Albany Leaders Fail to Act on Speed Cameras as Session Comes to a Close

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein, and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

As Albany wraps up its legislative session today, Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are taking no action to protect New Yorkers from a leading cause of death on city streets — speeding drivers. A bill to expand the number of speed cameras in the city from 140 to 200 and loosen restrictions on how they can be used is not in the final package that Cuomo is negotiating with the leaders of the Assembly and State Senate.

With Cuomo and Senate Republicans permanently at odds with Mayor Bill de Blasio, the deck is stacked against any measure in Albany that is perceived to advance the mayor’s agenda. While de Blasio stayed quiet about the speed camera bill, it’s no secret that achieving his Vision Zero street safety goals will be tougher without an expanded automated enforcement program. The fact that more New Yorkers will get maimed and killed because speeding is not consistently enforced on city streets doesn’t appear to factor into the Albany calculus.

Advocates had hoped State Senator co-leader Jeff Klein of the Bronx, who heads the Independent Democratic Conference, would provide a path forward by sponsoring a Senate version of Assembly Member Deborah Glick’s speed cam bill. Klein had moved speed camera bills in previous years and has called them “a very smart approach” to traffic enforcement.

In an effort to attract more votes, Glick had significantly scaled back her original bill, which would have enabled camera enforcement by all 2,600 NYC schools, but there was no movement.

In the Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie’s office told Glick that a home rule message enacted by the City Council was required for the speed camera bill to advance, said Glick staffer Charles LeDuc.

Such concerns don’t hold Albany back, however, when legislative leaders want to flex their muscle in the city. A huge legislative fight this session, for instance, revolves around the extension of mayoral control of NYC schools. Albany is hammering out some sort of extension without waiting for guidance from a home rule message.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has been nowhere on the issue of speed enforcement. In 2013, when he signed the legislation enabling NYC’s first 20 speed cameras, Cuomo said, “Speeding in school zones puts our children at risk and preventing this reckless behavior should be a priority.” He’s been completely silent this year.

Bottom line: If Cuomo, Klein, and Heastie had wanted to expand the city’s speed camera program, they could have.

  • jcwconsult

    True and in most of the rest of the world, stairs are far more common than ramps.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • fdtutf

    A pedestrian on a sidewalk is at little more risk with cars going by at 45 mph than at 25 mph.

    This statement proves you’re an idiot with no idea what you’re talking about.

    Of course pedestrians are (relatively) safe on sidewalks; that’s why sidewalks exist (in not enough places, thanks to the way we’ve catered to motorists at the expense of other road users). And if pedestrians never needed to cross streets, saying that they’re safe on sidewalks would be a meaningful argument. But they do, so it’s not.

    Motorists comply with realistic traffic laws and correct engineering that is similar to their perceptions.

    “Motorists are sociopaths who only comply with the laws they feel like complying with.”

    Understanding that relationship leads to decisions that actually work.

    For motorists and no one else.

  • jcwconsult

    Thanks, it has been a good debate. People following the threads have a good clear view of both sides.

    I just think that making plans and policies based on human behavior that is not going to happen is wrong, and leads to plans and policies that will not work.

    SOME of those plans and policies that will not work are exploited by the for-profit ticket camera companies and their for-profit city business partners.

    That is wrong, it is corrupt, but is can be VERY profitable.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • fdtutf

    human behavior that is not going to happen

    Again, you’re slandering motorists and you don’t even seem to care. Is it completely impossible to induce motorists to actually follow the law? Are motorists that intractably indifferent to the law?

  • jcwconsult

    I have studied these issues for more than 50 years and read research that goes back 75 years. I talk regularly with police, DOT people, engineers, and researchers. I attended several national conferences with some of the best traffic engineers in the country.

    An artificially low posted limit that is well below the speeds most drivers find to be safe and comfortable will not get compliance by more than a very small percentage of the drivers. This then can increase crash risks with greater speed variance, tailgating, more passing, excessive lane changes, aggressive driving and occasionally road rage.

    Similarly, if you posted 65 mph on a busy city street that is not comfortable over about 35 mph, you would not find many (if any) drivers at 65 mph.

