Waiting for Raymond: Deadly Driving Too Common for NYPD to Bother With

Fatality_rates.gifPedestrians have a slim chance of living through a collision with a driver traveling 10 mph above the city speed limit — which still doesn’t meet at least one cop’s threshold for issuing a ticket.

The Post ran a damning article last weekend on reckless yellow cab drivers. Armed with a radar gun, a reporter clocked cabbies regularly exceeding the city’s 30 mph speed limit by as much as 20 mph. An unnamed NYPD commander also said that cab drivers are responsible for over half of all crashes in Midtown.

If only that were the whole story. A 2009 Transportation Alternatives study found that 39 percent of motorists speed through the city, heedless of school
zones and other areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.

Another nugget buried in the Post piece:

Cops issued 18.3 million such tickets [for moving violations] in the Big Apple last year, down from 24.3 million in 2008, records show.

Speeding tickets are a small fraction of total moving violations issued in New York. In 2007, NYPD issued around 75,000 speeding tickets, according to TA’s report "Executive Order," which also found that a city driver could speed every day and get ticketed only once every 35 years. An anonymous officer quoted by the Post claimed that cops don’t
generally initiate a traffic stop unless a driver is traveling 15 to 20
mph over the limit.

Speeding is not a victimless crime. TA found that while the number of traffic fatalities caused by speeding rose by 11
percent between 2001 and 2006, the number of summonses issued for
speeding dropped 22 percent during the same period. A pedestrian hit by a driver obeying the city’s 30 mph speed limit has about a 45 percent chance of dying as a result of the collision. At 40 mph, the likelihood of death jumps to between 70 and 85 percent.

Put another way, being hit by an automobile at 40 mph is like falling off a five-story building. The Post calculated an average speed of 37 mph by cab drivers on Park Avenue at East 84th Street.

Commissioner Ray Kelly has indicated that he is perfectly happy with NYPD’s record on traffic enforcement. Contacted by Streetsblog, the Taxi and Limousine Commission gave no indication that the agency is considering measures to slow down speeding cab drivers.

  • Oh, come on! 18.3 million tickets for moving violations? That’s more than 50,000 a day, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a car pulled over in New York City, with a cop handing the driver a ticket.

    Speeding is the #1 quality-of-life crime in New York City, and it’s completely ignored by the NYPD.

  • 18.3 million tickets, 24.3 million tickets, who cares?! Its not the drop in tickets issues that scares me to death, it’s the fact that as a city we’re okay with a crime happening MILLIONS of times period. Clearly, something has to change. 18 million tickets, in a city of 9 million people, the majority of which don’t even have cars?! It’s the same people doing the same crimes and a mere $115 ticket isn’t changing their behavior. How about revoking licenses, impounding cars, forcing them to take the train like the rest of us and leave vehicles to those who can operate them safely.

  • Street redesign is the only solution that will stick. Even if the NYPD suddenly developed a new respect for the traffic laws it is supposed to enforce, the cops will probably continue to lose manpower as government budgets shrink.

  • Car Free Nation

    I’d think that writing tickets would be a way of generating revenue. Too bad we can’t have speed cameras that ticket everyone who speeds.

  • Ian Turner

    It appears that NYPD productivity is so low that writing tickets is a money losing proposition.

  • kaja

    Street redesign, seconding Mark. Cops are not the answer, even if human nature changed next Tuesday and they became saintly citizens.

    Then again I have friends in Florida who use their residential-neighborhood chicanes as excuses to test their Porsche’s handling at 60mph; so…

  • Omri

    “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.[2]”

    Robert Peel, founder of the world’s first police force in London. Someone should tell Kelly.

  • Two things.

    First, the 10-mph rule is there for a reason. Cops need a way to be able to discriminate against people of the wrong skin colors. If there were a hard and fast rule saying you get ticketed for driving over 20 mph, they’d have to apply it equally. If the rule were fuzzier and they could ticket whites at 37 mph and blacks at 30 mph, it’d all be much easier for them. (If the point of the rule was that driving 15 mph over the speed limit is safe, they’d just raise the speed limit 15 mph.)

    And second, relying on passive measures like speed limits to reduce accidents isn’t going to do much. You need to have active measures that make collisions less likely to happen in the first place. (The same is true with bicycling – helmet laws do nothing to improve safety; building bike lanes to collision-avoiding, dooring-avoiding standards does.)

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