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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back to School Safety: “Elle’s Law”

Governor Paterson Signs “Elle’s Law”

Signing comes less than two months after bill, sponsored by State Senator Dilan and Assemblyman Kellner, was unanimously passed by the NYS Legislature;

“Elle’s Law” will strengthen penalties for injuring pedestrians while driving recklessly; law named for three-year-old Elle, who was struck by car driving wrong way on Manhattan street to get a parking spot

ALBANY, NEW YORK (AUGUST 16) – Governor David Paterson has signed “Elle’s Law,” which will strengthen state motor vehicle laws by hiking penalties for similar driving violations, helping to ensure pedestrian safety – and acting as a deterrent for reckless drivers. The signing came less than two months after the New York State Legislature unanimously passed bills sponsored by Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner (D-Manhattan) and State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan (D-Brooklyn).

“Elle’s Law” is named after young Elle, who was struck down by a motorist driving backwards down a Manhattan street – just to get a parking spot. Elle continues to recover from massive head trauma and significant brain damage; meanwhile, the driver was given a traffic summons, and nothing more. “Elle’s Law” will result in any driver injuring a pedestrian while driving recklessly having his or her license suspended for up to a year. (Current laws are already very strict for reckless driving either under the influence or impaired by alcohol.)

“I want to thank Governor Paterson for signing this important piece of legislation into law, and extend our gratitude to Speaker Sheldon Silver, Senator Dilan, Assembly Member Kellner and the members of the State Legislature for shepherding ‘Elle’s Law’ through the process,” said Heather Vandenberghe, the mother of Elle. “The main goal of ‘Elle’s Law’ has always been to protect pedestrians of all ages across New York State from suffering the same fate as my daughter. Elle’s Law will serve as a strong deterrent to motorists who might consider breaking traffic laws, and as a result will make our streets safer.”

“I’m proud to have co-sponsored this piece of legislation, which will protect pedestrians and drivers alike,” said State Senator Dilan, who also serves as Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “Elle’s Law sends a clear message that blatant disregard for traffic regulations can have devastating consequences.”

"Driving is a privilege, not a right," said Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner. "Elle's tragedy exposed a huge loophole in the law -- since there is no criminal penalty for reckless drivers who injure pedestrians unless they are intoxicated, we needed to ensure that there was some way to get dangerous drivers off the road. That's why I introduced Elle's Law. By signing Elle's Law the Governor turned this little girl's tragedy into a legacy: making it safer for every New Yorker to cross the street."

On September 23, 2009, 3-year old Elle Vandenberghe was struck by a motorist while she was on her way to school. The driver was in his SUV going south on York Avenue in Manhattan when, according to witnesses, he threw his car in reverse to get to a parking spot on East 82nd Street. The driver backed through a crosswalk – against a red light – and struck Elle, causing major head trauma. While Elle lay in a coma for two weeks – she suffered a stroke and lost 2/3rds of the left side of her brain – the driver got off with a traffic infraction, paying a small fine and facing no jail time. Elle remains in physical therapy to this day.

According to 2008 data from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, there were more than 15,000 pedestrian accidents statewide, with more than 97% resulting in physical injuries.

Disclosure: Informations provided to me by the representing PR. No compensation was given.


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