Editorial: Stop Signs are Not Suggestions

Every time you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, you’re operating a potentially deadly weapon. If more people understood this simple fact, the amount of traffic accidents and fatalities could dramatically reduce.

Last Friday, an Ozone Park woman was critically injured by a van that hopped the curb and crashed into a home. The van’s driver allegedly ran a stop sign and was struck by another vehicle before losing control.

This incident has some residents calling for a traffic light in the area—a request that will likely be denied because of the intersection’s close proximity to two other lights. It’s simply not possible to create daylight room or traffic lights at every corner. The area already has a four-way stop sign; the problem is drivers don’t stop.

Traffic lights, stop signs and speed limits are not suggestions. Following the rules of the road can prevent you from being involved in a deadly accident. According to the city Department of Transportation, a person hit by a car at 40 miles per hour has a 70 percent chance of death; a person hit by a car at 30 miles per hour has a 80 percent chance of surviving the crash.

The key is enforcement. The first step is increased police enforcement. As Council Member Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) told The Forum, when residents start hearing that cops are enforcing traffic laws, they tend to drive more carefully. If you know of a dangerous street where drivers are speeding or blowing through stop signs, contact your local precinct and demand enforcement.

The second step is increased prosecution of reckless drivers who kill innocent pedestrians. In September 2010, New York finally closed a ridiculous loophole in its traffic regulations with Elle’s Law. The new legislation creates harsher fines and summonses to drivers who hit pedestrians because of reckless driving. Previously, drivers who hit pedestrians, even if it was the driver’s fault, would usually walk away without any consequences.

But the most important aspect to keeping everyone safe on the road is to stop driving recklessly. In the long run, running through stop signs or going a couple miles over the speed limit will only get you to your final destination a couple minutes faster. Is it really worth killing someone to get home a bit quicker?


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