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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Traffic Laws

This is interesting:
The New Scientist magazine recently reported a study conducted by Tova Rosenbloom of Bar-Ilan University that suggests devout Orthodox Jews are three times as likely to be risk-taking pedestrians than their neighbours in secular communities.

According to the magazine, Rosenbloom began to suspect that religious beliefs might play a role after hearing complaints about pedestrian behaviour in the ultraorthodox community of Bnei-Brak. To find out more, she and her colleagues watched more than 1000 pedestrians at two busy intersections, one in Bnei-Brak and the other in a largely secular city. They totted up the number of times a pedestrian either jaywalked, walked on the road as opposed to the footpath, crossed without looking for traffic or crossed without holding an accompanying child’s hand.

They found the inhabitants of Bnei-Brak were three times more likely than the others to break these rules.

Rossenbloom thinks an ultraorthodox faith might contribute to this cavalier behaviour by making people respect religious more than state-law. However, she did not rule out the possibility, that religious people might simply have less fear of death.

I have seen this phenomenon first-hand, as has anyone who has ever visited Boro Park, I suspect. And the pedestrians with an apparent disdain for the traffic laws have nothing on the drivers there. Driving in Boro park is like driving in another country - one that has close to zero enforcement of traffic rules and regulations. I have seen a driver behind the wheel of a minivan packed with kids cross 2 lanes to snag a parking spot without even checking for oncoming traffic. Double parking (for hours!) is perfectly accepted. And crossing a street there is a high-risk activity. Pedestrians and drivers in many Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods play what looks to me like one big game of "Chicken". And in my opinion, it has nothing to do with a lack of fear of death in the Ultra-Orthodox community, and everything to do with a lack of respect for local traffic law.

What really scares me is that, anecdotally at least, I see this phenomenon becoming more and more prevalent in my neighborhood. As more and more people are transplanted here from Brooklyn and other points more Ultra-Orthodox, I have certainly seen a gradual increase in double parking, jaywalking (with young children in tow), illegal U-turns, and the like. And I don't like it. Laws, especially traffic laws, are in place to protect us and ensure our safety. Can anyone really make the case that pushing a stroller across a busy street against the light, chatting on a handheld cellphone while trying to make a tricky turn behind the wheel, or parking and blocking access to a fire hydrant is in the interests of the safety of yourself and your fellow citizens? I can't imagine.

Come on, people!



Blogger orthomom said...

of course they are from brooklyn most people including yourself are from brooklyn or at leas one of the parents so dont blame the 5 town problems on brooklyn. ( and i hate brooklyn).

I knew this line would be controversial. However, I have been visiting the Five Towns as well as Brooklyn for years, and my observation stands. Brooklyn was always worse than the 5T, but the 5T has been swiftly catching up.

9:49 AM  
Blogger Shifra said...

Maybe you can change the title of the post to J-Walking!

I somehow doubt that these people are not fearful of death but rather this is a sign of a strong sense of entitlement.

I am special therefor traffic should stop for me. Or *I* should be allowed to park where every I please etc....

10:16 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Maybe you can change the title of the post to J-Walking!


10:18 AM  
Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

Interesting -- I blogged about a somewhat related item yesterday.

I'm not so sure it's as much of a religious thing as it is a NY thing. The report aside (hey, it's ISRAEL they were talking about), I can say that having lived "out of town" (anything outside of NY is "out of town"), this kind of behavior is prevalent in fast-moving cities. In Northern CA, pedestrians calmly stand at street corners while waiting for the light to change. The law in CA is that if a pedestrian is in the crosswalk, a car may not pass through the crosswalk -- even with the light. Simply stepping a foot into the street would cause cars to abruptly halt an an intersection (I don't suggest trying it though). But go to NYC, and you'll see that EVERYONE crosses against the light, J-walks, or basically, just does as they please.

Your post though, OM, is on the mark -- people need to pay attention to safety. When I first moved to Cedarhurst, we were just starting one of the shuls here and a certain village trustee told us "if you think I'm going to let cedarhurst turn into a boro park, you've got another think coming". I guess I have another thing coming (by the way, the trustee is no longer on the board).

Which reminds me -- you should also mention in your post about how Jews always walk in the middle of the street on shabbos...

10:27 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

As both a Boroparker and the One New Yorker Who Does Not Jaywalk (tm), i feel i have some special insight into these issues. ;-)

First of all, it is a general New York thing. Especially in Manhattan, which is the one place i feel the least guilty about jaywalking because car/foot traffic doesn't move in Manhattan according to the lights; it moves according to "natural herd motion."

