2011-02-03 / This Week's Attitude

Kruger Revives Bill To Legislate—Duh—Common Sense

Thiis Week’’ s Attiitude
By Neil S. Friedman

Every once in a while an elected official comes up with a sensible regulation. But sometimes a grandstanding politician suggests a law that makes us chuckle and think, “He’s (or She’s) got to be kidding.”

This is one of the times and it seems like déjà vu.

Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger has reintroduced a piece of legislation that is as pointless today as it was ill advised then.

Kruger sent an E-mail, in February 2007, announcing that he would introduce legislation to ban the use of hand-held electronic instruments, such as iPods, cell phones or Blackberrys, while walking on streets in cities with a population that exceeded one million. No city in the state at the time had more than a million residents except for New York. There’s been no statewide population explosion since then, so the Big Apple remains the only municipality to meet that criterion, though Kruger’s updated version of the bill also applies to smaller cities.

Kruger revived the bill because a few pedestrians were recently killed or critically injured while crossing streets and listening to music through headphones. Those incidents are senseless tragedies and could easily have been avoided if the victims had paid attention to their immediate whereabouts. Nevertheless, imposing a $100 fine certainly won’t fix the problem. Law prohibits jaywalking, but people of all ages still do it — and rarely does anyone get penalized. Do we really want police to be on the lookout for distracted pedestrians or chasing a jogger with headphones? Obviously, law enforcement officers have more urgent priorities for keeping New Yorkers safe than ticketing foolish pedestrians who only pose a risk to themselves — not the general public.

Recently, a popular Internet video showed a woman falling into a shopping mall fountain because she was texting as she walked, instead of paying attention to her surroundings. Now she’s suing, claiming negligence. For what, not making the pool big enough or neglecting to post a sign reading: Beware — fountain dead ahead? Some judge could die laughing if that case is ever brought to court.

If you’re too dim-witted to not pay attention to your surroundings because you’re THAT distracted, maybe you shouldn’t go out in public without an escort. That would be comparable to taking keys before a friend who’s had one too many gets behind the wheel of a vehicle.

No one deserves to be injured or hurt, but when they bring it upon themselves due to recklessness, the threat of a fine is not likely to deter the outcome. And, depending upon the extent of an injury, it would be a lesson they may never forget.

I’m not completely insensitive to Kruger’s intent, but as I wrote four years ago, YOU CAN’T LEGISLATE RESPONSIBILITY!

Maybe Nanny Carl, as the Daily News dubbed him, should have had his staff conduct a little research before reviving his wannabe law. They would have discovered that despite the handful of incidents in his district, traffic fatalities in the city dropped to an all-time low (256) in 2009. In the last decade, the News reported, pedestrian fatalities have dropped almost 20 percent – and that’s in a period when the use of hand-held devices has mushroomed.

What if two friends are walking down the street, chatting away, as they enter a crosswalk without looking to see if it’s safe to cross and one of them is killed by a car traveling at the posted speed limit? Should the survivor be fined for being distracted?

What’s next, banning pedestrians from walking and chewing gum at the same time? Or issuing a summons to those who trip over an untied shoelace?

In an effort to reduce pedestrian traffic fatalities, the Department of Transportation announced last summer its plan to install countdown signals, which let pedestrians know how long they have to cross the street at certain intersections in all five boroughs. Before the signals are up and running, perhaps the nanny senator should propose a law that pedestrians using those crossings must establish they can count backwards from 30 to one before venturing out of their homes.

To paraphrase Kruger’s logic from the 2007 Email: You can’t accomplish your lawmaking responsibilities, if you’re fiddling with inane proposals.

If Kruger wants to do something worthwhile for his constituents and all New Yorkers, how about sponsoring a bill that would compel state legislators to disclose their incomes other than what they pocket from taxpayers? That’s the sort of meddlesome legislation most voters would embrace.

Besides, as the Finance Committee chairman Sen. Kruger’s Numero Uno priority should be getting the state’s deficit-ridden finances in order. That alone should distract him long enough to forget a trivial matter like legislating personal responsibility.

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