One of the coolest things about getting older is that if you garnered any name recognition from the early, glory days, you can parlay that into a mainstream platform for the most idiotic, self-serving nonsense imaginable. And Alan Dershowitz is still sipping a long, cool glass of Sunny Delight.
In an op-ed in the New York Daily News, the Dersh explains his pet peeve:
Recently, my wife and I were strolling on the Upper East Side when a taxicab, driving well in excess of the speed limit, made a sharp turn and came within inches of hitting us as we approached the corner.
As the cab sped off, I called 911 to warn about a speeding and reckless driver heading up Third Ave. The operator asked me one question: “Was anybody hurt?” to which I responded, “Not yet.” She said she couldn’t do anything unless someone had been injured and implied I had misused 911 by calling about so harmless an issue.
Nobody frightens the Dersh’s woman and gets away with it. He’s a man with power, and when he tells the NYPD to jump, well. But was it just that they wouldn’t round up every taxi on Third Avenue on his command? Oh no. Not at all.
I have become sensitive to this danger since my sister-in-law was killed by a mail truck driver. Whenever I call, I’m asked the same question, give the same answer and sense the same disdain.
Those callous bastards. In a City with 8,000,000 people, whether walking across the street at will or taking the obligatory 14 minutes to drive a city block in traffic, there is only one real question: what’s best for Dersh? And he lets us know.
This, in a nutshell, summarizes the difficulty of dealing with reckless city drivers who endanger pedestrians. No one seems to care until someone is killed — and even then, the law makes it difficult to hold drivers accountable. This is especially true in New York where, according to a Wall Street Journal study, “drivers are rarely charged criminally if they kill another person . . . because New York’s vehicular homicide and manslaughter statutes apply only to motorists who are drunk or on drugs.”
Only about 5% of city drivers who kill pedestrians are charged with serious crimes. The driver who killed my sister-in-law was not charged with homicide. He was accused of leaving the scene and was acquitted.
Wait? He was acquitted? Um, Dersh, as a Harvard Law professor, teaching criminal law, it’s kinda likely that you appreciate the meaning of the word “acquitted.” As in, not guilty? So that makes him, in your mind, really guilty? Because it involved your sister-in-law, and that touches your life, and suddenly the entirety of criminal law bends to meet the Dersh’s desired outcome?
New York City is a tough place. It’s tough for pedestrians. It’s tough for drivers. And let’s not even talk about bicyclists, who everybody hates, including the Appellate Division, First Department. There are way too many people stuffed into way too small an area. It would be far less congested if people stopped coming there, like those who come down from Cambridge to buy a Sutton Place townhouse. If you don’t like the way New Yorkers do things, then there’s always Beacon Hill, you know.
But where do you come off trying to start a jihad against New York drivers?
The logic behind the roulette wheel approach is that by imposing harsh punishment on those few dangerous drivers who actually kill, the law deters all dangerous drivers. But experience shows this doesn’t work, because few drivers expect to kill and even fewer expect to be successfully prosecuted if they do. Clearly the law would buy more deterrent bang for the buck if it vigorously prosecuted every reckless driver, regardless of whether they happen to kill.
So arrest every driver who comes too close to the Dersh and his woman? So criminally prosecute drivers who have accidents? Not enough criminalization for you?
A compromise might entail adding other dangerous activities — such as texting and speeding — to the current short list (being drunk or drugged) of factors that turn a deadly accident into a homicide.
Compromise? You keep using that word but I don’t think it means what you think it means.
No one suggests that the death of a person, any person regardless of their relationship to the Dersh, isn’t terrible and consequential. But to urge mass criminalization of drivers because you don’t like the way they drive is utterly insane. Mens rea, Dersh. You remember mens rea, right?
The most serious cost of zealously enforcing dangerous driving prohibitions before anyone is killed is that it enhances the growing power of what has come to be called “the preventive state” — governmental action that compromises privacy for prevention.
Are these costs worth the benefits of a more proactive and preventive approach? When it comes to dangerous driving, where privacy interests are minimal and safety concerns considerable, the answer is yes.
These aren’t evil people, but people trying to navigate through a city with its own set of rules. Notice that pedestrians aren’t exactly focused on whether they have a green light? Sure, it’s not the subtle niceties of Cambridge, but for those of us who spent our gravy years walking around Manhattan without a scratch, it’s really not that hard to co-exist in New York City. It helps, of course, to keep your eyes on the road and your head out of your ass.