Stop driving while dumb

A traffic light now burns on Van Brunt Street, yet so does the rubber. It took exactly three days for the unhappy motoring to return to Red Hook’s rutted main drag.

In Friday’s post-happy-hour dusk, the driver of an Oldsmobile sped through the intersection of Pioneer and Van Brunt streets and smashed into three parked — and, thankfully, empty — cars.

A witness said the maroon Olds was trying to avoid the wide berth of the B61 bus. A spokesman for the NYPD said cops were investigating whether the driver was intoxicated.

To be clear, the new traffic light one block south at Van Brunt and Sullivan streets is certainly not to blame for the accident. But traffic lights are supposed to slow down traffic — yet a traffic expert said the Olds driver was probably going too fast.

“Usually when a driver loses control and crashes into parked car, there is excessive speed involved,” said Amy Pfeiffer, Director of Planning at Transportation Alternatives, a safe-streets watchdog group,

Whatever the cause, the accident is a call to horns for anyone worried about getting his limbs/cars/bikes/friends crushed by speeding cars.

Of course, we have met the enemy and it is us. We hectored the city to put in a light because Van Brunt Street had gotten so busy. Yet when we’re behind the wheel, we’re the first to complain about how traffic lights slow us down.

Van Brunt isn’t particularly dangerous, statistics show. In fact, only three accidents on the corner of Pioneer Street were reported from 1995–2001, according to police records compiled by Transportation Alternatives. Yet, acts of dumb driving seem somehow endemic on the street.

One recent evening, on the same corner, I watched a truck give a fender-crushing smooch to a storefront garage, ramming headlong into its metal pull-down door, which ironically opens right above a sidewalk bench covered with battered, old license plates. The tags of other wrecks, perhaps.

On another evening, on Verona Street, I witnessed a truck making a tight U-turn to allow another truck to back into a narrow curbside parking spot. Suspense was high as the ever-present (except when you need it) B61 choked gingerly past.

In the past, residents blamed truck drivers for the congestion. Then the blame was placed on Fairway shoppers, who were supposedly hightailing it to the olive oil tasting bar. Ikea’s future shoppers are also blamed, though they haven’t yet arrived. But the truth is that industrial truck routes like Van Brunt Street won’t be safe until all of us change the way we drive on them — and that requires more than one light.

Pfeiffer said that last week’s crash was a fluke, but one that is likely to occur more and more frequently as the area’s population grows and more people in cars and outside of them compete for the two-lane roadway.

“It’s numbers,” she said.

And physics. And brain cells. Driving while dumb is dangerous.

The Kitchen Sink

Firebombings ain’t cheap: Chop Chop grocery on Smith Street spent $80,000 to reopen last week after an early morning arson attack on its glass cube of a storefront on the corner of Dean Street. Thousands of dollars in marinated olives and smoked salmon was lost in the attack, said co-owner Jisoo Sun. A spokesman for the FDNY said that investigators are still looking for the perp. …

It’s growing season: Get yer whiskers ready for Brooklyn’s “premiere” mustache contest at the country-and-western-themed benefit for “Off the Hook” creators Falconworks Artists Group. Watch John “Handlebar” McGettrick judge ’staches, listen to five bootstomping musical acts and drink all the moonshine you want for $20. Head for the Bait and Tackle bar (320 Van Brunt St.) on Saturday night, May 12. …

Gooey deliciousness alert: The Hook’s best little bakery, Baked, has started selling cinnamon buns. They are better than the one at the mall, I promise.

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