Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Driving In New York State

Meryl suggested that I write an article about what it is like to drive in New York State. What I will share with you is based on years of actual observation and experience. When we are traveling every so often we encounter people who say that they are planning to visit New York - not necessarily New York City - and we share with them what I will share with you all in this article. What I will write may be humorous but I assure you it is all real.  I am sure some of you have started reading this and are thinking well I would never go there anyway - and I will say right up front, I can't blame you for that. I can't avoid driving in New York - I live here.

New York State has all of the traffic laws that most other states have. You can make a right on red - AFTER a full stop. There are stop signs. There are traffic lights. There are speed limits. In fact in much of the state the speed limit is a maximum of 55 mph and not the usual 65 mph that is found in other states - and in some of those states some interstate highways have been increasing that to 70 or more. There is a "handsfree" cell phone law - you can't drive with a cell phone in your hand. There is also a "no texting" law while driving - which one would figure is just common sense but no, that is not the case. So what makes driving in New York State a problem? Well, most New Yorkers look upon the traffic laws as ONLY A SUGGESTION.

Huh? What? Yes. Let's take an obvious law - stopping at a red light. Why do you stop at a red light? Because there are vehicles going across that intersection non-stop while that light is red. In New York, red lights are taken by so many drivers as just a suggestion to stop - and so often they don't. This has led to a number of red light cameras that are placed to stop this but apparently also paying the traffic ticket received in the mail is also just a suggestion.  The same thing happens with stop signs - and not just with "rolling stops" where a car comes slowly up to the stop sign, hesitates, and then keeps going. Here some feel that the stop sign really does not apply to them and they just keep on going - no hesitation, no looking - no stopping.

Speed limits are another suggestion. While few actually drive at 55 mph, driving within the 5 mph "allowance" over that is not enough and it is not uncommon for cars to be going at 70 or 80 or faster - and sometimes doing 70 on a residential avenue. (The four lane avenue that I live on is one example of that.) Not only do cars speed on the limited access highways but they also race - weaving in and out of traffic. Generally in groups of two or three cars - when one car speeds past you and weaves between the lanes, expect at least one and likely two more to follow. And it does not matter if this is during the day, during the evening, at night, or late night - during the week or on a weekend. "Accidents" are constantly in the news here about deadly collisions, cars flying off the road, etc. Some may be attributed to driving under the influence of alcohol but not all - and more often they are the result of driving way to fast on roads that were never intended for that type of speed. It continually surprises me when there needs to be an investigation about what caused these accidents. A quick look at the photo of the destruction immediately says someone was driving way too fast. Yes, these types of accidents happen everywhere - but in New York the attitude of - "these laws do not apply to me" and that the laws are only a "suggestion" result in so many.

Now, combine this with someone with a cell phone in their hand. Whenever you see a car driving radically in New York, if you come up close to see the driver, there is either a cell phone in the hand at the ear or the driver is looking down from the wheel at a phone with both hands on it with fingers running across the phone keyboard texting. It happens that we were in a serious accident a few years ago stopped at a corner in a left lane to make a left turn with traffic coming toward us in the opposite lane. A car came speeding up behind us - well over the 40 mph speed limit - and slammed us from behind. We were lucky to be able to walk out of the car. Our car was totaled with the rear of the car crushed into the backseat. Had anyone been sitting in the rear they would have been dead. I am still not sure - right to this moment - how we got out of that car alive. The young driver of the car that hit us was also able to get out of his car that was crushed in from the front. He said - "I didn't see you." Really?    A bystander who saw the whole thing came over from the sidewalk and asked him - "Were you on your cell phone?" Some hesitation and stumbling of words - "I have Bluetooth." The police came - and made no note of my suggestion that he was on his phone. A few days later speaking with someone in the neighborhood who knows the family of this driver, I was told that the guy was texting while he was driving when he hit us. We let the police know - but that did not seem to matter.

It all sounds crazy or maybe not. The other day we were on our way to go to the post office. Next to the post office there is a bank and there were police swarming all over the bank's parking lot, around the bank and in the bank. We went to the post office and when we came out we saw that the police were still at the bank - two police cars just in from the street exit (one way only out) from the bank's parking lot and they had put up Crime Scene yellow tape across the exit of the parking lot.  While we were getting ready to leave the post office parking lot - separate from the bank's lot - we watched not one, but two cars at different times try to pull into the bank's exit from the street and through the crime scene tape. We had to laugh because, you see, in New York crime scene tape is JUST A SUGGESTION.

It is also important to know that if you are going to come to New York - anyway - be aware that there are many limited access roads that you cannot drive on with an RV - even one as small as a Roadtrek or other Class B. In New York State - the description of motorhome fits the description of the interior of a Roadtrek or other Class B. The laws about these roads are very specific and if you are on one of these roads and come upon a "State Trooper" - the NYS police who cruise the state highways to enforce traffic laws - you will be stopped and likely go home with an unwanted, souvenir, NYS traffic ticket.  NY is not an RV friendly state - there are few RV dealers, few who even know what an RV is, and fewer who have actually seen one up close. There are also limited access roads designated "parkways" that have posted maximum heights on their entrances. Here on Long Island both the Southern Parkway, which runs along the South Shore of the Island, and the Northern Parkway, which runs along the North Shore of the Island, have signs posted at no entrance for vehicles over 7' 10" - which by the way stops even non-converted Sprinter vans from going on these parkways. The problem is on those two roads there are overpasses that are lower than 7' 10" including one posted at 6' 8". But you don't have to worry about this - unless you have the attitude that no motorhomes are permitted on parkways is just a suggestion, you won't be on either of these roads and risk ripping the roof off of your 8' 10" or taller Roadtrek or Class B. And please be aware that regular car GPS units will direct you on these roads - and in my brief experience with a Rand McNally RV GPS that will take you right on these restricted roads also. (I say brief experience because the first thing I did when I got one was have it route my on Long Island and it went right onto the Southern Parkway. The GPS was returned the next day.)

I have focused on motorhomes here - as for trailers - if it is not a truck limited access road you cannot go on it with any trailer or if you are towing anything.

What roads can you go on - local roads that are not posted with any height or weight restriction, roads, bridges, and tunnels that are not posted with propane or hazardous material restrictions, "Expressways" are OK, "The Thruway" is OK, a "Turnpike" is OK. a "Highway" is OK.

Unfortunately if you are in New England or are going to New England there is no way to completely avoid New York State - short of going west, going up to Canada and coming back down around NYS - but you are going to have to go back the same way. Just be careful. Just be alert. And expect the unexpected. I won't even go into the condition of the roads but I always know when we are traveling that we are either out of New York or back in New York because in New York you bump, bounce, shake and rattle as you roll in a Roadtrek (or I am sure other Class Bs or motorhomes). So if you come, welcome to New York!

1 comment:

  1. My mom got pulled over in NY state once on the highway for driving in the passing lane too long. You don't really get ticketed for that where I'm from, even though there are posted signs, so she truly didn't know what she'd done wrong and it made the state trooper pretty testy. - Amy