Speed Cameras Have Saved Lives in NYC, But to Nicole Malliotakis, They’re a “Gimmick”

Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis says speed cameras are a revenue scam. These kids beg to differ. Photo: Brad Aaron
Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis says speed cameras are a revenue scam. These kids beg to differ. Photo: Brad Aaron

Staten Island Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis’s attack on life-saving speed enforcement cameras is like a breath of stale air.

Yesterday Mayor de Blasio reaffirmed that the city will press state legislators to relax arbitrary restrictions on the cameras, the Daily News reported.

Albany limits NYC to 140 speed cameras to cover 6,000 miles of surface streets. Cameras must be placed near schools and can be operated only during school hours. This means they can’t be used on some of the most dangerous streets and are inactive during low-visibility hours when pedestrians are most at risk.

Eighty-five percent of fatalities and severe injuries occur in locations where speed cameras aren’t allowed under current law, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said Tuesday.

Even with those limitations, traffic fatalities fell substantially in 2014 and 2015, when the city was rolling out new cameras. But last year, as the program ran up against the limits imposed by Albany, the improvement tapered off.

To hear Malliotakis tell it, however, the traffic safety benefits are a smoke screen. “This program is a gimmick to raise revenue for the city,” she said, according to the News.

And you thought you’d heard the last of the old cameras-as-revenue-scam canard. Here are some facts: DOT data show that speeding, the leading cause of fatal NYC traffic crashes, drops by 60 percent where cameras are deployed. You can tell the cameras work because they issue fewer tickets over time, as the prevalence of speeding declines. 

But wait, there’s more. From the News:

If the city cared about pedestrians, she said, it would add stop signs, install sidewalks, clear the snow at bus stops and go after drunk drivers.

Hold that straw man! As Malliotakis knows, speed cameras are one of many tools NYC uses to impose order on city streets. (The bus lane camera program she and Shelly Silver tried to kill is another.) By framing speed cameras as an “either/or” alternative to other traffic-calming measures, Malliotakis has to hope New Yorkers haven’t noticed the city has been redesigning streets (while prosecuting drunk drivers) for the last decade.

“Anyone that would get behind the wheel and gamble with the lives of others on the road deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Malliotakis once said. Sounds like an argument for speed cameras.

  • Vooch

    Eliminate the revenue argument entirely and Albany’s veto:

    Use the cameras solely to ‘communicate’ to the cars insurance carrier and send a copy to the car’s registered owner.

    The insurance company can determine what is best solution.

    NYC could install thousands upon thousands of speed cameras without any hindrance from Albany plus eliminate the revenue argument.

    If the goal is reducing speeding, then ‘communication’ cameras is the way to go.

  • Vulcan Logic

    I’ll be honest that I don’t know the details of the city’s accounting books but considering what the fines are as I understand, it’s highly unlikely that the cameras actually net a fiduciary profit to the books through their fines alone. They obviously pay dividends but mostly in hidden savings such as decreased hospital costs, higher property values, improved sales tax, etc. Speed cameras, when executed properly, generate excellent returns on investment but not through fines. Like so many progressive programs, the average layperson only sees the most obvious cash flows i.e. the camera ticket fines or public transit subsidies. The actual returns on the investment come through indirect sources that are understandably more difficult for the average Joe or Josephine to wrap their heads around.

  • Vooch

    your post proves my approach.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Well, you are talking about using general revenues. Those are for debts, pensions, and then whatever money is left is used for other things.

    But you are right. For one thing, evidence of repeat offenders and unlicensed drivers, and running lights more than a second after the light change, would up the pressure on having fines at least for them.

    I was reading a Paul Theroux book about the Mediterranean. Evidently in France, at least when the book was written, no one cleaned up after their dogs, and there was poop everywhere. That’s what New York used to be like, too, but that has completely changed. This can too.

  • Vooch

    No need for fines at all. Just communicate to the insurance company. The insurance company is a far better judge of risky driving behavior than the authorities.

    When someone’s car insurance goes up by $1,000/year, their behavior will change pronto.

    Imagine setting up a ‘communication’ camera on West Street ? on Delancy ? On Grand Concourse ? On Atlantic Ave ?

    Imagine the cars which would have 20 ‘communicating’ emails sent to their insurance agency within a month ? Ya’ think after 20 ‘communications within a month, the guys insurance rate would skyrocket ? You betcha !

    It’s the only way Bypass Albany and quickly eliminate excess speeding.

    Forget the logjam of Albany, forget speeding tickets, forget the rigmarole of identifying the driver to a traffic judge’s satisfaction, forget the silly threshold of infraction being 10 MPH over the limit.

    Just install a few thousand ‘communication’ cameras throughout the city.

    This could be impletmented within 6 months.

    After 9 months of ‘communicating’ to cars insurance companies, you’d see a dramatic decrease in speeding.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Except by the unlicensed and uninsured.

  • Vooch

    don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    if 90% of drivers are finally driving safer speeds because of communication cameras, the uninsured cars will be less likely to speed. Drivers tend to drive with the general flow of other drivers.

  • kevin

    F that, just give them tickets and use the revenue to pay for crossing guards or something.

  • Vooch

    you’ll never achieve the objective of eliminating dangerous drivers that way.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Also, in fairness, the way red light cameras were deployed in many jurisdictions DID give them a bad name, and justifiably so. Many cities cut deals with the companies that operate the cameras where the companies paid a big portion of the install cost, and got to keep a share of the fines. Yellow light times were shortened, which increased red light running, and raised revenue, but actually reduced safety.

  • Lakeview Guy

    What data is there that cameras save lives? None that I see here.

  • Camera placement is correlated with a reduction in vehicle speeds

    Reduction in speed is correlated with fewer pedestrian injuries death

    Look it up, stop asking others to carry the burden of proof against a ridiculous argument (that moderate enforcement is bad for the public)

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