    This whole issue was made DRASTICALLY worse by the National Maximum Speed Limit law from 1974 to 1995. The 55 and after-1987 65 limit in most states (but not until much later in NY) completely convinced many motorists that the posted limits were unrelated to safety because rural freeways both feel and are safe and comfortable at speeds well above 55 or 65. It helped to “TRAIN” drivers that the limit is just a number sign, not a realistic law that needs compliance for genuine safety purposes. And many states viciously exploited the under posted limits for ticket revenue – with strong help from the insurance industry that can surcharge premiums of drivers caught in the speed traps. Speed limit enforcement became a $5 to $10 billion dollar a year for-profit industry which destroyed much of the respect for traffic laws and the officers that enforce them.

    It isn’t slander, it is normal human behavior.

    Example: I have done Lidar speed studies on I-10 in Texas posted at 80 mph. The
    85th percentile speeds were 81 to 84, with only 1% at 90 or higher – in
    areas where visibility distances are 1+ miles, traffic is light, weather
    is perfect, and a competent driver in a modern car could go 100 mph all
    day in safety. WHY don’t drivers go much faster than 80? Because most
    drivers do not feel safe and comfortable at speeds much above the low
    80s. It is NOT the 80 signs that control the speeds, it is the drivers
    perceptions of what speeds they find safe and comfortable. If you took the speed limit signs away, there would be little or no difference in the actual travel speeds.

    Another example: If you are on a good rural highway in an area with a lot of deer, it is much safer to be going about 45 than 65 IF YOU ACTUALLY HIT A DEER. But drivers will not go 45 mph on the off chance they might be the unlucky one to actually hit a deer that day in that area.

    Last example: My wife is British and I have driven extensively in the UK, sometimes on small rural roads which have a default legal limit of 60 mph. Some are 1.5 car-wide lanes with hedges on both sides, lots of curves on centuries-old roads where speeds above 20 or 25 would be suicidal. People drive 15-25.

    Drivers comply with traffic laws they find to be realistic, and do not comply with ones they find to be unrealistic. If you want speeds not much above 25 mph, then the street must feel safe and comfortable for most drivers at speeds not much above 25. You get very high compliance and could remove all the speed signs with no negative safety effects.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • Maggie

    In New York City, I gave you an example several days ago of a local child who was killed by a speeding driver right in front of a crossing guard. Did that sink in for you? Crossing guards aren’t law enforcement. Your effort to block law enforcement is going to cost innocent lives.

    You live hundreds of miles away and do not have local knowledge of dangerous conditions. Please stop spamming. It’s rude.

  • fdtutf

    It isn’t slander, it is normal human behavior.

    Compliance with speed limits is much higher in other countries. It isn’t normal human behavior; it’s just American behavior. How do we change it? The experience of other countries proves that this isn’t ingrained in human beings.

  • jcwconsult

    A lot of it is cultural, developed over decades.

    Also, in many countries the posted limits are more logical and realistic for the actual conditions. (I have driven in 24 countries so far.) I just did 1,300 miles in Germany and found most of the limits were at or very close to the speeds I found to be safe and comfortable for the conditions. Note that I naturally drive within 2 or 3 mph of the 85th percentile speeds because it is what I find to be safe and comfortable.

    City limits were usually 50 kph or 31 mph. Some VERY LIMITED areas were 30 kph or 19 mph, but only where conditions made such slow speeds logical and realistic for road width, sight lines, etc. It was unusual to find many cars more than a few kph above the limits – because the limits were realistic and logical almost everywhere.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • fdtutf

    A lot of it is cultural, developed over decades.

    For easy, quick reference, here’s my question again:

    How do we change it?

    Would you care to suggest some ways that we can change this cultural abomination? If not, I’ll assume that you approve of the bloody status quo.

  • Joe R.

    I think a good start would be realistic highway speed limits. The national 55 mph limit in the 1970s was the first widespread legislated speed limit. It ended up fostering disrespect for all speed limits in general, and eventually disrespect for other traffic laws. Europe never had this problem because the highway speed limits there were always realistic. Also, from a purely psychological perspective it’s good to give drivers a place where they can get things out of their system without any chance of harming innocent bystanders. The highways with realistic speed limits (or even no speed limits like the Autobahn) can serve such a function. My educated guess is if we did this, we would have more respect for speed limits. They would be more widely obeyed, even if they were artificially low on some urban surface streets. Legislated, low speed limits can serve a valid purpose, but they must be used sparingly or you risk drivers losing respect for all speed limits. Same thing with traffic controls. NYC has famously overused stop signs and traffic signals, to the point they’ve totally lost their effectiveness.

