The Case for Driving as Fast as You Want in a School Zone

If you’re wondering who complains about a wrist-tap fine for speeding through a school zone during school hours — the type of person who has Council Member Mark Weprin sweating bullets over the city’s new 25 mph speed limit — check out this Times Ledger op-ed from one Bob Friedrich, an Eastern Queens eminence who believes NYC’s small and constrained speed camera program is a government conspiracy to balance the city budget on the backs of working stiffs who just want to ignore traffic laws without interference.

Friedrich is president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op and a “civic leader,” according to his bio line. There’s a reason “traffic safety expert” is not one of his bona fides, but what he lacks in knowledge he more than makes up for in unsubstantiated hyperbole.

Friedrich cuts to the chase straight away. “Since school is now open, these speed cameras have been operational, and I have encountered dozens of people who have received a $50 ‘no-point’ speeding summonses from the city,” he writes. “These unfortunate motorists were ticketed for driving 10 mph over the posted speed limit where these one-armed bandits were waiting for them.”

Points to Friedrich for total ideological purity. By acknowledging that drivers are traveling in school zones at speeds that dramatically increase their chances of killing someone, then making clear that he has no problem with that, he establishes himself as a hardcore believer in the entitlement to do whatever you want when you’re behind the wheel. This is essential, as it sets readers up for the nuttiness to come.

And here it is, next graf: “Most serious accidents are caused by drinking or road rage recklessness. Speed cameras will neither decrease nor halt this behavior.”

Boom. With remarkable economy Friedrich proves he has no idea that the most common cause of deadly crashes in NYC is, in fact, speeding. And data showing that lower speeds reduce crashes and casualties? The word you’re looking for is “Fuhgeddaboudit.”

But the following paragraph is where Friedrich really lets loose. It’s so good we have to indent it.

Predictably, as the need for municipal revenue increases, an endless stream of politicians will call for improved “safety” and parade themselves before the cameras seeking changes in the speed camera program. First to be rescinded will be the 10 mph leeway before a vehicle is subject to ticketing. Next, the cameras will be set to operate 24 hours a day instead of being limited to school hours. Then the $50 fine will increase and the program will be extended from local streets to highways. The windfall will be unprecedented, precipitating another round of spending.

A straw king among straw men, is what that is. Here’s a look at how fines for NYC’s red light camera program have declined over time, even as more cameras have been added. The reason? Cameras work and reduce the incidence of law breaking.

NYC’s red light camera program generates less revenue now than it did when fewer cameras were in use, because motorists are more likely to observe the law. Graph: NYC DOT

Casting automated speed enforcement as a nefarious scheme devised by Mayor de Blasio, Friedrich dismisses years of work on the part of street safety advocates who made the fledgling program possible. And then the capper: According to Friedrich, $50 school zone speeding tickets are forcing regular folk to flee NYC. “No doubt the regulators will find a way to get them, one last time, with a speed camera, as they depart the city.” Ah yes, “the regulators.”

So to sum up, Mayor de Blasio single-handedly foisted speed cameras on harmless speeding motorists to prop up a nebulous and insatiable “ideological-driven agenda” while ridding the city of the middle class. He may not be a Pulitzer-winner like Dorothy Rabinowitz, but with this estimable work, Bob Friedrich may have earned himself a spot in the canon of livable streets truthers.

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