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I've complained off and on about the excessive focus on speeding and the excessive punishments for DWI. Despite what some might think of me, I do think some laws should be enforced, and in some cases more vigorously.
The biggest one that stands out in my mind is "Following Too Close," (or following too closely) a violation of section 1129(a) of the Vehicle and Traffic Law of the State of New York. This used to be commonly known as "tailgating," but that term has been taken over for parties in parking lots of football games.
Here's what I know as a traffic lawyer and a personal injury lawyer: following too closely is the most common cause of traffic accidents. You will often read statistics that say speed is a factor in some large percentage of accidents. Baloney. I was a trial lawyer for one of the largest auto insurers for over three years, then law clerk to a judge handling a number of car accident cases, and now have my own practice where I still handle car accident cases.
We do see accident cases where speed is a factor, and even some where speed is a major factor. But in most cases it's not a factor at all. You could get into semantics and say that if someone was driving slower the accident wouldn't have happened, but you could also say it wouldn't have happened if he stayed home that day, or if he'd been driving faster as he would have been further down the road and would not have encountered the other car at that intersection. Well, hopefully you get the idea.
Following too close is the cause of many, many accidents. I see people doing it all the time. But I rarely get cases where someone is charged with following too close. Why? I don't really know. Maybe if a police officer reads this blog he can explain.
I have my guesses. For one, speeding tickets are politically popular, so there's pressure on patrol officers to write speeding tickets. The government spends lots of money on radar, lasers, and related equipment so they have to justify the spending. It's easy to write speeding tickets. Just sit in a U-turn on an interstate and you can write tickets all day long.
Then there's the punishment side. Following too close is a 4-point ticket with a fairly low fine (I think total is under $200), and under Insurance Law 2335, one such offense cannot affect your insurance rates. By comparison, a speed of 16 mph over the limit has a max fine of $355, also four points, and can raise your rates (probably 30% a year for 3 years). At 21 mph over the limit it's six points $655 total, and the same problem with insurance.
Just my personal opinion, but going 86 in a 65 on an empty interstate is far less dangerous than the guy who was tailgating me this morning, one car length behind me at about 50 mph (hey, there was traffic - I really couldn't go faster). He was driving a beat-up car and I'm driving my ubervagen (Audi A4 Avant). My car does 70-0 in about 170 feet. His car probably takes over 200 feet.
As an aside, don't tailgate the Corvette Z06 -- they've got awesome brakes - I think it's 70-0 in 140 feet. I read Car and Driver, so I know such things. And I stayed at a Holiday Inn once too. :-)
I really don't think it would be that difficult for police to enforce 1129(a) of the V & T Law, and I wish they'd do it more. I do like getting paid to handle all these speeding ticket, but I'd like to be safer and some enforcement on cases of following too closely might actually make a difference.