  • Alicia

    Your opinion is totally divorced from the economic reality of large cities. You repeat the same statement that “The sheer number of vehicles in NYC should tell you that arrivals by vehicle are important economically” without any idea of what the net economic impact of a car trip is.

    London, once again, is a clear example of how a large city can reduce the amount of car trips without a single adverse impact on its economic well being. It’s not clear that NYC’s revenue or GDP would be affected at all by a reduction in car trips, either.

  • jcwconsult

    I don’t necessarily approve today’s realities, nor do I agree that today’s realities are a “bloody status quo”.

    To effect real and lasting change, the US needs to totally overhaul our traffic laws and enforcement systems – in order to regain respect from the drivers that they are actually about safety, not revenue.

    Many years ago the NMA founder suggested traffic citations involve NO money for the governments issuing the tickets, only points on the drivers licenses. This removes all the incentives to enforce for profits. It would never happen, but would instantly end profiteering with improper traffic engineering parameters. Our basic principles:

    Traffic safety through sound engineering and real driver training

    Traffic laws fairly written and reasonably enforced

    Traffic laws and penalties should be based on sensible standards that differentiate between responsible behaviors and demonstrated unsafe
    actions.

    Freedom from arbitrary traffic stops and unwarranted searches/seizures

    Freedom from invasive surveillance

    Full due process for motorists

    Reasonable highway user fees for maintaining and improving highways, not for financing non-highway projects

    Motorists’ rights keep pace with technological advances

    There will be NO quick fixes to change the culture.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • jcwconsult

    We each have opinions that are not likely to change.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • Alicia

    No, that only applies to your statements, not mine. You have opinions that are divorced from reality. I have facts. You can’t produce any hard numbers about the net economic impact of cars on NYC.

  • Alicia

    For all his frequent protests that he isn’t getting paid for this, I can’t see what else but money motivates someone to search for news websites around the country (and occasionally even outside the country) and spam them without even reading some of the articles he’s posting on. He probably has a Google alert or similar setup to send him links to articles about traffic cameras, given the huge number of websites he posts on.

  • jcwconsult

    It is too obvious to have to evaluate in detail.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • Alicia

    Once upon the time it was “obvious” that the sun revolved around the earth. “Obvious” is not the same as true.

  • fdtutf

    nor do I agree that today’s realities are a “bloody status quo”.

    Right, you don’t live in New York, where that’s exactly what the reality is now.

    To effect real and lasting change, the US needs to totally overhaul our
    traffic laws and enforcement systems – in order to regain respect from
    the drivers that they are actually about safety, not revenue.

    What really needs reforming is not so much traffic laws and enforcement systems as driver education. This country needs rigorous driver education that helps new motorists understand that the transportation system is a system, of which they are only one part, and that by operating a motor vehicle, they are accepting a very heavy responsibility for maintaining the safety of that system. They would also be led to understand that users of other modes are not obstacles to be overcome, but human beings who also have a right to move about safely, and that the traffic laws are in place to protect all users, not just motorists.

    Motorists’ rights keep pace with technological advances

    Motorists don’t have rights, at least not specifically as motorists. Driving is a privilege that comes with responsibilities.

  • fdtutf

    The underlying problem is that motorists think speed limits are optional. That’s a cultural issue that can’t really be solved by giving motorists their heads anywhere. Letting motorists drive the speeds they want to drive builds up the notion that motorists have a right to drive the speeds they want to drive, and everyone else be damned.

  • Joe R.

    The underlying problem here is motorists think ALL traffic laws are optional, not just speed limits. Arguably, if all they disregarded in NYC were speed limits I might say we would be relatively safe given that many pedestrian fatalities are caused by failure to yield or running red lights. However, they ignore even those laws as well just to save a few seconds. The national 55 mph speed limit wasn’t the sole cause of this but it made things much, much worse. And it really wasn’t needed. Europe never instituted any kind of national maximum speed limit. In fact, I think it made things worse. By slowing cars down, gas guzzlers got passable fuel economy at 55 mph. Had we kept sensible limits in place, high gas prices would have resulted in widespread use of more efficient vehicles simply because it would have been too expensive to drive gas guzzlers at 90 mph. That’s exactly what happened in Europe.

