Service of Watch Out: Take Special Care When Driving or Walking in the City

September 30th, 2013

Categories: Accident, Bicycles, Courtesy, Distracted Driving and Walking

Car Accident Second AvenueAs a longtime driver in both city and country apart from the whammy of nasty weather–especially ice, fog or blinding rain–there wasn’t too much to concern me. I figured in the city the worst that could happen was a fender-bender given speed limits.

All that’s changed.

Deer surprise-leaping onto roads and smashing into cars are an ever-present danger upstate making vigilance imperative even in sunshine on a crisp fall day.

There are no deer to surprise city drivers but the other distractions and impediments aggravated by traditional NYC impatience also affect driving and especially walking in the Big Apple. There have always been accidents involving vehicles running over New Yorkers and tourists, even leaping onto sidewalks. They were attributed to road rage, physical impairment and faulty brakes.

Car Accident 90th StreetWhat’s different is that these incidents–almost misses–have happened over the past two months and I’ve photographed the aftermath. It’s disquieting. One vehicle [Photo at top] landed on a midtown Second Avenue sidewalk at a time people walk to work. Another [Photo at right] backed up on Third Avenue at such a speed that it crossed a side street, jumped the sidewalk [where pedestrians might have been waiting] and stopped by slamming into an apartment building.

In the city I worry about distracted pedestrians intent on communicating as they walk down a sidewalk or wait for a light. They are a danger to themselves. I’m concerned about older people who can’t jump out of the way or children who are intently chatting or are oblivious to their surroundings, lost in the reverie of the music coming from ear pods.

Add bicycles and skateboards that don’t always follow traffic rules. A recent New York Post headline was: “Nicole Kidman bowled over by paparazzo on bike” and showed photos of the actor picking herself off the sidewalk.

The East 40s were awash with police during the annual September meeting of the UN General Assembly. I saw a pair crossing a street with the light on Friday morning. One of them barely missed being mowed down by a bicycle. The rider hadn’t stopped at his red light and dashed into Second Avenue traffic treating the city like a racetrack. The policeman put on a brave front chuckling when his partner and traffic colleagues teased him. He might have been severely injured.

Have you also been aware of increased road craziness in your town or city? Is it caused by a general malaise leading to distracted drivers and pedestrians or has the well recognized lack of courtesy or awareness of others moved from human interactions to bigger and more physically dangerous arenas?


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8 Responses to “Service of Watch Out: Take Special Care When Driving or Walking in the City”

  1. Hank Goldman Said:

    1/2 the drivers I see are ALSO on phones now! UGH!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I bet it’s more than half. You see the half that are holding the phones in their hands which is against the law in NY. So do I.

    We speak in our car from our phone through the radio so that if I passed you on the street you might think I’m speaking to myself, singing or on a bluetooth. My phone is on the seat next to me…but I’m just as distracted as if I were holding it.

  3. David Reich Said:

    Texting while walking is a trend that safety officials have noticed. And they’re really concerned with the amount of texting and cellphone use by drivers. 49% of adults and 43% of teens admit to texting or emailing while behind the wheel, and NHTSA says distracted driving is a factor in nearly 3,300 traffic deaths a year.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I sound like a fuddy duddy, and a hypocrite, as I love speaking on my car phone to catch up with friends while running errands or if I think of something I can immediately ask my husband–but I think that speaking on the phone is a distraction and should also be forbidden. It’s not as bad as texting, yet it should be stopped.

    If what I have to say is so important, I can pull over in a parking lot on the side of a country road and call or wait until I get out of the car.

    And most of my driving is in the country and not in traffic. The city is another thing.

    Good drivers can become smug. I’ve known driving test-givers who fail people with years of driving under their belts who turn a corner with one arm leaning out the window and one finger twirling the steering wheel to make a turn. They don’t like the attitude. Who might these people be? If their license expires when they’ve been living overseas, some states make drivers retake the test.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Bubble brains at the wheel have always been a fact of life, and sadly enough existing laws have done little to discourage carelessness.

    Years ago, my dad was cut off by a drunken driver who was in such a state he sat there dazed, unable to figure out what to do next. Irate parent emerged from his vehicle, strode over to the culprit (whose window was open) reached in, throttled him within an inch of his life, returned to the car and drove off. Not everyone will approve of this reaction, but it’s difficult not to wonder if the laws don’t work, perhaps a good shake or worse will.

    All dreaming aside, anyone who texts, chats or who acts in any way to cause an accident, should be charged with first degree murder for a fatality caused by such behavior, and attempted murder in the case of injuries to people and property. Nothing ever works 100% but this might save some lives and cars, especially in a society where punching the daylights out of an idiot is frowned upon.

  6. Simon Carr Said:

    I agree with you. Our city streets have become far more perilous for all concerned. When something like this happens, you look to see what is different now from before.

    The answer is obvious. Ask any thoughtful cab driver. Bicycles.

    Bicyclists ignore traffic rules, run red lights, travel the wrong way down one way streets and treat sidewalks as if they owned them. Worse, they assume that they have the right of way over pedestrians, not to mention vehicular traffic, at all times. (Try getting into a taxi if a bicycle is coming your way.) Yet worse, the special lanes that our mayor has built for them around the city further snarl traffic on our already overburdened streets, increasing still more pollution and causing even greater angst in this anxious city. Worst of all, they seem to be immune to prosecution for their misdeeds. I suspect the mayor has “suggested” to the police to be “tolerant” when they see bicyclists “misbehave”.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You suggest an effective way to stop distracted driving via new tech toys but the lobby for the smartphones would fight tooth and nail to stop any attempts to tighten the law.

    It has taken 50 or more years for seatbelts to be accepted by most of the public…this phone/text trend and attempts to curb them may take a while as well.

    Your dad was brave. He might have been faced with the butt of a gun today. Hope that he scared the drunken driver into never drinking and driving again.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I bet you are right regarding the mayor. On many a taxi door is a sign for riders to take care when they open the car door and watch for bicycles and bicyclists!

    And if the incident I saw last Friday is proof–where the policeman was almost struck by a bicycle and the traffic policemen just laughed at the near miss–what more do you need?

    But bicycles are just one cause. The car that zoomed backwards on Third Avenue and crashed into an apartment building wasn’t avoiding a bicycle. I didn’t see why the SUV ended up on the Second Avenue sidewalk…who knows whether he was pushed or was trying to avoid another vehicle or was in an argument on his phone or texting or what.

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