No Solutions After DOT Commissioner Finally Speaks With State DMV, Just Plans to Meet Again 

The memorial to Apolline Mong-Guillemin. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman
The memorial to Apolline Mong-Guillemin. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Honchos from the Department of Transportation and state Department of Motor Vehicles had an historic first meeting on Monday to “devise new, innovative strategies to address the problem of reckless drivers,” but it’s unclear what came of it — if anything. 

As Streetsblog reported, DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman requested such a meeting in an Oct. 21 letter to the DMV, leading to Gutman and DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder having this week’s “initial talk” over the phone — not a sit-down, in-person meeting — to identify the challenges of ensuring that drivers without valid licenses aren’t able to just get back behind the wheel, as did 29-year-old Tyrik Mott, a recidivist reckless and unlicensed driver who cops say drove the wrong way on a Brooklyn street on Sept. 11, crashed into another car and killed 3-month-old Apolline Mong-Guillemin and gravely injuring her mom. 

Mott, who had thousands of dollars in unpaid tickets, multiple license suspensions and arrests, and close to 100 camera-issued moving violation summonses, is among those the city considers “major violators” — egregious offenders who either fled a crash scene, did not have a valid license at the time of a crash, had three or more prior convictions, or had a prior DWI or any other prior suspension.

And of the then-94 pedestrians fatally struck by drivers at the time DOT fired off its missive, 59 percent were killed by the “major violators” — reckless drivers whom both state and city officials had repeatedly failed to get off the road. 

Chart: DOT
Chart: DOT

Gutman’s letter and request to meet for the first time with the DMV came as the city hit a tragic benchmark, marking 220 road deaths — the highest death toll at that point in the year since de Blasio took office and unveiled Vision Zero. Now, just weeks later, the death toll stands at 230 people killed on the streets of New York City, including 104 pedestrians and 17 cyclists, according to DOT.  

A spokesperson for DOT declined to provide specifics about the phone call, but said Gutman and Schroeder discussed “trends in crash statistics and fatalities,” and vowed to continue conversations to “develop new proposals to further advance the goal of street safety and save lives.”

And while advocates said they appreciate the city-state partnership to come up with solutions for curbing the rise in traffic violence, it’s ultimately on Mayor de Blasio — and Mayor-elect Eric Adams — to make streets safer.

“We appreciate the partnership and solutions that can come from the NYS DMV, but Vision Zero starts at home,” said Cory Epstein, a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives. “The mayor controls New York City streets and can engineer them for safety. We know that street design is the strongest tool to save lives and expect this to be the number one focus for our next mayor, Eric Adams, as his administration continues and improves upon Vision Zero.”