    I’ve been around long enough to compare drivers back in the 1960s to drivers now. While there were always assholes on the road, they were a tiny minority back then. Now it seems like every other car has an asshole behind the wheel. To some extent I can chalk this up to road road due to higher traffic levels. Most of it however is a shift to “me-first” culture. Everyone tries to cut the line even when the end result is to make it much slower for everyone. What caused this shift in attitude? Your guess is as good as mine but there is no simple fix for it.

    I’ll repeat what I’ve already said many times. I think the rational solution to reducing the number of traffic deaths in NYC (and that’s the real goal here, NOT necessarily slowing cars down although we need to do that also in places) is to radically reduce traffic volumes. That will reduce road rage, allow us to eliminate a lot of traffic signals and stop signs (both of which cause aggressive driving), in general foster an environment which is more conducive to civilized driver. Higher licensing standard with greater liability when you kill or injure someone would help also but for now those are politically nonstarters. I think a big part of the problem here is poorly trained motorists. Ideally, we can in fact let drivers make judgements on things like speed but this requires a higher level of training. Right now a frighteningly large percentage of drivers are dangerous doing anything more than moving their vehicles in an empty parking lot.

    Finally, I’ll mention another problem which permeates our society, and which I think is partially responsible for the third world driving culture in places like NYC. As a nation, we’ve been increasingly loathe to let children have freedom to make judgements because we’re overprotective. As a result, these children reach adulthood being utterly incapable of making sound judgements simply because we never let them have the normal childhood leeway to experiment as I did. Yes, sometimes children will get hurt, sometimes they will even die, but it’s important to start letting them make their own decisions (and suffer the consequences of those decisions) very young. Sure, some large percentage of today’s drivers really can’t judge what is a safe speed to drive, nor do they act rationally much of the time. Adult children best describes the situation. I don’t have an easy fix here beyond a massively more difficult licensing procedure. I don’t think continuing to treat adults like children by micromanaging them is the way to go. When you treat people like children, then they tend to act like children.

    This all comes down to having sensible laws and an environment in which a sane, rational adult will make sound decisions. The subject may be speed limits but let’s apply some of the same type of reasoning jcwconsult uses for letting drivers choose their own speed to cyclists. Many here, probably even a majority, agree we should let cyclists use their own judgement at red lights, and pass them when/if they judge it’s safe to do so. We shouldn’t be micromanaged by laws to sit there staring at empty space simply because some tiny minority of cyclists might not be capable of sound judgement when it comes to passing red lights. You could apply the same reasoning to speed limits. The point of 85th percentile speed limits is to allow enforcement to focus on the minority who has really poor judgement of what is a safe speed to drive at, rather than micromanaging everyone by forcing them to drive at unrealistically low speeds. Note this mostly applies to limited access highways and country roads. However, by allowing drivers to exercise judgement in a place where it’s relatively safe, we ingrain in them the concept that the number on the sign is generally a safe, sane speed to travel. As a result, if you use legislated, lower speed limits sparingly, you will get very good compliance even if most drivers feel they could safely drive faster. They’ll see the number on the sign, figure traffic engineers know what they’re doing, as stick to it. This is the case with 30 and 50 kph speed limits in European cities.

  • jcwconsult

    Better driver education is also one of the things we want to see as well.

    The last item is mostly about privacy. Just because it becomes possible for governments or insurance companies to track all of our travels and put them in a database that can be hacked by outside influences does NOT mean the motorists should have to accept or allow that ability.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • fdtutf

    The last item is mostly about privacy. Just because it becomes possible
    for governments or insurance companies to track all of our travels and
    put them in a database that can be hacked by outside influences does NOT
    mean the motorists should have to accept or allow that ability.

    Tough shit. Again, driving is a privilege, not a right. The same argument was made against requiring people to give a breath test when stopped for a moving violation, and the counterargument, which is correct, is that you can require people to give a breath test as a condition of allowing them to have a driver’s license.Similarly, if you don’t want your movements tracked, you can’t have a driver’s license. Simple as that.

    PS Under no circumstances should this information be shared by the government with insurance companies or any private party.

  • jcwconsult

    In the view of many organizations, the government does NOT have a right to track and record a person’s vehicle movements when they have committed no offenses. And anyone who thinks databases in the hands of the government or anyone else are not hackable does not understand computers and technology.

    People that are stopped for moving violations are properly examined by police for cause. People just going about their private travels without making any moving violations should NOT be subject to having all their movements tracked and recorded.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

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