Got a Drivers License and a Gripe? NYC Reporters Want to Hear From You

If you want to get the attention of the New York news media, the formula apparently goes something like so. Step one: turn a personal pet peeve into a matter of public record by filing a baseless lawsuit. Step two: watch reporters beat a path to your door.

Take one Jack McCloy, a motorist who was ticketed for running a red light at a camera-enforced intersection in Queens. According to McCloy, yellow lights in the city and Nassau County are too short, are purposefully timed to fatten municipal coffers at the expense of entrapped drivers, and are unsafe to boot.

As Fox 5 reporter Andrea Day points out, the timing of traffic lights is regulated by state and federal guidelines, and it’s pretty well established by now that red light cameras save lives and reduce injuries. Yet rather than pay a $50 fine, McCloy wants traffic signals re-calibrated to his satisfaction, and has filed a suit to that end in New York State Supreme Court. “Unless somebody stands up for what they believe is right,” McCloy says, “it’s going to just perpetuate itself.”

Fox at least gives some airtime to a Nassau County official who insists that the local traffic camera program is intended to influence behavior — i.e. force drivers to obey the law — but the piece is clearly meant to be a David and Goliath story, Average Joe taking on The Man.

So, one driver with a petty grievance and time to kill: worthy of making his case on television. Hundreds of families turning out to support a street safety project that the New York City press corps otherwise can’t stop talking about? Nothing to see here.

  • Anonymous

    Is Jim Walden representing him pro bono?

  • Mr. Thoughts

    It’s becoming obvious that NYC needs two style news tv stations. One that covers Manhattan and dense areas of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. And then another style that covers Staten Island, Long Island, the suburbs, and “drive-mania” places.

    Although in a way that is what is happening with blogs and alternative news sources, most of the younger, savvy people are tune-ing out of the newstations these days.

  • Mark

    I happen to agree with the main point that Jack makes. Yellow light times can be too short. I have noticed this myself in NYC. I can’t speak for Long Island. Frequently, the signal light timings are set to maximize traffic flow not safety. And long yellow lights are not good for traffic flow. Lengthening the time for yellows can be a reasonable step. If the state is going to ticket people, it should make sure that reasonable people try to follow the law are not put in a position where they break the law due to a badly designed system.

  • Mark Walker

    At PIX11, where pro-driver bias has recently intensified at the expense of pedestrians and cyclists, the station’s reporters have also begun attacking the city’s attempts to reduce obesity and diabetes. Why? Same answer in both cases: Advertisers. Specifically car and fast food advertisers. What’s new and surprising is how brazen it is.

  • Anonymous

    They showed the yellow signal length in the video – it appeared more then adequately long.

  • Ty

    I drive fairly frequently (probably too frequently) and I have *never* had an issue with the length of the yellow light.

    Yellow means stop unless you can’t safely.

    If you are 50 feet from the intersection and the light turns yellow… you drive through. If you’re further. You stop.

    And if you’re further and can still make it through while yellow, chances are you’re driving too fast!

  • Anonymous

    Did he say that Nassau county made $10 million off of red-light cameras? That would be 200,000 tickets at $50. I find that very very hard to believe.

  • Tsuyoshi

    As someone who doesn’t drive, I agree that the yellow lights could be longer. I remember reading somewhere that lengthening the yellow light reduces the proportion of people speeding up to beat the red light. Unfortunately I can’t remember the source.

    But in any event, there will always be people running red lights if you don’t enforce the law. If you don’t drive recklessly you won’t get a ticket. No matter how short the yellow is, if you are driving slowly enough then you will be able to stop in time.

  • am i the only one who had to watch a car commercial before even getting to the ‘news’ segment? the driving mindset is so fixed on our culture… it’s freaking outrageous. How about he file a lawsuit that people are killed on the streets and nothing changes rather than be so petty about being caught breaking the very laws which keep him safe.

  • Driver

    I haven’t had a problem with the length of yellow lights in the city for the most part, but I do notice that at intersections where I know there are red light cameras I have at times found myself stopping much harder than usual when the light is changing, with a careful eye on what is behind me, and am not comfortable with this. These cameras leave no room for error in judgment, as I did get one ticket on an expressway service road for passing the light 0.6 seconds after it turned red.

    The only issue I have with these tickets, is if there is another car driving right behind you in the photograph (that has also passed the light), that should be an acceptable defense to passing the light (within a reasonable time, like under one second). Sometimes you can tell that the driver behind you has no intention of stopping, and that a hard stop in front of such a driver is dangerous. This has happened to me before, but not at any camera intersections. Frankly I would rather pay the $50 ticket than get hit from behind, but this should be a valid defense against these tickets.

  • Driver

    No, he said that Nassau county made over $10 million last year CUT. Notice the news edit. I doubt he was referring to just red light cameras. TV news is garbage, when covering any issue.

  • Driver

    Paco, the funny part is I didn’t even notice it was a car commercial. I completely ignore any ads that play before internet clips to the point that I don’t even realize I am ignoring them anymore.

  • J:Lai

    So it’s $50 if you run a red in a car, but $270 if you run a red on a bicycle.
    That doesn’t seem very equitable.

  • Anonymous

    That was a pretty obvious CUT.

