TA Report: Reckless Driving Casualties Rising as NYPD Enforcement Lags


Transportation Alternatives today released a troubling report on the state of local traffic enforcement, and called on Mayor Bloomberg to establish a new office tasked with reining in dangerous drivers and reducing fatalities and injuries on city streets.

"Executive Order: A Mayoral Strategy for Traffic Safety" [PDF], compiled from official data along with testimony from experts on traffic enforcement and public health, reveals that while deaths caused by reckless drivers are up, citations issued for moving violations are declining.

Among the report’s findings:

  • A driver could speed every day in NYC and get ticketed only once every 35 years.
  • While the number of traffic fatalities caused by speeding rose 11 percent between 2001 and 2006, the number of summonses issued for speeding dropped 22 percent during that period.
  • Police and enforcement cameras combined catch only 1 out of every 438 red light runners.
  • A driver could fail to yield (the number two cause of crashes in NYC) every single day and get ticketed only once every 1,589 years.
  • While the number of traffic fatalities caused by drivers failing to yield rose 26 percent between 2005 and 2007, the number of summonses issued for failing to yield decreased 12 percent during that period.

"There’s so much that can and should be done, and so much that isn’t being done, to save lives," said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White, speaking this morning on the steps of City Hall. In the unlikely event that a person is ticketed for driving dangerously, White said, the ticket will likely be dismissed in court. In the most extreme yet all too common case in which a driver kills or injures another person, as Streetsblog readers well know, charges are rarely issued. Though the NYPD patrol manual contains clear outlines for securing evidence during crash scene investigations (page 51 of the report), these methods are often ignored, making cases difficult or impossible to prosecute.

In addition to injuries and fatalities, White said, New Yorkers
also suffer the effects of out-of-control driving in reduced
opportunities for exercise and a general diminution in quality of life. "This chain of danger and injustice must be broken," said White.

Ultimately, "Executive Order" concludes that current government practices and a lack of inter-agency cooperation result in little to no deterrence when it comes to dangerous behavior behind the wheel. To establish order on city streets and reduce the number of New Yorkers maimed and killed annually, TA recommends the following:

  • Create an Office of Road Safety at City Hall in charge of reducing traffic violations, crashes, injuries and fatalities.
  • Have the DMV distribute points to licenses from the time of conviction, not retroactively from adjudication, in order to keep dangerous drivers off the road.
  • Reemploy the former NYPD policy of deploying officers to areas with frequent crashes.
  • Measure traffic safety in the Mayor’s Management Report through incident reduction, not summonses issued.

There are other suggested remedies. For example, if NYPD were to allow Traffic Enforcement Agents to issue summonses for moving violations, White said, it would add thousands of officers with the ability to calm traffic "virtually overnight."

As it stands, the case of Andre Anderson, whose mother also spoke today, serves all too well as an exemplar of the city’s approach to traffic crime. Andre was killed in 2005 while riding his bike in Far Rockaway, Queens. He was 14 years old. Though samples of Andre’s body tissue were screened for the presence
of intoxicants, Audrey Anderson said, the driver of the SUV who hit him from
behind was not tested for alcohol or drugs.

While Andre’s killer was eventually issued a speeding ticket, according to "Executive Order," it was thrown out of court.

  • Ian Turner

    So, here’s a question for the cash-strapped city: Does deploying police officers to write tickets pay for the fully burdened cost of the officer, including salary, pension, overtime, equipment, training, etc.? If so, then hiring more officers specifically for traffic duty is a fiscal win for the city. If not, the implication is that we should study how to improve that balance, by improving the productivity of traffic officers, increasing the fines of tickets, or giving court and traffic officers the tools to ensure that offenders’ tickets are not dismissed.

  • Car Free Nation

    Although I’ve never seen a speed trap in NYC, the ones on the NYS thruway are incredibly inefficient. There’s one car with a radar gun. When someone is going excessively fast, the cop chases him down, and gives a ticket. Meanwhile, all the rest of the speeders go free.

    My suggestion, which I’ve seen rarely seen implemented, would be to have one cop tag cars that are speeding, and another cop a few hundred yards down the road direct the car to pull over. In NYC, you could do this very well, since cars typically have to stop at lights…

    This would give the impression to speeders that they will get caught, and would greatly increase the productivity of traffic officers.

