Early last month, an MTA bus struck and seriously injured a 15-year-old girl. Following the accident, the bus driver, Francisco de Jesus, was charged with a criminal misdemeanor. The NYPD were able to file charges in conjunction with Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero traffic law that was passed last summer. The MTA is outraged that de Jesus has been criminally charged believe that due to the sheer volume of buses in New York City, it’s impossible for their drivers to have entirely spotless records.
Vision Zero was a somewhat controversial law passed last summer that allows the NYPD to criminally charge bus drivers who either kill or severely injure pedestrians. So far the law has come under fire from the MTA Union who feel that it unnecessarily puts their drivers at risk. “We support all the efforts and goals of Vision Zero but we would prefer our bus operators not be arrested,” said Darryl Irick, the vice president of MTA buses, to the Daily News. Irick also pointed out that the MTA’s drivers go through extensive training and the MTA also does their own investigations of all accidents involving their vehicles. According to Transport Workers Union Local 100, MTA operators drove 152 million combined miles last year. As a result, the union believes it is unfair for the city government to act as if drivers should be perfect; especially since they believe many drivers are being treated as criminals for accidents where they did not commit any offense such as speeding, ignoring traffic signals, or texting while driving.
Whether Vision Zero is a just law poses some interesting questions regarding liability in bus accident cases. While it’s a good thing that the City of New York is concerned with holding bus drivers responsible for accidents, it may not be right to hold them to a higher standard of care than other drivers. This is especially true considering the threat of lawsuits should be enough to hold drivers and the MTA responsible for their actions. In New York passengers and drivers of other vehicles may have grounds to file a lawsuit if they suffered any injuries in a bus accident that caused them economic damage or property damage to their vehicles. As a result, the MTA is, to some extent already being held responsible for their actions.