New law strengthens penalty for injuring pedestrians while driving recklessly; PSA campaign to feature national print and outdoor ad exposure

NEW YORK – With the start of the school year just days away, a public awareness campaign regarding the recently-signed Elle’s Law was unveiled today.  The legislation, sponsored by New York Assembly Member Micah Kellner and State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan, was signed earlier this month by Governor David Paterson.  Elle’s Law strengthens state motor vehicle laws by increasing the penalty for injuring a pedestrian while driving recklessly.  The law is named for 4-year-old Elle Vandenberghe, who was struck by a driver who reversed through a crosswalk to secure a parking space in September 2009.

The ad campaign, featuring Elle’s smiling face and taglines including “Reckless Driving Wrecks Lives,” “Children Break… When Drivers Don’t,” and “She Almost Died For A Parking Space,”  will appear inside 250 New York City Transit buses, at approximately 30 bus shelters across New York City, on billboards statewide, and in the pages of national newspapers and magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, People Style Watch, Sports Illustrated, The New York Observer and The Wall Street Journal.  The campaign was created by the New York City-based advertising agency Chowder, Inc.
“I am proud that Elle’s Law will help protect the millions of students across New York state who are heading back to school this month, as well as pedestrians of all ages,” said Heather Vandenberghe, Elle’s mother, who first urged lawmakers to pass the legislation as her daughter began to recover from the near-fatal accident.  “On behalf of parents everywhere, I would like to thank Governor Paterson, Assembly Member Kellner, State Senator Dilan and the generous supporters and media companies who provided their services pro bono to help make this public awareness campaign a reality.” 

Elle Vandenberghe was on her way to preschool when she was struck by a motorist driving backwards on a Manhattan street to secure a parking spot.  Elle, who was three years old at the time of the accident, spent eight months in the hospital and continues to recover from a massive head trauma and brain damage.  Meanwhile, the driver was given a traffic summons, per New York State law.  The newly-passed “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.)

“One of the ads reads, ‘Reckless Driving Wrecks Lives’,” said Heather Vandenberghe. “I hope that Elle’s Law will act as a strong deterrent to reckless drivers, and in doing so will prevent other families from enduring what ours has.”

In addition to the PSA campaign, the web site will feature resources including information on the 38 states – plus Washington D.C. – that do not appear to have laws specific to pedestrian safety, and a form visitors may use to contact their local legislators to advocate for similar laws.  A Facebook “fan” page can be found at
Companies who provided pro bono services toward the Elle’s Law campaign include Dan Klores Communications; Chowder Inc.; the LVMH Group; Kerwin Communications; Digital Color Concepts; CBS Outdoor; Cemusa; Fuel Outdoor; and the publications Harper’s Bazaar, People Style Watch, Sports Illustrated, The New York Observer, The Wall Street Journal and Departures magazine, with more to launch in the coming weeks.

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. Only 2% of those accidents involved drugs or alcohol.

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