By Hannah Reich Berman
It took a little time, but Nassau County, which is where I reside, is finally coming to its senses. In the spirit of literary accuracy, let me say that a county cannot come to its senses, but the people who run it, the county legislators, can. And they did. And for further accuracy, I also wish to point out that it took more than just time—it took the hue and cry (otherwise known as a loud clamor) from the citizenry to get them to wake up. But it has happened. Finally, county legislators are considering the repeal of our newest traffic laws.
This is how it went down: A few months ago, without warning—at least no warning that most folks had ever heard of—small innocuous signs were suddenly strategically placed on streets near schools. The signs indicated that there was a 20-mile-per-hour speed limit. Were they kidding or what? I could walk faster than 20 miles an hour—and I am not a walker! When one drives frequently along the same road, he or she is familiar with the speed limit and never bothers to look at the signs, which, just for the record, do not look new and do not stand out in any way. They look just like the old ones but with the word 20 substituted for the word 30!
Chances are that since most people did not notice the signs and had not heard about this meshugas, there may have been many close calls because, as everyone knows, driving too slowly can cause just as many accidents as driving too fast. Driving 10 miles per hour over a posted speed limit is acceptable to most drivers, who were doing their usual 40 in what they believed was still a 30 zone. They had no idea that some county geniuses had made the switcheroo!
At the same time, those few motorists (and there were precious few) who had heard about the new speed limit near schools were crawling along, and I do mean crawling, at 20 miles an hour. It was a horror! Meanwhile, the clueless motorists doing 40 were destined to get a ticket, although there were never any traffic police in sight. Since it is impossible for cops to be everywhere, and in order to ensure compliance with this ridiculous new speed limit, cameras were discreetly, surreptitiously, secretly installed.
I was one of the lucky ones, because a friend had tipped me off just a few days before I would be driving on Mill Road—a street on which I often travel. This friend, however, was not as fortunate. Nobody had tipped her off and, like most folks, she had not heard about the new speed limit. Unknowingly, in just one day, she and her husband amassed three tickets to the tune of $240. She had driven north on Mill Road, and the camera snapped her doing her usual speed. It caught her again on her return trip, when she drove south on Mill. And, since she was unaware of both the new speed limit and that infernal camera, she did not warn her husband, so he also got an $80 ticket on that same street as he drove home from work.
Apparently, sometime between the hour that he left for work and the time that he returned, the new signs had been put up and a van with a camera had been parked alongside the curb. For a few weeks, my friend and her better half remained blissfully unaware of all this. The boom was lowered when a notice, informing them of the charges, arrived in the mail.
People all over Nassau County have been protesting, and legislators along with political hopefuls have decided to pay attention. The latest report is that the 20-miles-an-hour signs will remain at school locations throughout the county but the hours will be changed. That speed limit, and the operation of the cameras, will be limited to the hours of 7 until 9 in the morning and between 2 and 4 in the afternoon. Needless to say, none of the poor schnooks who were previously ticketed are going to get refunds.
But those folks are not the only ones crying the blues. Also decidedly unhappy are the county legislators who were counting on the several million dollars in revenue that they had hoped (knew) would be generated by their original plan of an all-day speed limit. And, just for the record, it seems somewhat disingenuous to refer to it as a “speed limit” since there is no speed involved in 20 miles an hour. That’s the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.