Rahway mandates driving classes

RAHWAY, NJ — Rahway Mayor Samson Steinman’s second accident in seven months, involving a city-owned vehicle on March 18, resulted in a medical leave for him and a new policy for city employees.

On April 24, the Rahway City Council adopted a policy that requires employees to take a defensive driving class on their own time and at their own expense if the employee is driving a city-owned vehicle at the time of an accident and Rahway police determine the accident was preventable, regardless of whether a summons is issued.

“This policy is effective immediately for all city employees,” Councilman Raymond Giacobbe Jr. told LocalSource during a May 3 phone interview. “The city employee will learn skills and awareness. This is a good measure to sharpen the proper skills.”

Employees may also be required to take a driving course if they have one or more driving violations in a year or if they are convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The guidelines give the city the right to impose other disciplinary actions, such as taking away the employee’s driving privileges or firing them from their jobs.

“The overriding objective of a Defensive Driving Rule is to reduce the likelihood of an employee operating a city-owned vehicle being involved in an accident,” the resolution states.

“The driving course would concentrate on defensive driving by being aware of one’s surroundings and preventing accidents and hazards on the road,” Giacobbe said. “The resolution was mutually agreed upon by the council.”

Steinman was charged with careless driving and failing to exhibit documents on March 18, after he hit a parked car on Kline Place in Rahway. He told police he had hit a pothole, divot or ice path causing him to lose control of the car. He was unable to locate his insurance card, according to the police report of the incident.

Police said the mayor was not under the influence at the time of the accident, although he made errors in sections of two alcohol tests at the scene. The accident followed another crash with a parked car at 5:30 a.m. on Aug. 26, after which Steinman was charged with driving with an expired license. He told police he had swerved to avoid hitting an animal that ran in front of the car while he drove on Central Avenue in Rahway.

Steinman was not tested for alcohol or drugs after that crash. Rahway’s employee manual stipulates a driver must be evaluated if an accident involves a fatality or the issuance of a citation to a city employee.

There is no direct correlation between Steinman’s accidents and the new resolution to mandate driving courses for city employees involved in accidents with city owned vehicles.

“This is a policy decision that we think makes sense for the municipality,” Cherron Rountree, Rahway’s business administrator and current acting mayor, said when asked whether the defensive driving resolution was related to Steinman’s crashes.

According to news reports, Steinman will resume his position as mayor Friday, May 12.

Township Administrator Ratna Harris told LocalSource she is unable to comment on the matter.