Decision Not to Charge Cab Driver Who Killed Cooper Stock is Unjust

T.A. Calls for Tougher Penalties When Traffic Violations Lead to Death or Serious Injury

May 22, 2014
Brian Zumhagen 646-873-6008

Statement of Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives:

The decision not to file charges against Koffi Komlani, the cab driver whose failure to yield resulted in the death of 9-year-old Cooper Stock, is unjust and directly counter to the City's Vision Zero initiative that seeks to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries on our streets by 2024.

This injustice draws attention to glaring holes in the laws that are intended to protect us as we move around New York City. Transportation Alternatives calls on our elected officials at City Hall and in Albany to take action to remedy the situation without delay.

Specifically, we support the City Council legislation Intro 238, which would set the penalty for failing to yield to a pedestrian or cyclist from $50 to $250 and up to 15 days in jail. The bill would make it a misdemeanor for a driver to "make contact" with a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way, punishable by up to $500 in fines and 30 days in jail.

We also support strengthening Hayley and Diego's Law (NYS VTL 1146), which imposes penalties on drivers whose failure to exercise due care results in injury to pedestrians or bicyclists. Officers should be able to cite drivers in violation using evidence and testimony, even if officers did not witness the crash themselves.

Finally, Transportation Alternatives agrees with the recent statement of New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. that "vehicular homicides [should be held] to the same standard as all homicides." We support the District Attorney's proposed legislative changes that would simplify the legal threshold in such cases.

Traffic deaths are preventable, and all these reforms are intended to make drivers think twice about their actions behind the wheel. As NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan recently stated, "When a collision occurs between a motorist and a pedestrian, the pedestrian loses 100 percent of the time."

Our thoughts are with Cooper's parents, Dana Lerner and Dr. Richard Stock, who have demonstrated their courage and commitment to traffic justice as founding members of Families for Safe Streets, a group of New Yorkers who have been injured or have lost loved ones in traffic crashes. We support their advocacy on behalf of Cooper's Law (Intro 171-2014), which would amend the city's administrative code to allow for suspension and automatic revocation of a TLC license, pending an investigation, in the event that a cab driver kills or seriously injures someone after violating a traffic law.