  • Driver

    I think its $270 if you get a ticket from a cop (in your car). It’s just the camera tickets that are $50, not sure why though. My theory is that $50 is low enough to minimize outrage by drivers at the installation of more cameras. Once they are all over the place, watch the fine skyrocket.
    Also, the camera tickets are assigned to the vehicle, not the driver, so no points or insurance hikes.

  • Doug

    Driver: what makes you think that isn’t a valid defense? You can contest those tickets, can’t you?

  • There’s no journalism here, only theories, sound bites, voice over and editing.

    If only Andrea Day had checked accident statistics from the DOT or police department, she could have verified the specialist’s statement of increased safety and perhaps shown that McCloy’s case has no merit. Instead, she’s only interested in the “Man Fights City Hall” narrative. It’s cute storytelling, but it’s not journalism, which requires real work.

    It’s very sad that this is what passes for reporting today. Just show up at a location, stick a mic in a couple of people’s faces, and report what they say as fact. Game show hosts work harder.

  • Jp

    sorry streets blog , you are not paying attention. This is just the tip of the iceburg , NY reporters are so far behind in the story . Across the country they are banning these cameras for so many reasons . Strategicall placed to make the most money off right turns in the first.

    This story is just beginning, They are expanding the cameras everywhere to make money and people are starting to react. Give it a few months and the truth will come out about these things. Google red light cameras and you will get many stories every day.

  • Marsha Kramer’s Reporting

    Speaking about the press…

    When CNN is starting to file reports on UFOs, Sasquatch sightings, YouTube videos, and that they may have found the nails that were supposedly hammered into Jesus’ hands at his cruixifiction well then we are in trouble. Guess what? We are in trouble.

  • gwmccull

    I recall a court case from a couple years ago where it was shown that the the company that installs the traffic cameras had intentionally shortened the length of the yellow light to ticket more people (the company was receiving a cut of the ticket revenue). I want to say it happened in Texas but I’m not sure.

  • Gowanut

    This article is pandering to your base and myopic.
    Saying it is “pretty well established” that red light cameras have a safety benefit is shoddy journalism.

    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/report-critiques-red-light-camera-research-methods/
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/new-mexico-red-light-cameras-fail-to-reduce-accidents/
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/01/texas-red-light-cameras-boost-league-city-accidents/

    Red light and speed enforcement cameras are a huge national issue, there’s alot of money at stake, natuarally there are enough studies pro and con to satisy both viewpoints.

  • MJ

    Within 2 blocks of my house in Brooklyn, I saw 3 cars run red lights one morning last week. This wasn’t stretching-the-yellow sh*t. It was blatant light-is-red-and-I’m-going-through sh*t. Until drivers follow the speed limit, stop for red lights, stop texting-while-driving and stop talking on their cell phones while driving, I want god*amn red light cameras everywhere.

  • The truth will come out? The cameras catch criminals committing a crime. Full stop. And unlike with a cop, there’s video evidence proving the crime was committed, and not a judgement call.

    If a cop doesnt like you, he can say you ran the light. Your word vs his. Cop wins, always. Camera? It’s black or white, you broke the law or you didn’t.

    And yellow light timing is set in stone via speed limit + intersection width. Again, full stop.

  • Considering yellow light timing is an engineering issue, and there are very specific guidelines to be set, taking into account the speed limit and the intersection width, that’s bs.

  • Jp

    You know what Jass . I like cameras to catch criminals and even help find missing people . I am not against cameras.

    But I dont like politicians talking of safety in public and revenue in private while they are negotiating with a company that is skilled in putting cameras where they can catch the most violations. ATS makes at least 30 million a year in NY. Multiply that by the other cities.

    And as far as the engineering , one of the problems is they are not following federal guidelines. Those guidelines also say the vendor is not supposed be paid by the violations and in most cities they are.

    Also these people are also able to go into the DMV records and access the same information as if they were the police . I wonder how the background checks are for those employees .

    New York legislators also received campaign contributions from ATS and its lobbyists.

    In LA, a grand jury investigated all of these issues.

    http://napavalleyregister.com/news/opinion/editorial/article_84face24-5821-11e0-aa0c-001cc4c002e0.html

  • Anonymous

    @MJ You weren’t aware that red lights are optional in Brooklyn? You only have to observe them at intersections with a “Wait for green signal” sign, and only during rush hour. If some tourist is stopped for a red light, it is accepted practice to actually drive around them and proceed through the intersection.

    *Car services have a blanket exemption to all traffic laws.
    *You can be cited for failing honk and curse at a cyclist.

  • Anonymous

    The whole issue of cameras aside, rallying drivers against the government is actually a highly effective form of anti-tax/anti-government political activism. See: Tim Eyman in Washington State, who has made a decade long career for himself (with a fat salary paid out of donations) by creating ballot initiatives to eliminate nominal fees to motorists with the larger goal of starving government and crippling the state’s ability to spend on transportation infrastructure.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Eyman

    I guess in NYS, without ballot initiatives, the accepted method is lawsuit/media circus.

  • So if the entire program were run by the government, and not handed off to the infallible private sector, you’d be ok with it?

  • amazing, the presses car bias.

  • EasyWayToFixBudget

    So can someone just let me know why the Long Island Police are still getting paid the same? I mean in my job if they take away responsibility then they don’t pay me the same.. So 100K jobs for less work.. where do i sign up to sit on the LIE drinking coffee and BS’ing while traffic zips by at 80?

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