Sunday, August 17, 2008


The New York Times recently reported that Council Member David Weprin is planning to introduce a bill into the NYC Council that would prohibit AUTOMOBILE drivers from text messaging when they are driving. It sounds very responsible ... after all, it is against the law for automobile drivers to talk on their cell phones while driving ... why not text messaging too? ALL drivers should be focused on the road. The operable words here are “ALL” and “AUTOMOBILE.”

I would support this bill with enthusiasm if it covered all drivers on the road. And by that, I mean it needs to include horse-drawn carriage drivers - the ones who drive all over mid-town Manhattan; the ones whose "engines" leave calling cards for people to step in.

Believe it or not, carriage drivers are not required to have a NYS Drivers License to operate their 19th century contraptions better known as a carriage or buggy. This means they can drive while using their cell phone. They can also read magazines, stand up while driving and my favorite - make u-turns with impunity.

“ What!” You say. “But they drive right in the thick of traffic! How can that be.? I have seen them on many occasions get into messy situations with cars and taxis. I have seen them squeeze in between cars on 9th Avenue. What gives? Is the City nuts? I’m moving to Canada! Where's my suitcase!"

There, there, now. If you go to Canada, try Toronto. They got rid of horse-buggies in the 1970s. Unfortunately, I do not have too much hope to give you in your quest for sanity and fairness since Mr. Weprin has already taken sides in the horse-drawn carriage debate by supporting a bill that would increase rates for carriage drivers. For those of you who do not know, this is a cash only business. And as with businesses of this type, drivers do not have to report exactly what they earn. Who would know?

Considering that this small industry is the subject of a lot of controversy now, it would behoove Mr. Weprin to stay out of the fray rather than to award the industry a carte blanche rate increase with no give-backs. Particularly since he is running for Comptroller and as such would be handling the City’s money, he should be beyond perceived conflicts of interest.

“My goodness” you say. “Doesn’t the Mayor and Council members – particularly Mr. Weprin care about the safety of pedestrians?” And I say - “Get real." Mr. Weprin only cares about being elected Comptroller so he can control the City’s money and support the carriage industry.

It is the voters – YOU – who have to see the irony in this – Weprin running for comptroller and supporting a cash only business. There are other more qualified candidates for Comptroller such as Council Member David Yassky who has announced his candidacy.

Mr. Weprin’s quote about text messaging is from the New York Times:

“It’s a risk to drivers, obviously, and also to passengers and pedestrians,” Mr. Weprin said in an interview. “You’re not looking at the road and you don’t have both hands on the wheel” when engaged in text-messaging. “The probability for accidents is too high to ignore.” Mr. Weprin said the bill would be modeled on New York State’s ban on the use of cell phones while driving, which imposes a $100 fine for the first infraction.”

Well, Mr. Weprin, you should be fined $100 for introducing such an incomplete, shallow bill.

Of course, drivers should not be on the phone - texting or otherwise when they drive. That is just plain common sense. But this must include ALL DRIVERS.

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