If you drive in New York or anywhere else, you know that traffic tickets can usually be quite aggravating, and the drivers who receive them often feel that they have been singled out unfairly. In the state of New York, the important thing to understand about a traffic citation is that you must deal with it and resolve it. You may need the help of an experienced New York traffic ticket attorney. If you do not act on it, over time, a traffic citation could become a serious legal problem. Understand, too, that resolving a ticket does not necessarily mean paying the fine. Paying the fine is the equivalent of pleading guilty, and it puts points on your driver’s license.

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Drivers in New York may feel like they already have enough rules to contend with, but since November 1, New York is now the twelfth state to enact a “Slow Down to Get Around” law for sanitation vehicles, which expands the preexisting “Move Over” law for construction crews and emergency vehicles. The “Move Over” law adopted in 2012 requires drivers to slow down when passing a construction zone or a public safety vehicle with flashing lights. By classifying garbage trucks and waste collection vehicles as “hazard vehicles,” the state now requires drivers to slow down or to stop if necessary when approaching a garbage or recycling truck in front of them.

UNDER THE NEW LAW, WHAT IS REQUIRED OF DRIVERS?

Under the new Slow Down to Get Around law, drivers who speed past sanitation trucks are now subject to fines and points on their driver’s license. Jeff Schneggenburger is the traffic safety manager for Modern Disposal, a waste and recycling business that serves the greater Buffalo area and western New York. Schneggenburger emphasizes to his drivers what he calls “situational awareness,” because sanitation employees have to pay attention to drivers on the road around them while simultaneously completing their job responsibilities. Schneggenburger says the expansion of the Slow Down to Get Around law is “all about getting people home safe.”

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Drivers in New York will need to provide sanitation employees who are at work behind the trucks with a safety zone of approximately fifty feet. A driver who is found in violation could be fined and receive three points on his or her driver’s license. The offense is called “failing to move over for emergency vehicles and hazard vehicles.” The new protection for sanitation workers is a response by state lawmakers to the 2015 death of 27-year-old Sean Tilghman, an employee of Taylor Garbage Services in Tioga County. Tilghman was struck and killed while working behind a collection truck unloading a garbage bin.

WHY ARE SANITATION WORKERS AT SUCH HIGH RISK?

Federal traffic and labor statistics tell us that the waste and recycling industry reports about ninety fatalities annually per 100,000 workers – making it one of the nation’s deadliest occupations. Mike Spano, the mayor of Yonkers, says that sanitation workers are actually more likely to be killed on the job than firefighters or law enforcement officers. “It doesn’t need to be that way, and it is because people don’t treat blue garbage trucks with the same respect that they treat the school bus, firetruck, ambulance or police car.”

A reflective vest was the only safety equipment that Yonkers sanitation worker John Calise was using when he was injured at work in 2015. “I was dumping the pail on the back of the truck, put it back on the curb. I was coming back towards the truck when my partner had screamed to me ‘look out,’” the sanitation worker told CBS. “I remember tightening up, closing my eyes and then waking up in an ambulance.” He suffered a broken clavicle, two herniated discs, a broken finger, and he was out of work for ten months. “The new law, it’ll help us all out,” he says. “We want the public to know we’re out there, keep an eye out for us. It only takes another minute.”

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The new law in New York does not set a precise speed limit for drivers who are passing sanitation and waste collection vehicles. However, drivers should slow down as if they were passing an active construction zone. Police in Yonkers and in other jurisdictions throughout the state have said that they will educate the public about the new law through verbal warnings, publicity, and social media before they start actually issuing tickets to drivers.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD DRIVERS KNOW ABOUT TRAFFIC LAWS IN NEW YORK?

Frequently in New York, a driver who is ticketed for “failing to move over for emergency vehicles and hazard vehicles” will also be charged with other traffic violations at the same time, such as speeding, reckless driving, improper passing, unsafe lane change, or failure to yield the right of way. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) uses the Driver Violation Point System to assign points for particular traffic violations. If you receive six or more points in an 18-month period, you must pay a Driver Responsibility Assessment fee. If you pile up eleven or more points in an 18-month period, your driver’s license may be suspended.

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You can’t just ignore a traffic ticket in the state of New York. At some point, every ticket must be resolved, or your driver’s license will eventually be suspended. If you ignore or forget about a ticket, the DMV will notify you that the ticket must be resolved or your license will be suspended. If your license is suspended, you will still have to resolve the ticket, and you will also have to pay a fee for lifting your driver’s license suspension.

Never pay a traffic fine in New York without fighting the charge. Paying without contesting the charge is an admission of guilt that not only puts points on your driver’s license but also raises your insurance rates. Traffic regulations are enforced every day in New York by every local police agency in the state, and frankly, the justice system makes it virtually impossible to represent yourself effectively. Each traffic stop and citation is different, and only an experienced, knowledgeable New York traffic ticket attorney knows what it takes to have a citation dismissed and to provide the effective defense that every driver who becomes a defendant will need.

By: Kimberly Pelesz

Family law and criminal defense attorney Kimberly A. Pelesz received a B.S. degree magna cum laude and an M.P.A. degree summa cum laude from Binghamton University. She earned her J.D. from Pace University School of Law in White Plains, where she was selected for Phi Alpha Delta. Her charitable activities include work with My Sisters’ Place in White Plains and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Humane Education Taskforce.

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