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NYers of the Year: Families for Safe Streets a Driving Force for Safer Driving

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This year, NY1's New Yorker of the Year recognizes the tireless efforts of a few families fighting for change after tragedy. NY1's John Schiumo filed the following report.

Strangers bonded by grief. These New Yorkers were united by a loss they feel every day.

"Every step I take," said Ken Bandes, Ella Bandes' father.

"Our lives are totally shattered," said Judy Kottick, Ella Bandes' mother. "I mean, you know, we'll never be the same."

They are families whose loved ones were killed by vehicles. Ariel Russo, 4; Cooper Stock, 9; Ella Bandes, 23; Sammy Cohen Eckstein, 12; Allison Liao, 3.

"No one should ever have to experience their child being resuscitated in the emergency room and later told, 'We have to stop,' or understand what it's like when holding your child and feel their body temperature drop," said Amy Tam, Allison Liao's mother.

It is a pain shared by many. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14.

This year, grief turned into action. In 2014, these families banded together to create "Families for Safe Streets." They soon partnered with Transportation Alternatives to demand an end to traffic violence.

"If there's no punishment, what's the incentive for them to act lawfully?" said Dana Lerner, Cooper Stock's mother. "If they think they're going to get, this man got a $300 fine. He killed my son. He killed my 9-year-old beautiful, innocent child."

You can see the results of their effort in the Vision Zero initiative. More speed bumps, speed cameras and slow zones. New street designs and a lower speed limit.

"They suffered an unimaginable loss," said Mayor Bill de Blasio. "They continue to feel pain, but they have turned that pain into action."

You can agree or disagree whether the changes make the roads safer, but you cannot deny this passion to make our city a better place.

"The thing I would say to every driver is, the next one could be someone you love," said Amy Cohen, mother of Sammy Cohen Eckstein. "I never thought this could happen to me."

So, for becoming a driving force to force safer driving, the Families for Safe Streets are our New Yorkers of the Year.

Nominate a New Yorker

If you'd like to nominate someone to be NY1's New Yorker of the Week, send an email describing their qualifications to nyer@ny1.com or mail a letter to:

NY1 News
New Yorker of the Week
75 Ninth Avenue, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10011

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