20 Speed Cams Issued Almost as Many Tickets in June as NYPD Has All Year

Traffic enforcement cameras are far outpacing NYPD in ticketing drivers who speed, run red lights, and encroach on bus lanes — pointing to the need for more automated enforcement to make streets safer.

A report from the city’s Independent Budget Office finds that FY 14 revenue from camera-generated tickets in those three categories was $41 million, compared to $14 million from summonses issued by NYPD, based on preliminary data. “The proportion of revenue generated by cameras rose from 38 percent in 1999 to 75 percent in 2014,” the report says.

While tabloid coverage focused on the revenue angle, the takeaway should be that we can now see how much NYC needs automated enforcement to reduce dangerous driving.

According to the Post, speed cameras issued 48,517 tickets in June, the first month when 20 cameras were operational. In one month those 20 cameras nearly eclipsed the 54,854 speeding tickets issued by NYPD through the first six months of the year.

From mid-January to mid-May, when just five speed cams were working, they issued more than 41,000 tickets, according to the city’s open data portal. Through the end of June, NYPD issued a combined 83,066 summonses for speeding, red light-running (26,749), and driving in a bus lane (1,463).

Though NYPD has stepped up enforcement somewhat this year, these numbers really give a sense of how rampant law-breaking is on city streets — particularly when you consider Albany restrictions that limit speed camera operation to school zones during school hours, and only allow tickets when a driver exceeds the speed limit by 11 miles per hour or more. That means in one month 20 cameras covering just a fraction of the city for part of the day caught nearly 50,000 motorists traveling well in excess of the posted speed.

As speed cameras become more prevalent, it might make sense for cops to focus on other dangerous violations, like failure to yield, which don’t involve stopping drivers traveling at high speeds.

NYC is a long way from complete speed cam coverage, of course, and even Albany’s recent authorization of 140 cameras won’t cover most of the city’s 6,000 miles of streets. But it’s clear that a handful of cameras are already doing a lot more enforcement than NYPD. Those 140 speed cameras are going to make a difference, even if we need a lot more to get to zero traffic deaths.

  • wklis

    Even with camera warnings available on GPS navigation devices and smartphone apps, drivers still speed.

  • AnoNYC

    NYC should opt in for some of those failure to yield, block the box, and stop sign cameras you find in DC.

  • Kevin Love

    “But it’s clear that a handful of cameras are already doing a lot more enforcement than NYPD.”

    Cameras don’t care about your racial or ethnic background.

    Cameras don’t ignore the wrongdoing of other cameras.

    Cameras don’t do FIDO.

    I like cameras. They do a much better job of this one specific law enforcement task than the NYPD.

  • Phil

    Please do not be offended by a foreigner commenting on your domestic affairs, but as an Australian cycling advocate, I shake my head in disbelief at how far behind you are with speed cameras.
    Here we have hundreds of speed cameras that operate 24/7 in all areas, not just school zones. Some are combined speed and red light cameras at intersections.
    In a school zone, you get a ticket if you are even 1 kilometer per hour over the 40 kph (that’s 25 miles per hour in American) speed limit.
    In other zones there’s a 10% leeway.
    Our national road toll is just over 1,000 deaths per year, which is still way to high, but still less than half of the USA’s after taking the population differences into account.

  • Ian Turner

    It’s OK, we shake our heads in disbelief at your cycling helmet policies. 😉

  • staborrez

    Many of are envious. Ian needs to get some education…Take some time and read up on the subject. http://www.cyclehelmets.org/

  • Good for Australia. I wish we had their cameras and I wish we had some of their gun laws, too.

  • Ian Turner

    Perhaps you are not aware that Australia is known for its particularly strict helmet laws, serving as a prime example of the poor connection between helmet legislation and public health.

    Perhaps if you were, you would not have taken such a condescending tone.


De Blasio and DOT Ring In the New School Year With More Speed Cameras

Mayor de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg today officially announced the expansion of the city’s speed camera program, which will eventually bring automated enforcement to 140 school zones across the boroughs. Today’s event also underscored the fact that streets around schools won’t be as safe as they could be, thanks to restrictions imposed by […]
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill announcing Vision Zero enforcement efforts last fall. Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

There’s a Better Way to Assess the Effect of Traffic Enforcement Than Counting Tickets

NYPD has increased tickets for speeding and texting while driving 50 percent so far in 2017 compared to the same period last year, Commissioner James O’Neill testified at a City Council budget hearing last week. Speeding and distracted driving are two of the most common factors in fatal and injurious crashes in NYC, so it stands to reason that this shift in enforcement is reducing the incidence of dangerous driving. But there's no way to actually tell if those summonses are changing driver behavior.