  • ME

    I believe that if we could crack down on taxi and limousine drivers we could start to tame the wild west atmosphere out there. How about revoking their commercial driver’s license if they get 3 moving violations in a year?

    Thanks for a great report TA!

  • Doug

    CarFree: I have seen speed traps like you describe on the NJ Turnpike and Mass Pike. One cop sits there with a radar gun, and a seemingly unending series of patrol cars pull out to ticket those tagged.

    My impression is that the amount of revenue from the tickets so far exceeds the cost of the cop that it always pays to have someone write 10 tickets a day (I could do that as a pedestrian out on the street for an hour a day! And the number of people making illegal maneuvers has definitely increased in my short lifetime).

  • How about unite the cops and bikers that developed an unfortunate rivalry and expand the NYPD bike patrol fleet! Just a dozen officers or so on wheels would make a tremendous impact citywide. They could zip around efficiently and write tons of tickets w/o needing to add a cop car to the street, double parked and causing even more danger and traffic than what the original ticket was written for.

  • fdr

    An Office of Road Safety would have to be run by a Deputy Mayor to get cooperation from the Police Department, at least under this Mayor and this Police Commissioner.

  • vnm

    This study confirms exactly what I see on the streets every day. Every day on the way to the walk to or from the train station, I see a motorist breaking a moving or parking law of some type. It could be making a U-turn where it says “No U-Turn,” clipping a red light, making a right turn on red, parking against the alternate side regulations, talking on the cell phone while driving, etc., etc. Drivers know they can get away with breaking the traffic codes, so they do.

  • The reduced enforcement and increased danger referred to in TA’s report matches my observation of drivers in my neighborhood, the West 90s. I’m seeing U-turns, every day, at fast-moving intersections like Broadway and 96th (with impatient traffic moving on and off the highway) and West End and 98th (where a hill restricts your view of traffic to only one short block north). The risk of a head-on collision is ever present. Put aside the risk to pedestrians for a moment — they’re just as willing to risk slaughtering themselves and their fellow drivers.

  • buford puser

    Haven’t commented here in a while.
    This report is based on the faulty premise that the NYPD is an agency that Mayor Bloomberg controls or to which he can give orders that will be obeyed.
    Ray’s deal with Mayor Mike is 100% control; he doesn’t have to listen to Mayor Mike & never will- don’t like it, move, or vote for a Democrat, should NYC develop a Democratic party capable of winning a Mayoral election for the first time in 16 years, in a town with 90% Dem registration (assuming one concedes Koch to have been an actual Dem at any time since leaving Congress).
    Sure would be nice to live in some kind of fantasy world where a PD had some kind of system, call it, say, Compstat, where PD bosses could be held accountable for choosing to ignore things that would keep NYers safe

  • peter

    Ditto comments #7 and #8. There is a sense among drivers that most traffic laws aren’t enforced in NYC. I see cars going through my neighborhood every day at speeds that are clearly way over 30mph, yet I’ve almost never seen the police stopping a car. Obviously the NYPD can’t police every traffic violation, but they should be directing a lot more enforcement effort on reckless driving, even if it means less enforcement of more minor traffic violations like alternate side parking or talking on a cell phone. And I think it’s completely nuts that the police set up stings to ticket bicyclists when reckless driving is responsible for literally thousands of deaths and injuries in NYC every year, particularly among pedestrians.

  • Wait, why does any particular political party need to be in the mayor’s office for a police department to be subject to representative government? NY Democrats peg so low on the liberal principles I care about—much lower than the hated Bloomberg—I’ve stopped paying any attention to who’s in or out of our joke of a party. And it seems I’m in good company.

  • kate m

    While passing yet another pointlessly idling tour bus in front of BAM,I asked a traffic enforcement officer how long a vehicle could idle. I understood it was 3 minutes.
    He said 30 minutes,while trying his best to avoid the conversation and walking away.
    The police don’t know or don’t care about the law!

    These are the very people who could reduce diesel fumes and increase revenue.
    What can we do to get them empowered and motivated to monitor and ticket idlers?
    To what agency can I voice this concern?The EPA isn’t doing it.

  • Smarthy

    An idiot cut me off running my car off road.

    Plate # FJS9303
    Blue expedition.


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