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That’ll teach ‘em: Slope pol pushes bill forcing law-breaking drivers to relearn rules of road before returning to wheel

Land raider: Park Slope Councilman Brad Lander stood with District Attorney Eric Gonzalez as he announced a new bill at City Hall Park on Tuesday that targets the city’s most reckless drivers.
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A Park Slope pol wants to pull cars belonging to thousands of law-breaking motorists from city streets and force the rogue riders to go back to drivers’ ed before their wheels are returned, according to legislation he announced on Tuesday.

Councilman Brad Lander’s bill — written in response to driver Dorothy Bruns’s road-side slaughter of two kids and an unborn baby on Ninth Street in March — would give local officials the authority to impound or boot vehicles issued more than five violations by speed and red-light cameras in one year, and require their owners to attend a so-called “reckless driver accountability program” to reclaim their rides.

Bruns — whose Volvo racked up five camera violations in 2017 alone, according to records — is far from the worst of the city’s drivers, according to Lander, who said more than 25,000 other motorists committed just as many, if not more, infractions that year, necessitating a crackdown on bad behavior behind the wheel.

“There are thousands of drivers on our streets whose track record is just as bad as hers, and in some cases worse … who put the lives of their neighbors at risk with impunity,” Lander said at a press conference outside City Hall alongside District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and a bevy of safe-street advocates.

Impounding vehicles would help officials close a current loophole that lets motorists who receive multiple camera violations drive off with meager $50 fines, according to Lander, because the state cannot revoke a license for infractions caught on film since cameras only capture a car’s license-place number, not the person behind the wheel.

Mayor DeBlasio demanded Albany lawmakers introduce similar legislation weeks after the deadly Park Slope crash, although he suggested a more lenient punishment that would suspend the vehicle registration of cars caught more than five times by cameras within a two-year period.

And Hizzoner did not call for the drivers’ ed class, which Lander said would be modeled after a program piloted at the Red Hook Community Justice Center — a so-called community court overseen by city and state officials that doles out rehabilitative sentences to minor-crime offenders in the area.

In 2016, the Justice Center mandated 298 law-breakers participate in the driver-accountability program, which emphasizes the “impact on victims” and fosters “meaningful behavioral change,” according to a report from the program’s creators at the Center for Court Innovation, a national organization that advocates for criminal-justice reform.

Twelve of Lander’s Council colleagues pledged to support his bill, which he said is being introduced today, but Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez — chairman of the body’s Transportation Committee, which must sign off on the legislation before it can go to a full vote — has yet to lend his support, according to the Park Slope pol.

But even if Council passes the bill, it will be toothless if state pols fail to pass their own legislation extending the city’s school-zone speed-camera program, which provides funding for the technology and is set to expire on July 1.

Days before Lander’s announcement, DeBlasio hosted a May 30 press conference in Park Slope where he called on Albany to extend and expand the speed-camera program to streets around even more city learning houses, while also teasing plans for Ninth Street’s long-awaited redesign, which he said will include a protected bike path, narrower traffic lanes for vehicles, and new loading regulations to reduce double parking.

Department of Transportation bigwigs will present the agency’s full plan for Ninth Street later this month, according to a rep.

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Updated 1:34 am, July 10, 2018
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