Soundings

Peter Reinharz
Stop ‘em Cold
Autumn 1999

New York City is today a much safer place, and not just because of lower crime: the American Automobile Association has given the city a prize for improved traffic safety. Under the Giuliani administration, traffic fatalities have fallen a spectacular 51 percent. The AAA credited the city for its strong commitment to traffic-safety education in the public schools and for its police efforts, including such controversial but clearly effective programs as erecting pedestrian barriers in midtown, ticketing jaywalkers, and cracking down on speeding taxi drivers. In addition, the city has constructed speed bumps on streets near schools and reduced the speed limit on some thoroughfares to 15 mph. (City Journal first recommended many of these ideas in "The Quality of Life," Winter 1998.) New York has become a national model for traffic safety.

One way to make the streets even safer for drivers and pedestrians is to go after individuals who drive with suspended or revoked licenses. In two separate accidents at this year's West Indian Day parade in Brooklyn, drivers with suspended licenses plowed into pedestrians, killing three. Just like drunks behind the wheel, such reckless individuals are a public danger—a danger, moreover, already proven in court.

The city should criminally prosecute them and permanently confiscate their cars, just as it has done with drunk drivers. Though civil libertarians exploded in anger when the city began its confiscations of drunk drivers' autos, the public warmed to the idea so quickly that other metropolitan counties have begun similar programs. The city should proceed with confiscation even if the car belongs to someone other than the driver. That way, anyone handing his car keys to a known road threat won't just be putting the public at risk but will himself risk losing his vehicle for good.

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