Reckless drivers could lose vehicles under new New York City law

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City drivers who get five camera-issued red light tickets or 15 camera-issued speeding tickets in a 12-month period will have to take a traffic safety course or risk losing their vehicles under a bill signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday.

"We are putting all drivers on notice that if you behave recklessly behind the wheel, there will be real consequences," said de Blasio, who joined other city officials and traffic safety advocates a bill-signing ceremony.

The Dangerous Vehicle Abatement bill is the latest step in the Administration's Vision Zero plan to make New York City's streets safer.

Jane Martin-Lavaud was in attendance, holding a picture of her 24-year-old daughter, Leonora Lavaud, who was killed by a reckless driver seven years ago at an intersection in Gravesend, Brooklyn.

"My younger daughter is now 24, and she just moved out and I am terrified," she said. "I know every parent goes through their empty nest syndrome. I am terrified, absolutely terrified."

Martin-Lavaud hopes the new law will ease her fears.

If an owner fails to complete the course, their vehicle may be seized and impounded by the city sheriff. Officials estimate that the new law will affect about 3,000 to 6,000 vehicles, or less than 1% of the nearly 2 million vehicles registered in the city.

"If you're a driver and you put your fellow New Yorkers in danger, we're getting you the hell off the road," de Blasio said. "We're taking your vehicle. Period. That's what this means."

The new law will not bring back 26-year-old Jose Contla, who was struck and killed Sunday morning as he walked to work in Bensonhurst. His still grieving wife also attended the bill signing.

"We need to clean the streets because we don't need crazy drivers out there," Marisol Contla said.

The law will take effect on February 26, 2021 and apply to red light camera and school speed camera violations incurred after October 26, 2020.

"The dangerous vehicle abatement program will ensure that only the safest drivers remain on the road and will create a deterrent for drivers who refuse to correct their actions," said City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, chairman of the council's transportation committee.

The program will run for three years, at which point the mayor and City Council will decide to renew or modify the effort.

De Blasio has sought to reduce traffic fatalities through measures such as lowering speed limits and adding speed cameras, but at least 20 pedestrians have been killed by motor vehicles on city streets this year, including a 10-year-old girl who was struck by a school bus on Tuesday.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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