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Editorial: License record drives home need for reform

Here in the United States, driving is looked on as something of a right. Although police and driver’s ed instructors will tell you about how your license is a privilege, the case of Dennis Drue teaches us that privilege can be heavily dependent on your ability to simply pay off fines.

There is, of course, the “points” system. The state DMV will suspend your license if you rack up 11 points within an 18-month period. Most violations earn you three points, so one would have to get caught four times in that time to have a license pulled — that is, if you don’t take a point reduction course, which can be done over the Internet these days.

This is a tricky topic because in today’s day and age, most people must drive as a matter of living a happy and efficient life. And as even a good driver knows, it’s simply impossible to not make a mistake now and then. Even under today’s rules, that can quickly land you in an expensive and inconvenient position.

But in our car-centric world, with daily bumper-to-bumper congestion on roads like I-90 and the Northway, when distances are measured in the number of minutes you’ll be behind the wheel, when we do so much driving that looking at the road seems an offensive distraction from one’s cell phone, it can be easy to forget getting on the road means being in direct control of a multi-ton death machine. At least, until that fact is driven home by a crushing tragedy.

Let’s not let this tragedy go unnoticed. It is clear this state — this society — needs better way to keep the most destructive and dangerous off of our roads. Or at the very least, to provide a sufficient incentive or deterrent to keep everyone behaving in a civil manner. This is not a pipe dream. Last year, for instance, legislation kicked in here in New York that keeps drivers with five or more alcohol- or drug-related driving convictions from ever getting their license back.

Perhaps it’s time to apply that thinking to other areas.

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teachdaddy 1 year, 11 months ago

Your editorial makes this sound as if it's a somewhat-isolated incident. But we have something similar going on now in the Tri-Village area. Every day, drivers ignore the red lights at the many, heavily-traveled intersections in town, amoing them Elsmere and Delaware Avenues, the Four Corners, and even on the bypass at crossroads there. This was something that was seen only in Albany, but now it has invaded here.. It is only a matter of time before there is a serious "accident".

A recent article in the Times-Union called red-light running a "national epidemic", involving all ages, genders, and economic groups. That is certainly the case here in Bethlehem, where young mothers, their phone in one hand in their big SUV's, high-schoolers speeding down the Bypass trying to get back to class, and men on their way to another deal are too self-important to obey the law.

Supervisor Clarkson commented that it's hard to get people to change their behavior. As a former third-grade teacher, I have a suggestion. First, the carrot: let the police announce that there will be a crackdown on red-light running, while recognizing that good citizens are careful to obey the law. Then, the stick: the police cite those who run the red lights, and like the DWI's, publish the names of those cited in the Spotlight weekly. Then, when these motorists appear in court, they are not allowed to bargain down the charge.

I view driving as a contract. I'll be safe, obey the laws, drive sober, not tailgate, and I'll expect you to do the same. If you can't, you forfeit the "privilege" of driving on the same roads that I use.

I hope the police will quickly move to end this dangerous practice before someone is hurt.

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