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Three young lives that didn’t have to be taken | From the editor

Hello Neighbor,

The email arrived from a friend well before 9 on Monday morning.

“What a horrible thing. It literally makes my stomach sick. . . My God, what a tragedy.”

His distress caused by a horrific car crash last Sunday evening that took the lives of three teenage children. The same distress felt by thousands who read the story on SILive.com, many expressing their grief on Facebook.

The grief that families and friends are experiencing today is unimaginable.

The emotions too raw, the pain too deep for us to theorize what caused this horror that took three vibrant young lives. That is a job left to the NYPD.

The little we will say. . . inexplicably, the driver of the car was just 16, with only a learner’s permit. Police experts say speed was a factor. And the operator of the second vehicle in the crash was driving with a suspended license.

What we must comment on, sadly, is the madness we call driving on Staten Island.

Young people growing up in our borough, teens yearning to earn their driver’s licenses, see it daily — speeding, reckless disregard for pedestrians, rudeness, impatience.

Once, a yellow traffic signal prompted one of two things: Slow down and stop, or speed up and beat the red light – maybe.

Today, the first five or 10 seconds of a red light are what a yellow light once was — almost meaningless. Motorists flagrantly blow through them, seemingly without concern if some poor soul with the green light should enter the intersection without diligently checking both directions.

Something major needs to change. I wish I could suggest what. Because I do not know how we change the insolent behavior we experience on our roads. Long gone are those leisurely Sunday drives with the family.

The debate and vitriol over speed and red light cameras is endless. Opponents wave statistics that claim accidents are not down, and in fact have increased, while the city waves statistics that show decline and a large number of drivers who get one camera violation and never another.

Who’s right might be debatable. What’s not is that driving on Staten Island is not getting any safer.

The hitch with camera violations is, even at 50 bucks, they are a cost of “doing business” for a lot of people. Read that, getting to their destination as fast as possible, damn anyone in their way.

Camera violations don’t add points to your license, and they don’t affect your auto insurance. An insurance spike could be a game-changer.

Credit the City Council with trying to add some risk: If your car is caught speeding 15 times within 12 months, or blowing through a red light five times, you’ll have to take a safe driving course – or possibly have your car imbued. Note the legislation reads possibly.

But also note: That is 15 times – we know of – that the driver could have caused a serious accident. That is five times – we know of – the driver could have killed someone with the right-of-way at an intersection, or a pedestrian legally crossing the road.

I grew up half-a-block off Capodanno Boulevard. The speed limit was then 35 mph. If one car in a hundred did 35, I’d have been surprised. It was more like 50, 60, and even 70.

Crashes were a regular occurrence. One that raised the most ire had then-Councilman John Fusco in the middle of Capodanno demanding a fix at a dangerous curve near Mapleton Avenue. It was 1994 when a young mom, in front of her Capodanno home de ella, was bending into her car to get her twin infants after a shopping trip when an out-of-control van, with a drunk behind the wheel, killed her.

John Fusco on Capodanno Boulevard at Mapleton Avenue in 1995.

The curve was so dangerous and accidents so frequent, the family placed huge boulders on their front lawn for protection.

Between 1988 and 1995, when Fusco stood on Capodanno, there were 10 deaths on the roadway. The only thing that calmed traffic – and it happened after every single fatal crash – was intense, and very visible, police presence.

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Boulders had been placed in front of the Capodanno Boulevard home before the tragic crash. (Staten Island Advance)

Cops were situated on Capodanno 24 hours a day, and traffic “crawled,” by Capodanno standards, at 35 mph.

But as with everything else in New York, the shock wore off, police presence waned and it was The Capodanno Speedway again. Till the next fatal crash.

Councilman Fusco had enough of the deadly curve and cajoled the Department of Transportation to install Jersey Barriers (John wanted the more attractive wood rails but in NYC, it’s take-what-you-can-get) that still stand today.

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Councilman Fusco speaks at a press conference on Capodanno Boulevard after the tragic crash. With him is then-Department of Transportation Commissioner Elliot Sander, left, Borough President Guy Molinari, and then-Councilman Vito Fossella.

So if the Capodanno tragedies are a lesson, it takes police to really make a difference.

Officers spend a lot of time nabbing speeders coming off the Outterbridge and onto the West Shore Expressway. Anyone who takes the route regularly knows that.

We get it. Staten Island is a big place. Saturating our roads with police officers will not happen. But saturating our conscience with the possibility that a cop is around the corner could make a difference.

It’s hardly a secret that traffic is one of the top quality of life issues on Staten Island. There’s been way too many lives lost, and families devastated, because of traffic for us to remain quiet.

It’s time to take a page from former Councilman Fusco’s playbook, get out there and tell the mayor we’ll no longer tolerate it.

Councilman Joe Borelli got it exactly right. For years, the Department of Transportation, has decided that bike lanes are an answer to New York’s traffic woes.

Councilman Borelli thinks otherwise.

Incredibly, after touring the Hylan Boulevard crash scene, the current citywide DOT commissioner touted bike lanes as the answer to “calm” Hylan’s South Shore traffic.

“Shameless exploitation,” the councilman called it.

He’s being kind.

Brian

Oh by the way: Someone once suggested we should stop using the word “accident” in stories about most automobile crashes reported in the Advance and on SILive.com. An accident implies the event was unintentional. . . that it happened “by accident.” A driver blowing through a red light at 50 mph is no “accident.” It is intentional disregard for the lives of others.

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