Last Updated on October 2, 2021 by Lawrence Berezin
Failing to yield to pedestrians or bicyclists is a crime under certain circumstances
This is another initiative to make N.Y.C. streets safer for all by criminalizing a failure to yield violation. However, there are still exceptions, provisos, and the like to balance safety with fairness. Here is what everyone ought to know about what happens by failing to yield to a pedestrian or bicyclist.
Meet the new failing to yield law
New York City Administrative Code –
§ 19–190 Right of way. a. Except as provided in subdivision b of this section, any driver of a motor vehicle who fails to yield to a pedestrian or person riding a bicycle when such pedestrian or person has the right of way shall be guilty of a traffic infraction, which shall be punishable by a fine of not more than fifty dollars or imprisonment for not more than fifteen days or both such fine and imprisonment. In addition to or as an alternative to such penalty, such driver shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than one hundred dollars which may be recovered in a proceeding before the environmental control board. For purposes of this section, “motor vehicle” shall have the same meaning as in section one hundred twenty-five of the vehicle and traffic law.
b. Except as provided in subdivision c of this section, any driver of a motor vehicle who violates subdivision a of this section and whose motor vehicle causes contact with a pedestrian or person riding a bicycle and thereby causes physical injury shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, which shall be punishable by a fine of not more than two hundred fifty dollars, or imprisonment for not more than thirty days or both such fine and imprisonment. In addition to or as an alternative to such penalty, such driver shall also be subject to a civil penalty of not more than two hundred fifty dollars which may be recovered in a proceeding before the environmental control board. For purposes of this section, “physical injury” shall have the same meaning as in section 10.00 of the penal law.
c. It shall not be a violation of this section if the failure to yield and/or physical injury was not caused by the driver’s failure to exercise due care.
d. This section shall not apply to persons, teams, motor vehicles, and other equipment working on behalf of the city of New York, the state of New York or the federal government while actively engaged in work requiring the presence of a motor vehicle in a location that interferes with the right of way of a pedestrian or person riding a bicycle. Such persons, teams, motor vehicles, and other equipment shall proceed at all times during all phases of such work, exercising due regard for the safety of all persons and consistent with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations. Nothing in this section shall relieve such persons or teams or such operators of motor vehicles or other equipment from the consequences of failure to exercise due care or the consequences of their reckless disregard for the safety of others.
Failing to yield Frequently Asked Questions
I read a super informative article about the law in Transportation Alternatives. A wonderful F.A.Q. was included and well worth reading. Here’s an excerpt:
What is the Right of Way Law?
New York City’s Right of Way Law (known as Section 19-190 of the N.Y.C. Administrative Code or Local Law 29) helps protect pedestrians on dangerous city streets. The law makes it a possible misdemeanor crime when a driver fails to yield and kills or injures a person walking in the crosswalk with the right of way. The law can work two ways: If a driver fails to yield but doesn’t cause an injury, the driver may be fined up to $100; if the driver causes physical injury or death, the driver may be fined up to $250 and in theory be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail, though this is highly unlikely for the first offense.
How does the Right of Way Law define the right of way?
The law requires drivers to exercise basic due care to avoid failing to yield to a pedestrian or bicyclist with the right of way. That right of way typically exists in crosswalks where the pedestrian has the light, or when a bicyclist is riding in a road lane while passing an intersection, often on the right side of a motorist.
Important FAQ’s continue
How does the NYPD decide if there has been a violation?
If the NYPD finds, based on probable cause, that a driver has failed to yield to a pedestrian or bicyclist with the right of way and caused a physical injury or fatality, that driver may be charged and arrested at the scene of the crash.
How did the NYPD treat failing to yield before?
Before the Right of Way Law took effect, police officers were required to have personally witnessed the crash that caused an injury, despite witness testimony or physical evidence of failure to yield. In instances where a person was killed, the driver who caused the fatality by failing to yield often was charged with nothing more than a traffic violation and issued a small fine. Usually, there would be no consequences at all.
I urge you to check out this important article.
Here are some key takeaways:
- We are subject to a normal traffic violation by failing to yield as long as there is no contact with a pedestrian or bicyclist
- We are subject to criminal penalties of a fine and imprisonment if we contact a pedestrian or bicyclist even if there are no injuries
- The strictest penalties are reserved for injury or death
- Probable cause can be determined by a police officer even though she did not witness the violation
- Failure to exercise due care is a reason that will be considered in evaluating the case
Let’s all do our best to make N.Y.C. streets safe for all of us.