Traffic Agents are Heroes Too
TreeHugger often posts on the threats faced by cyclists and pedestrians as they brave the roads — from drunk drivers in Mexico to the Arizona driver who gloated about killing a "tree hugger, a bicyclist, a Frenchman and a gay guy all in one shot", there's no doubt that some (and we do mean some!) motorist can exhibit a callous disregard for more vulnerable road users. Reader Matthew Rolnick emailed me recently to point out that it's not just pedestrians and cyclists that face such dangers — traffic agents face abuse and threats everyday as they try to maintain order on our increasingly busy streets. In particular Matthew drew my attention to an article in the New York Times about Donnette Sanz, a New York City traffic agent who was killed, along with her unborn son, after being struck by a van driven by a 72-year-old man with 21 suspensions and 3 revocations on his license. As Ralph Blumenthal's article points out, traffic agents face very real, immediate threats to their person, yet they are often not accorded the same respect as police officers, firefighters or other public servants responsible for our safety and well-being:Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, speaking at the church after Mayor Bloomberg, said Ms. Sanz was so good at defusing confrontations that she had been given the task of training new agents.
"She would answer their questions, correct their mistakes and help them succeed in a very challenging job," Mr. Kelly said. "Not only do agents write summonses for the kind of dangerous infractions that impede the flow of traffic — double-parked cars, blocked traffic lanes and bus stops — they interact with individuals who are often rushed, angry and reluctant to cooperate."
Mr. Kelly has sought to elevate the status of traffic agents, "showing they're part of the N.Y.P.D. family," said a police spokesman, Paul J. Browne. Earlier this year, the Legislature approved a measure to make assaulting a traffic agent a felony instead of a misdemeanor. Indeed, the funeral incorporated elements of the rites accorded police inspectors: the attendance of top city officials, a helicopter flyby, taps played by police trumpeters and a police motorcade to the burial, in Valhalla in Westchester County."
Just one more reminder why all of us, pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and mass transit users alike should work to create safe, liveable, friendly streets and communities, and why we should accord those on the front line of this struggle, the respect they deserve. Donnette Sanz, RIP.