Learning to drive while living in BP is the best drivers ed ever. With our mad Boropark skillz we can slip through the tightest gap between double-parked cars, avoid pedestrians and potholes with ease, and coast smoothly around unloading trucks and backing-up vans. When i drove in Israel i felt like i was back in Boropark, except that there's no chance for a respite by crossing the border into the next neighborhood over...

Israel, though, also has a problem since it has those crazy crosswalks without 'walk' signs, where the cars are just "supposed" to stop when you walk out into the crosswalk but you can't assume that they actually will.

I actually saw triple-parking just over the border from Boropark once. It was craaazy.

10:41 AM  
Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

Learning to drive while living in BP is the best drivers ed ever. With our mad Boropark skillz we can slip through the tightest gap between double-parked cars, avoid pedestrians and potholes with ease, and coast smoothly around unloading trucks and backing-up vans.

You mean like this?

10:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She studied two intersections for a total of 1000 pedestrians in two cities in Israel. Is that really enough of a sample to indict all the charaidim of the universe? Also, what does "crossed without looking for traffic" mean? I assume a certain percentage of those people were struck by cars. I mean, try sending 20 people across a busy intersection blindfolded. Let me know what happens.

That aside, I don't find driving in Manhattan so different than driving in Brooklyn. And in most out of town places that I've been I don't see this happening even among frum people. What you are observing may just be a NY thing. For crying out loud, you are talking about people who sprint up moving escalators!!

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am a longtime FT resident. OM, as usual, is right on the money. Things have definitely deteriorated in recent years, and have started to look like BP or some other banana republic.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Shtender said...

That aside, I don't find driving in Manhattan so different than driving in Brooklyn.

I'd much rather drive in the city than Boro Park. In the city you keep a watchful eye on any car that bears a resemblence to once being painted yellow, and you expect the insanity. Driving in BP I'm not always expecting the Lincoln Navigator to whip a sharp left turn from the far right lane while on the cellphone, drinking coffee (I hope) and screaming at the pack in the back.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you think they misbehave on Central Avenue,you've got another think coming.Come into the White Shul on any given morning.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My job takes me to residential areas throughout the city, and I can tell you that in areas such as Bed-sty, south bronx, East New York, Harlem, etc. The pedestrian population ignores traffic rules even more than in BP.

12:57 PM  
Blogger JJ said...

And something else disturbingly common here in Israel- vanloads of haredi children being driven to/from school, and none of them are wearing seatbelts. Many a time I've driven alongside one of these vans and the kids are jumping up and down in their seats, having a merry old time. It's frightening- not to mention the stories in the newspaper of these vehicles carrying many more children than is legal, or safe.

I imagine the same mentality allows these traffic "don'ts" as well as the ones you mentioned.

1:08 PM  
Blogger MUST Gum Addict said...

You might make an argument ande say that the police don't ticket people who J-walk in NY, or aren't strick enough when it comes to seat belt laws, etc.

But I'll also tell you that even though there are apparently strict laws against cell-phone use while driving in NY, the "disease" of talking on a cell while driving is pandemic. And then people who do get ticketed for using a cell when driving get so upset and want to fight the ticket because the cop had the nerve to ticket them.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came across this on a humor site shortly after checking in with OM's blog -- maybe we should develop one specifically for Jewish drivers and pedestrians, LOL!

How to Identify Where A Driver Is From

1. One hand on wheel, one hand on horn: Chicago.

2. One hand on wheel, one finger out window: New York.

3. One hand on wheel, one finger out window, cutting across all lanes of traffic: New Jersey.

4. One hand on wheel, one hand on newspaper, foot solidly on accelerator: Boston.

5. One hand on wheel, one hand on nonfat double decaf cappuccino, cradling cell phone, brick on accelerator, with gun in lap: Los Angeles.

6. Both hands on wheel, eyes shut, both feet on brake, quivering in terror: Ohio, but driving in California.

7. Both hands in air, gesturing, both feet on accelerator, head turned to talk to someone in back seat: Italy.

8. One hand on latte, one knee on wheel, cradling cell phone, foot on brake, mind on radio game: Seattle.

9. One hand on wheel, one hand on hunting rifle, alternating between both feet being on the accelerator and both feet on brake, throwing McDonald's bag out the window: Texas.

