When my wife and I were out driving around in the five boroughs recently, we noticed it and thought it was strange. There were all kinds of people being pulled over. Pulled over in strange places, on main thoroughfares; places people in New York City typically weren’t pulled over.
Any half-conscious observer of traffic patterns in New York City will see people stretching the length of a yellow light, rolling through a non-busy stop sign, making the (illegal in New York City) right on red, driving a little zippier than the usual flow of traffic, and so many other minor traffic offenses. You get so accustomed to it that it’s even got a term; ‘aggressive driving;’ as though people need any more aggression in New York City.
No one is ever usually faulted for it though because it’s everywhere. The cabs do it, the livery cars do it, the busses do it, the Diplomats to it, the out of state commuters do it, so naturally the New Yorker is expected to do it. It’s just a part of the program for drivers in New York City. That’s a big reason most people who live here don’t drive here (on top of the fact that parking is a nightmare).
However a recent article I wrote about downtown Brooklyn sheds some further illumination on this phenomenon. There is a new program from the NYPD which is stepping up enforcement of many of the more arcane rules of the road in New York City. According to reports from Brooklyn Eagle, “part of this announced program consists of increased enforcement against motorist speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks.”
Ordinarily I would think this would be a great thing. Drivers are cited, people are safer, and everyone wins.
The problem is consistent enforcement. So many people are in violation of the law that how are police ever going to keep up? If there were more full time officers on the beat, pulling every person over who ran a red light or rolled through a stop sign, then I’d think that specter would always be there and maybe people’s behavior would change. But as soon as the next thing comes along and/or the NYPD pulls this ‘program’ and puts officers back out doing something else, people will slip back into their old ways.
I think that enforcement of the traffic laws is a great idea and will truly make New York City a safer place. The second that the staffing of this initiative becomes lax though, that’s when you’ll begin to see the same old behavior.