckless Driver Accountability Act. File photo: David Meyer

Reckless drivers, your good times are about to stop rolling.

On Tuesday, the City Council is scheduled to pass a landmark bill that would allow authorities to seize cars that have been flagged for multiple camera-issued moving violations — the first time drivers would be held accountable for automated tickets, beyond merely paying the fines.

It is unclear how many tickets will trigger a car seizure by the sheriff’s office. When the bill was originally proposed in June, 2018, sponsor Brad Lander hoped to apprehend the cars of the worst 1 percent of drivers by setting the number of tickets at five in any 12-month period, which at the time would have applied to 26,000 cars.

But during the ensuring months of delay, the city has installed so many more cameras that many more drivers are reaching, and surpassing, five violations, so Lander has talked about raising the threshold so that the bill still only covers the worst 1 percent.

People who crunch numbers for a living say that there are currently more than 94,000 cars with five or more camera-issued red light or speeding tickets in the current 12-month period, a dramatic rise from the original bill. Those cars have recked up more than 666,000 tickets, or an average of seven each, according to data expert Jehiah Czebotar.

In any event, the bill represents a huge step forward for safer streets, supporters say, because it allows authorities to get bad drivers off the road. Currently, the state Department of Motor Vehicles suspends the licenses of drivers who accumulate 11 violation points (roughly four speeding tickets) in any 18-month period. But a license suspension rarely keeps a bad driver off the road because he or she can simply keep driving in violation of the suspension in the knowledge that such drivers are rarely caught unless they hit something or someone.

Plus, camera-issued tickets don’t even count against a driver’s license. But Lander’s bill, effectively, does.

Transportation Alternatives made the bill one of its legislative priorities, saying it “would help save lives on New York City streets by making sure chronic offenders are unable to get behind the wheel.”

The mayor, who once called the Lander bill a low priority for him, is on board. His Law Department has been meeting with Lander for months to ensure that the bill could pass legal challenges. Council Speaker Corey Johnson has also been a champion of the bill.

Lander didn’t want to speculate on whether the bill will indeed pass on Tuesday, but said only that he is “optimistic.”

This is a breaking story. Check back later for updates.