10. Four-wheel drive pick-up truck, shotgun mounted in rear window, beer cans on floor, squirrel tails attached to antenna: West Virginia.

11. Two hands gripping wheel, blue hair barely visible above windshield, driving 35 on the Interstate in the left lane with the left blinker on: Florida.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not that I want people to get tickets, but a call to your local police department about the situation will probably have them set up a couple days worth of ticketing in your area and most transplants will hopefully realize that once burned is enough.
We went to a wedding in Williamsburg about a year ago and at 9 PM people of all ages were randomly crossing streets, dodging traffic and generally ignoring all rules of safety and common sense. We figured it was not that they don't fear death but they are sure they are worthy of a large helping of 'hashgacha pratit'.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

I was horrified in LA a few weeks ago, to be driven by a UO distant relative on motzei shabbat.

He didn't stop at any Stop signs. Right on Red meant he thought he had right of way.

It was very scary and IMHO, totally irresponsible. Don't think I'll be driving with him anytime in the near future.

4:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Orthomom-look at the total disregard of stop sign and traffic laws when parents pick up their children from a local 5T Yeshiva on Sundays and legal holidays.
My wife and I once drove 3300 miles on a vacation-drivers were all polite until we got back to Broadway in the 5T's.
Try driving the speed limit on Cental Ave in Cedarhurst in the late evening-you're afraid of being a victim of road rage.
There is an arrogance unfortunately by many people-combining wealth with belief one is Gods chosen is very dangerous.

6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ortho people have a bad mix of feeling entitled and that the traffic laws are goyishe anyway.

10:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like I said at Yeshiva Orthodoxy's blog: it's a "class" thing (lack of a better word). You can experience the joys of frum pedestrianship in any Mexican neighborhood in the U.S.

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, what I said at YO's blog was much more civil. Now that I read what I posted above, I wish I hadn't said it in those words.

But, the bottom line is that there are people with more respect for law and people with less respect for law. Traffic laws are for our own safety. Too bad that many of us don't fall into the former category.

Fortunately, you don't see these attitudes in my mixed, but engaged with the world, Orthodox, out-of-town neighborhood.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Akiva said...

How incredibly American-o-centric of you. First, you read a narrow study and assume results. She saw different behaviors but didn't report statistics of the result of those behaviors. Are there more pedestrian accidents in the areas with less tightly organized pedestrian behavior? You've assumed yes, no info was provided.

The patterns that bother you don't fit your preferred organized operating style, but do they work? Conversely, could the tightly organized (and therefore more time consuming) style work with an increased population and congestion? (As an example, taxi drivers seem to have no problem getting through Manhattan, yet I do, do taxi drivers have a much higher accident rate in Manhattan than others?)

Here's an interesting article that demonstrates the point: here.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the problem with people ignoring traffic laws, speeding, talking on the cell phone and drinking coffee while driving is that they firmly believe that the world revolves around them. It's their world; you're just living in it. Sadly, many people of the religious community fall into this category.

2:03 PM  
Blogger queeniesmom said...

Great and very true post! Caveat - if you value your sanity avoid Central ave. at all costs on Thurs. and especially on a short Fri. aft.

driving in Manhatten is easy - streets folow an orderly pattern and the "enemy" is yellow or big and blue. although lately, worse than the yellow taxis are the black car service drivers!

Driving in Brooklyn - to be avoided as much as possble. the enemy is anything on 2 feet or on 4 wheels!

Probable cause: on LI most of us took driver's ed and had the rules pounded into us, experienced the sharp slam of the brake when the instructor jammed it, followed by a scathing lecturing of "what do you think you were doing? do you want to kill all of us?" as we listened to our peers snicker in the back. Conversely in brookly - you're taught by whomever and learn all their bad habits. hence these "wonderful" patterns are perpetuated.

Add to this mix a sense of entitlement, rude and boorish behavior, lack of manners (don't believe me - try food shopping in ... on a Thurs. of Fri) and you have this mess. Personally, i avoid central ave unless absolutely necissary or shop on Sun/Mon.

Shavoah tov and a very Happy New year to all.

1:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Drivers and pedestrians in most of the Bronx (<3% Jewish) are just as bad as the frum areas of the other boroughs. Actually, Riverdale and Pelham Parkway, the only parts of the Bronx that still have a significant Jewish community, probably have the sanest pedestrians and drivers in my experience.

11:42 AM  
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