Magazine article The New Yorker

The Talk of the Town: Sergeant Road Rage

Magazine article The New Yorker

The Talk of the Town: Sergeant Road Rage

Article excerpt

Sergeant Louis V. Dini, of the Suffolk County Highway Patrol, was sitting in traffic on the Long Island Expressway at the height of the Friday-afternoon Hamptons rush hour not long ago, when a Suzuki motorcycle up ahead squeezed by a car in the same lane. "Son of a bitch!" Dini said, and he gunned his unmarked Ford Crown Victoria, maneuvering past Explorers and Porsches, until he'd caught up to the bike. "We got him," he said. The biker pulled over, and Dini stepped out and issued the biker a ticket for "splitting the lane"--moving violation, seventy dollars.

In his uniform--a starched blue shirt, blue jodhpurs, black leather boots--Dini looked fit and regimental. He has thick eyebrows and salt-and-pepper hair. On the job twenty years, he seems not to have lost any enthusiasm for enforcing the law. One evening recently, he arrived home to find that the car belonging to his teen-age daughter's date was parked illegally, nose to nose with his patrol car. Dini threatened to write the boy a ticket, then threw him out of the house.

Dini supervises Operation SITE, a new Suffolk County initiative, using patrolmen in unmarked cars, to curb road rage and aggressive driving along the main arteries of eastern Long Island. One Sunday, at the ramp leading onto the L.I.E. from County Road 111, Dini and his men issued eighty-eight tickets in three hours. Though rage itself is not illegal ("It's really not a crime to give someone the finger," Dini said), many manifestations of it are. "Everybody's impatient--people want to get out there and they get cranky," Dini said. "They start cutting each other off, driving on the shoulders." A while back, for instance, two cars jostled for position until, at Exit 68, the drivers pulled over, got out, and started throwing punches. Much rubbernecking ensued, slowing the flow of traffic and, presumably, inducing yet more rage. Nonetheless, it's the subtle violations that annoy Dini the most. "My biggest pet peeve, I think, is failing to signal a lane change," he said.

Up ahead, a pickup truck crossed into the H.O.V. (high-occupancy-vehicle) lane. "Now, do you see what this guy just did? He entered illegally!" Dini said, and gunned the accelerator. "Look at that! The S.U.V. just did it even worse. I'm going to get the S.U.V., because he didn't even signal. …

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