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Vision Zero ‘Right of Way’ law is constitutional, appeals court rules

A controversial law enacted as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” plan — which allows motorists who kill or injure cyclists and pedestrians to be slapped with criminal penalties — is constitutional, an appeals court in Manhattan has found.

The Appellate Term, First Department ruled Monday to uphold a criminal charge for Carlos Torres, who fatally hit Elise Lac­howyn with a dump truck while she was lawfully trying to cross 11th Avenue near West 37th Street to get to the Javits Convention Center in 2016.

Torres was fined $750, ordered to take a driving program and had his license revoked for six months.

The charge was brought under the city’s “Right of Way” law, which imposes criminal penalties on drivers who seriously injure or kill pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way, and was enacted in 2014 as part of Hizzoner’s “Vision Zero” plan to reduce traffic deaths.

Some judges have previously ruled the law unconstitutional because it puts the burden on drivers to show that they weren’t driving negligently.

But the appeals court disagreed with Torres’ argument that the law is unconstitutional, finding that, with regard to offenses that affect the public welfare, “criminal penalties may be imposed without regard to mental culpability.”

The ruling was the first time an appeals court has addressed whether or not the law is constitutional.

“The City’s Right of Way Law helps save lives by imposing clear consequences on careless drivers who fail to yield the right of way,” said Acting Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana in a news release.

“The law makes all New Yorkers safer, and we’re pleased the Court found the law was a proper exercise of the Council’s powers.”