By Manuel Holguin
New drivers, including immigrants, take to the road every day in New York City. To ensure that these drivers could be adequately licensed, informed of traffic laws, pass a driving test, and operate registered, inspected, and insured vehicles, the Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, also known as the ‘Green Light law,’ was enacted and took effect in December 2019. It allowed New Yorkers aged 16 and older to apply for a standard, non-commercial driver’s license or learner permit irrespective of their citizenship or lawful status in the United States.
During a recent press conference, NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner (DOT) Ydanis Rodríguez spoke about how immigrant drivers have an immense responsibility to keep themselves and others safe on the road, including pedestrians and cyclists. “We at DOT will ensure that fairness and equity reach all communities,” said Commissioner Rodriguez. “The local press can educate drivers not to drive over 25 miles per hour, to respect crosswalks and intersections, not to drive drunk, and for people to use bicycles more for exercise and add seven years of life to their existence.”
Rodríguez, an immigrant, became New York’s first Latino Transportation Commissioner. He was the prime sponsor of the “Our City Our Vote” bill passed and introduced as a law on January 8th, 2022, which permits lawfully present residents and those with work authorizations to vote in municipal elections such as races for mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president, and city council, as well as a ballot referendum.
A report released by the NYPD shows that this year alone, up until February, there has been a total of 7,261 motor vehicle collisions citywide. From this amount, 2,504 include injury or fatal collision outcomes. It’s reports like these why Rodríguez will continue to spotlight the DOT’s Vision Zero. The initiative put together by former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014 outlined numerous proposals to reduce death and serious injury on the streets.
Of course, there is no silver bullet that will end traffic fatalities. Since Vision Zero became the official City policy in 2014, agencies have transformed themselves, prioritizing safety and undertaking tremendous numbers of new projects to reflect the urgency of this need. Projects have already shown encouraging results – for example, the City’s speed camera program has reduced speeding by over 60 percent in locations near schools where cameras operate. NYPD Traffic policing emphasizes enforcing the moving violations most likely to kill or seriously injure. For-hire vehicle, MTA bus, and City fleet drivers receive state-of-the-art training and safety education. Vision Zero is interwoven into the operations of all agencies on the Vision Zero Task Force – an example of the culture change they try to bring to all New Yorkers. It’s important to remember that Vision Zero is not only comprised of a task force, the NYPD, and its many agencies. It also includes the drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, all of us. It is vital for everyone – immigrant or not – to adhere to the traffic laws to keep the streets of New York City safe.
Last month, New York City Mayor Eric Adams led a coalition of administration officials, legislators, and advocates urging Albany to give New York City control of critical tools to tackle the spike in traffic violence that has played out across the City throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “No family should have to suffer the loss of a loved one to traffic violence, but that’s what can happen when a speeding car drives through a red light,” said Mayor Adams. Under current law, speed cameras in the automated enforcement program can only be active Monday to Friday, 6:00 AM to 10:00 PM, and the program will expire this year. “My job is to prevent New Yorkers from dying in our streets, and I need Albany to give me the tools to do my job. I want New Yorkers to hold me accountable for my decisions and results, which means I need home rule control over our speed cameras and red-light cameras. This is about keeping New Yorkers safe.”