On Jan. 10, 9-year-old Cooper Stock was crossing in a crosswalk on the Upper West Side with his father — with the light — when a cab driver taking a left turn, Koffi Komlani, struck and killed the boy.
The city was outraged. But Komlani, who was cited only for "failure to yield" and given a fine of a couple hundred dollars, still has his hacks license.
Its a chilling example of how the deck is stacked against pedestrians in New York, and a lesson for Mayor de Blasio as he prepares to name a new Taxi & Limousine Commission chief.
Taxi drivers may not be the citys only dangerous drivers, but they could be an example for safer streets.
"Safety should be the primary emphasis," Coopers uncle, Barron Lerner, says. The commissioner "needs to be a reformer."
Theres no reason that Komlani should still have his hacks license. Though the TLC argues that "due process" and other legalisms prevent it from revoking the license of a driver who kills, professional drivers should be held to a higher standard — even if it takes a change in state law to better allow cops to make cases against drivers whose reckless behavior the police didnt actually witness.
If you already ran a little boy over in a crosswalk, you shouldnt be driving.
But punishing drivers after they kill is not enough. The TLC has the power to cut down on traffic deaths in the first place, using data.
Taxicabs "are roving computers that have endless capabilities," says Michael Woloz, who represents yellow medallion taxi companies. With "too many deaths on the street ... theres a fresh way to look at this."
The TLC already collects data via GPS installed in every cab. It knows where a driver picks up a fare and drops the fare off.
The commission can already use that data to enforce, say, if a cab driver tries to wring more money from an unsuspecting tourist. What the TLC doesnt do — yet — is use GPS or other technology to track bad behavior.
The TLC could require cab owners to install technology that tracks speed and other dangerous behavior.
It could also learn which intersections are the most dangerous. If drivers are speeding through certain intersections every day, the TLC could inform the NYPD — which could send out officers to give tickets.
At the same time, if drivers have to wait too long at certain intersections to turn, thats a sign of bad street design. That data could go to the Department of Transportation, which can redesign intersections and light timing.
On-board cameras, too, could help after a crash. It could show whether a cab driver was distracted by a cellphone — or show whether another vehicle or pedestrian caused a crash.
Smart use of data could help change driver and passenger behavior, as well.
Bhairavi Desai, who represents taxi drivers, says that drivers slow down when they see a sign board on a street that tells them how fast theyre going versus the speed limit.
A big dashboard warning light telling cab drivers they are exceeding the speed limit by 10 mph — and perhaps simulating what would happen to a pedestrian who wandered into that path — could slow speeds.
And a similar back-seat dashboard could tell the passenger that a driver is driving dangerously, as well. Its often passengers who try to bully cabdrivers into breaking the law — asking them to drive faster for a better tip because theyre in a hurry. Thats why they took a cab in the first place.
Over time, forcing cab drivers to slow down and be more careful would change other drivers behavior, too, especially in Manhattan.
Thats important, because cab drivers dont cause most crashes. A 2010 city-wide report noted that "79% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve private automobiles as opposed to taxis, trucks and buses."
But if cabbies have to drive more carefully — because they know someone is watching them — other drivers will have to conform to the new pattern on the roadways, too.
Plus, drivers of private cars are likely to speed through the same intersections where cabbies regularly flout the law — and better data collection would allow the NYPD to better punish all bad drivers at those problem intersections, rather than just targeting cabbies.
As Desai notes, cab drivers trying to follow the law face a threat "from people that really speed past you," especially at night.
Of course, doing anything is likely to anger someone — or everyone — in an industry ruled by special interests from medallion owners to drivers. The taxi industry donated more than a quarter of a million dollars to de Blasios election campaign last year.
But as de Blasio picks a taxi commissioner, he shouldnt think of the donors. He should keep in mind the counsel of Coopers uncle, Lerner.
"The Bloomberg example" in many departments, including the Department of Health, was "find[ing] people who are the best available people ... who are not beholden to interest groups. That seems to have been a pattern of success" in saving lives.
Original Source: http://nypost.com/2014/02/01/how-taxi-innovation-could-save-innocent-lives/