After years of persistence, advocates for safer streets are closer than ever to a milestone achievement: Following the measure’s approval in the Assembly, the State Senate passed a bill early Saturday to allow New York City to use cameras to catch motorists who speed near schools. A spokesperson for Andrew Cuomo has said the governor will sign the bill into law.
Make no mistake — the speed camera program as approved by the legislature leaves much to be desired. The city will be allowed to deploy just 20 cameras throughout NYC — there are 1,700 public schools alone in the five boroughs — and the cameras will be operable only from one hour before the school day begins to one hour after it ends. A driver can go up to 10 mph over the speed limit without getting a ticket, and camera-enforced penalties will be limited to $50, regardless of how fast an offending motorist drives, with no license points attached. The legislature has attached a five-year sunset clause to the program.
But the bottom line is speed cameras reduce traffic injuries and deaths, and the streets around the handful of schools selected to get them will be safer. “What we are doing is getting our foot in the door,” said Juan Martinez, Transportation Alternatives general counsel, earlier this month. “The key is to get the authorization so we can start eliminating these needless deaths.” Since they were first introduced in 1988, the number of NYC red light cameras has gradually increased, from 15 to 150.
“This is a great victory for safer streets and for the children of New York City,” said Paul Steely White, TA executive director, in a written statement. “Special thanks are due to Senator Jeff Klein and Assembly Member Deborah Glick, who worked to pass this bill in their respective houses. With the enforcement tools allowed by this legislation, the City of New York will be able to catch drivers violating the lawful speed limit near our schools and prevent them from putting our children’s lives at risk.”
Also thanking Glick and Klein, Veronica Vanterpool, executive director of Tri-State Transportation Campaign, wrote: “Speed cameras will bolster existing law enforcement practices and complement traffic calming measures to ensure our roadways are safer for everyone who uses them in New York City. They are an additional measure in a toolkit towards safer streets, not a replacement for existing law enforcement. Speeding cars take so many lives, cause so many injuries, and make too many of our streets perilous for all users of the road: pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.”
Thanks are due to TA and Tri-State, as well as Mayor Bloomberg, the City Council, Manhattan DA Cy Vance, and other electeds who voiced their support for speed cameras.