Cuomo Signs Speed Cam Bill Into Law

Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed the speed camera bill into law, enabling New York City to use automated enforcement technology to deter speeding in school zones.

The law lets the city operate 20 mobile speed enforcement cameras in school speed zones when school or after-school activities are in session, plus a short buffer of time before and after. NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has said the cameras will be moved around to different school zones to maximize their value as deterrents. The cameras only issue tickets if drivers exceed the speed limit by 10 mph or more, and the fines can’t exceed $50.

Albany put a five-year sunset clause on the camera program, ensuring future horsetrading between the city and state before it can be extended. The law also requires the city to submit a report to Albany showing how the program affects the incidence traffic crashes, injuries, and deaths, according to a statement from Cuomo’s office.

While the law has plenty of limitations and shortcomings, it should help demonstrate the effectiveness of speed cameras and make the case for future expansions of the program. Given NYPD’s failure to conduct meaningful speed enforcement on surface streets, it’s a very important precedent.

Here’s what the governor’s office had to say about it:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation that permits New York City to establish a five-year demonstration program to monitor school speed zones in New York City with speed cameras and to allow evidence captured on camera to be used to impose liability for speeding. This new law will enhance the safety of children, pedestrians and drivers in New York City school speed zones by encouraging drivers to drive with caution through these areas and supplement law enforcement efforts to catch violations and prevent accidents caused by speeding.

“Speeding in school zones puts our children at risk and preventing this reckless behavior should be a priority,” Governor Cuomo said. “This law will allow New York City to undertake a pilot program to see if using speed cameras in school zones is an effective way of preventing accidents and protecting both pedestrians and drivers. These cameras will supplement efforts by law enforcement to root out speeding violations in these protected areas, and encourage drivers to use caution when driving through school zones. Overall, this will contribute to a safer school environment for our students.”

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “Innovative traffic engineering and aggressive enforcement have resulted in traffic fatalities in New York City reaching all-time record lows in the past decade. But speeding remains the single greatest contributing factor in traffic fatalities in New York City. Decreasing the number of drivers who speed is a proven life-saving measure and this legislation does exactly that. I want to thank the Governor, New York State Senate and Assembly for heeding our call and adopting this legislation that will go a long way to ensure that we continue to protect some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

The law authorizes New York City to set up speed cameras in up to 20 school speed zones at a given time. This speed camera program is very similar to the New York City red-light camera program, such as:

  • Liability for violations would be imposed upon the owner of the vehicle;
  • Violations would be adjudicated by the NYC Parking Violations Bureau; and
  • The monetary penalty may not exceed $50 per violation, except that an additional $25 penalty may be imposed for failure to respond to a notice of liability within a prescribed time period.

If the City implements this five-year demonstration program, the City must conduct a study and submit a report to the Governor and State Legislature concerning the effectiveness of the program, including: (i) the number of crashes, fatalities, and injuries in all school speed zones compared with the number in school speed zones monitored by cameras; (ii) the number of speeding violations in all school speed zones compared with the number in school speed zones monitored by cameras; (iii) the number of notices of liability issued, the disposition of violations, and the penalties collected; (iv) program expenses; and (v) an assessment of the quality of the program’s adjudication process and its results.

This law takes effect in 30 days and expires in five years.

Senate Majority Coalition Leader Jeffrey D. Klein, who sponsored the Senate bill, said, “This is a major victory for parents and students across New York City. With these new cameras, we will finally help put the brakes on reckless driving in school zones. When drivers know someone is watching, they’ll think twice before hitting that accelerator. That’s critically important in school zones, where even five miles per hour can make the difference between life and death for a child. I applaud Governor Cuomo and my colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly for approving this life-saving legislation.”

Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick, who sponsored the Assembly bill, said, “I applaud Governor Cuomo’s decision to sign my Speed Camera legislation into law. Passage of this bill means that we have an extra tool to protect children walking to and from school. Speeding is the number one cause of fatal crashes in New York City. This law will not only catch cars speeding, but may start to modify the speeding behavior of every driver.”

  • My God Is Better

    20 cameras…. what a joke. I bet Cuomo has more security cameras in the lobby of his building. There are more schools than that in a 20 block radius from just about anywhere.

  • JK

    The DOT should post the speed monitoring data from the cams online. Some kinds of these cams are continuously on, and can record the speed of every vehicle. What the data will undoubtedly show is that many vehicles are speeding, but not going 40mph. This speeding data will provide a powerful argument to the legislature for using speed cams for speeds above 30mph — not 40mph. Maybe the next mayor will give the PBA the contract they want, and the PBA will stop obstructing speed cams on a baloney pretext. A pedestrian struck at 38mph is still much more likely to die than at 30mph.

  • anon

    Wow, a $50 fine!!!! And cyclists get summonsed for $270 for going through a red light?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Question: does New York City really need Albany’s approval to install speed and red light cameras? Or just to collect revenue from fines.

    It would cost money rather than make money, but if the city could install cameras it could send letters to repeat violators, publicize places where lawbreaking is rampant, and even shift a police officer there every now and then.

  • Anonymous

    You know, this data could really put the lie to the idea that car drivers usually follow the rules, while cyclists customarily break them. It will reveal that cars uniformly and nearly without exception violate the speed limit – in all but the most extreme cases, a practical impossibility for bikes.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “It will reveal that cars uniformly and nearly without exception violate the speed limit.”

    I actually do not believe that to be true, unless you mean by a mile an hour or so. During many hours, the volume of traffic and the timing of lights prevents this.

    That’s why I think having speed cams out there all over the city, even if no fines could be given, would help safety. Individuals, locations and times would be identified. And I’d bet the biggest problem would be after midnight, when lower traffic volume allows faster speeds and many pedestrians and cyclists get killed.

  • Daniel

    On Eastern Parkway nearly everyone races to come to a stop at the next red light. Yet the lights are timed so that if you just drive a steady 30 mph every light will be green!

    I do think you are right about narrow residential streets with kids playing on them. I bet on those it will be the same 5,000 men and maybe 50 women responsible for nearly all the speeding.

    But for all my theorizing I’d much rather have real data. It would be pretty cheap to set up a speed camera on every street and a red light camera on every intersection if these were for monitoring only. Most of the expense is not in the hardware, but in amortizing the already written software and the certification training that wouldn’t be needed for software that isn’t issuing tickets.

    You could combine it with licence plate recognition and real time tracking of the city’s worst drivers and then every cop would know whenever a serious asshole was about to cross their path.

  • Anonymous

    You may be right. But my experience is that anywhere there’s the slightest bit of open road, drivers will push past the limit, even if only to the next light as Daniel says below. Not to mention highway driving, where the speed limit is usually treated as a minimum speed. It’s a culture of speeding and it’s deeply ingrained.

    You do read occasionally about police who set up a radar gun on busy streets–nearly everyone is doing 5 or 10 above the speed limit, or much more. It’d be nice to get consistent data on this. I bet you’re right that it’s worse at night.

  • Daniel Winks

    You forget that a cyclist going through a red light harms pretty much no one, while speeding kills hundreds per year! Of course it’s only a $50 ticket, it’s only an offense that is likely to result in the death of another human, why charge more?

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Assembly Member Deborah Glick will introduce legislation to significantly expand New York City’s speed camera program. To get the bill enacted, street safety advocates will have to build support in the State Senate and ensure that Governor Cuomo signs it into law. At a press conference this morning, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White joined members […]