Is NYC Reckless Driving Course Enough to Stop Reckless Driving?

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New York City’s safe-driving course mandated for reckless drivers has proven to serve no purpose after a reckless driver completed the course and continued to rack up speeding tickets, ultimately killing a 3-month old pedestrian.

New York City’s “court-ordered safe-driving course” for reckless drivers has drawn criticism after reports that the motorist who struck and killed a 3-month-old in Brooklyn had previously completed the program. According to StreetsBlog, the driver, Tyrik Mott, “did not alter his violent driving behavior in any way” after completing the program on May 4th, 2021, after which he earned “26 more school-zone speed camera and red light tickets,” including a speeding ticket recorded “the very day his course participation was logged.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has implemented a comparable course for certain repeat offenders as part of its Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program. In light of the news about Mott, city officials have faced questions about how the course will meaningfully address the problem of reckless driving in New York City. In a statement posted on Twitter about these concerns, City Council Member Brad Lander said, There’s good reason to think driver accountability courses can be an intervention for meaningful behavior change for many drivers. Not all, not enough, but many. Preliminary data from Red Hook Justice Center shows a 40-percent drop in speeding recidivism… We will, though, need stronger sanctions for those who don’t change their behavior after repeat reckless driving and opportunities.”

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New York City’s Department of Transportation Commissioner stated that driving courses are not enough to protect pedestrians and drivers against other reckless drivers and that state laws need to be changed in order for serious consequences to be implemented against these dangerous drivers.

Lander pointed to the possibility for state legislation to suspend the licenses of certain reckless drivers. “At the same time we need to redouble efforts to redesign our cities & streetscape to reduce reliance on cars, slow them down, and protect pedestrians and cyclists,” he said. As StreetsBlog reported, de Blasio has also pointed to the possibility of state legislation as a fix for the inadequacy of city-level measures. “There should be a more direct approach to impound a vehicle when someone has multiple infractions that are dangerous to their fellow New Yorkers,” he told the publication. “In my view, if you blow through the red-light cameras enough times and you put people in danger, your car should be taken away with or without the safe driving course. Just go take it. But that requires a state law change to do.”

As StreetsBlog noted, however, speeding tickets issued by speeding cameras “do not currently count against a driver’s license,” and city authorities may lack the power to impound vehicles in response to a particular motorist’s infractions, “because the car might belong to someone else.”

A third New York City official, Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman, also told StreetsBlog that the reckless driving course is not a complete fix for the problem of reckless drivers. “Does that mean that the course will fix every one of these problems? Obviously not, as we learned with that tragic incident in Brooklyn, which is very much front of mind,” he said. He called for increased law enforcement mechanisms to fill the gap.

More information on criticism of New York City’s Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program is available via StreetsBlog.

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