Cuomo Can Save Lives by Unshackling NYC’s Speed Camera Program

Children went to Albany last spring to try to convince state legislators to allow more NYC speed cameras. It’s time for Governor Cuomo to step up. Photo: Brad Aaron
Children went to Albany last spring to try to convince state legislators to allow more NYC speed cameras. It’s time for Governor Cuomo to step up. Photo: Brad Aaron

Mayor de Blasio says city officials will again ask Albany to let NYC expand its speed camera program. In addition to lifting the cap on cameras, Cuomo and state lawmakers should end arbitrary restrictions on location and hours of operation, which make the cameras less effective than they could be.

NYC is currently limited to operating 140 speed enforcement cameras. The cameras must be sited near schools and can be activated only during school hours. Even so, cameras caught 10 times as many speeding drivers as NYPD did last year — issuing 1.37 million citations compared to 137,000 written by police — according to testimony presented to the City Council yesterday.

But state mandates that narrow the scope of the program leave New Yorkers exposed on some of the city’s most dangerous streets.

The Village Voice reports that, according to DOT, 85 percent of traffic deaths and serious injuries occur at times and locations that Albany has decreed off-limits to automated speed enforcement. “Unfortunately a lot of crashes do not happen near schools or during school hours,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told council members Thursday.

Lobbying state lawmakers to allow more cameras has become an annual tradition for NYC officials and victims of traffic violence. Last spring, members of Families for Safe Streets accompanied dozens of children who traveled to the capitol to make the case for speed cameras outside every school in the city.

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

Manhattan Assembly Member Deborah Glick, who sponsored last year’s bill, eventually reduced the ask to just 60 additional cameras, with looser restrictions on placement. But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, of the Bronx, insisted that the bill had to be accompanied by a City Council home rule message, which wasn’t true. On the Senate side, support from power broker Jeff Klein, who has backed speed camera legislation in the past, never materialized.

This year, Transportation Alternatives will train its efforts on Governor Cuomo. “We’re really asking the governor to take action,” TA Executive Director Paul White told the Voice.

A recent TA-funded survey of NYC voters found that 84 percent of respondents, most of whom own cars, support putting speed cameras near more schools.

“The legislature is so dysfunctional now,” said White, “really the surest route to victory, the surest route to saving kids’ lives, is if the governor takes this on.”

  • LinuxGuy

    I think that they should just ban cars everywhere but interstates, after all, that is the goal right? And while cars remain legal, let’s get as much money out of people for safe driving as possible! If the speed cams make errors, who cares? Collateral damage, right? Keep setting low limits and ticketing slightly over them This was not meant to be serious, but makes a point.

  • Vooch

    NYC can install as many speed ‘communicating’ cameras as desired. These cameras can send letters to the car’s insurance carriers ‘communicating’ possible speeding.

    The insurance companies can decide to raise rates if they wish.

    No need to beg Albany. No need for complex ‘enforcement’ structures.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Hey Linux guy, I have drive here, and I have driven elsewhere. NY drivers are not good. If you drive at the speed limit, expect road rage by those trying to get around you.

    If you put on your blinker before changing lanes, they floor it to cut you off so they won’t end up behind you, rather than slowing down to let you in.

    There is a reason my insurance is so damn high.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Maybe they’d be more likely to get more speed and light cameras if there was a little more forgiveness. Say a letter for incidences of 1-5 mph over the limit, until enough of them built up.

    Same with catching tail red at a light, within half a second or so. A warning or two, and then the fines start. Makes it seem more like a safety measure than a revenue raiser.

    With higher fines for each increment of additional speed or each elapse of time since the light turned.

    Same thing with alternate side. Enforce it with cameras on the sweepers, and the only tickets are for blocking the sweeper.

  • Vooch

    Larry,

    gotta disagree with you on this item. Just send a note to the insurance company.

    That’s going to prove more effective enforcement and it costs the taxpayers nothing.

    The last thing we need is to encourage expansion of city bureaucrats

    :)?

  • LinuxGuy

    Speed limits are not posted correctly, they should be set to the 85th percentile. Driving at low speeds is unsafe to everyone.

    I would suggest for lane changing that you put the signal on, then get over quickly, not giving time for anyone to refuse a merge. Also, try to get over well in advance of an upcoming turn.

  • reasonableexplanation

    I see people complain about not being let in while indicating in basically every large city in the US. I’ve driven in many of them, and I have not had a problem with this. It’s sort of the same sentiment as “man, drivers in *current city* are the worst drivers!”

    If you’re having issues with changing lanes, remember the turn signal is an indicator, not an asker. You don’t put it on and hope somebody lets you in, you pick where you will merge into and indicate your intent, then you do it. 90% of the time it works every time.

  • Peter

    It’s also dangerous to take your eyes off the road and watch your speedometer, so if that’s what they want then so be the pedestrian victims with fault of NYC.

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