The email arrived from a friend well before 9am on Monday morning.
“What an awful thing. It literally has my stomach sick… My God, what a tragedy.
His distress caused by a horrible car accident last sunday night which claimed the lives of three teenagers. The same distress felt by thousands of people who read the story on SILive.commany expressing their grief on Facebook.
The grief families and friends are experiencing today is unimaginable.
The emotions too high, the pain too deep for us to theorize what caused this horror that took three dynamic young lives. It’s a job left to the NYPD.
The little we are going to say. . . inexplicably, the driver of the car was only 16 years old, with only a learner’s permit. Police experts say speed was a factor. And the operator of the second vehicle involved in the crash was driving with a suspended license.
What we unfortunately have to comment on is the madness we call driving in Staten Island.
Young people growing up in our borough, teenagers aspiring to get their driver’s license, see it daily: speeding, reckless disregard for pedestrians, rudeness, impatience.
Once a yellow traffic light triggered one of two things: slow down and stop, or speed up and beat the red light – maybe.
Today, the first five or 10 seconds of a red light is what a yellow light once was – almost meaningless. Motorists drive blatantly through them, seemingly unconcerned if some poor soul with the green light should enter the intersection without diligently checking both directions.
Something major needs to change. I wish I could suggest what. Because I don’t know how we change the insolent behavior we have on our roads. Leisurely Sunday walks with the family are long gone.
The debate and vitriol over speed and red light cameras is endless. Opponents announce stats that claim crashes aren’t going down and have actually gone up, while the city announces stats that show a drop and a high number of drivers getting a camera violation and never another.
Who is right might be debatable. What it doesn’t is that driving on Staten Island doesn’t get any safer.
The catch with camera breaches is that, even at $50, they’re a cost of “doing business” for a lot of people. Read this, get to their destination as fast as possible, to hell with anyone who gets in their way.
Camera violations do not add points to your license or affect your car insurance. A spike in insurance could be a game-changer.
Credit the city council for trying to add some risk: if your car is caught speeding 15 times in 12 months or running through a red light five times, you’ll have to take a safe driving course – or maybe have your car seized. Note that the legislation reads maybe.
But also note: That’s 15 times – to our knowledge – that the driver could have caused a serious accident. That’s five times – we know – the driver could have killed someone with the right of way at an intersection, or a pedestrian legally crossing the road.
I grew up half a block from Capodanno Boulevard. The speed limit was then 35 mph. If one car in a hundred was 35, I would have been surprised. It was more like 50, 60 and even 70.
Crashes were frequent. The one who aroused the most anger was then-Councilman John Fusco in the middle of Capodanno, demanding a solution to a dangerous curve near Mapleton Avenue. It was 1994 when a young mother, outside her Capodanno home, was leaning into her car to pick up her twins after a shopping spree when an out-of-control van, with a drunk driving, killed her.
The curve was so dangerous and accidents so frequent that the family placed huge rocks on their lawn for protection.
Between 1988 and 1995, when Fusco stood on Capodanno, there were 10 roadway fatalities. The only thing that calmed traffic – and it happened after every fatal accident – was an intense and highly visible police presence.
Cops were located on Capodanno 24 hours a day, and traffic was “creeping,” by Capodanno’s standards, at 35 mph.
But as with everything else in New York, the shock wore off, the police presence dwindled and it was Capodanno Speedway again. Until the next fatal accident.
Councilor Fusco had had enough of the deadly curve and cajoled the Department of Transportation to install Jersey barriers (John wanted the most attractive wooden rails, but in New York it’s take what you can get) that still exist today.
So if the Capodanno tragedies are a lesson, the police really need to make a difference.
Officers spend a lot of time catching speeders coming out of the Outterbridge and onto the West Shore Freeway. Anyone who drives the road regularly knows this.
We understood. Staten Island is a great place. Saturating our roads with police will not happen. But saturating our consciousness with the possibility that a cop is around the corner could make the difference.
It’s no secret that traffic is one of Staten Island’s biggest quality of life issues. There have been far too many lives lost and families devastated by traffic for us to remain silent.
It’s time to take a page from ex-Council Fusco’s playbook, come out and tell the mayor we won’t tolerate him anymore.
Councilman Joe Borelli understood perfectly. For years, the Department of Transportation has decided that bike lanes are an answer to New York’s traffic problems.
Councilor Borelli thinks otherwise.
Incredibly, after visiting the scene of the Hylan Boulevard crash, the current citywide DOT commissioner touted bike lanes as the answer to “calming” traffic on Hylan’s South Shore.
“Shameless Exploitation” the counselor called him.
He is nice.
Oh by the way: Someone once suggested that we should stop using the word “accident” in articles about most car accidents reported in Advance and on SILive.com. An accident implies that the event was unintentional. . . that it happened “by accident”. A driver running a red light at 80 km/h is not an “accident”. It is an intentional disregard for the lives of others.