Advocates to Albany: Let NYC Enforce the Speed Limit at Every School

Graphic: Transportation Alternatives

Advocates from Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets will head to Albany tomorrow calling on legislators to expand NYC’s automated speed enforcement program. They want speed cameras by each of the city’s 2,500-plus schools, operational at all times.

Speeding is a leading cause of crashes resulting in injury or death, yet state law limits New York City to just 140 active cameras. Moreover, the cameras must be placed on streets abutting schools within one-half mile of school entrances, and they can only issue tickets during school activities. During the 12 hours of the day when fatal crashes are most likely, the cameras are off.

There were no speed cameras in the city until 2013, when Albany passed its first speed camera legislation, which allowed NYC to install 20 cameras. (Title VII of the state Vehicle and Traffic Law mandates that localities cannot implement speed cameras without state approval.) The next year, the de Blasio administration pushed to expand the program, and Albany increased the number of speed cameras to 140.

Camera enforcement has proven effective in cutting speeding and increasing pedestrian safety. While the city has not released a detailed study of the cameras, traffic deaths and severe injuries reached historic lows in the two full years since automated speed enforcement took effect.

The speed camera program can be greatly expanded. Cameras now issue more than seven times as many speeding tickets as police officers, according to numbers provided by TA, but they are positioned by only 7 percent of New York City schools. The location restrictions also prevent the city from placing cameras on many dangerous streets that children cross to get to school, because those streets don’t directly abut a school entrance.

“Every child in New York City deserves to be safe on their way to school. But right now we only have 140 speed cameras to protect 1.1 million students,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White. “And those cameras are only turned on for 60 hours a week — even though more than half of fatal crashes take place outside of school hours, when the cameras are prevented from working.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Letitia James have also made the point that
a vast majority of crashes take place outside of current enforcement hours. At his Queen Boulevard press conference last month, de Blasio lauded the program’s impact and said City Hall wants an expanded speed camera program. “We’re going to push to pass state legislation that will ease these restrictions that will allow cameras to operate overnight and on other streets so we can really maximize the impact of these cameras and protect lives,” he said.

To get legislation through Albany, the members of the Assembly and State Senate will have to pass legislation and Governor Cuomo will have to sign it.

Advocates are collecting signatures for a petition supporting more speed cameras and tweeting at state assembly members and senators with the hashtag “#everyschool.”

  • Andrew

    If the street warrants a lower speed, then lower the speed limit.

    That won’t have any effect without serious enforcement.

    And based on your comments you appear to object to serious enforcement of speed limits.

  • Andrew

    The camera in question wasn’t on an offramp. It was on the Belt Parkway service road – a city street! – past the end of the offramp, and in approach to the intersection with Ocean Parkway.

    This is all missing the basic point, however, that speed cameras aren’t there to persuade drivers to respect the speed limit in a few specific locations. They’re there to persuade drivers to respect the speed limit in general. Some locations may be better than others for speed camera deployment, but no location is wrong (although, as we all know, state law limits where cameras can go).

  • Andrew

    No different than a knife, a hammer an so many other everyday tools people safely use every single day.

    If I’m careless with a hammer, I injure my finger.

    If I’m careless with a car, I injure or kill somebody else.

    See the difference? Hint: I italicized it for your convenience.

    Cars are, in fact, deadly. That doesn’t mean that they’re not useful tools or that they can’t be used responsibly. But it does mean that those who opt to use them must use them in a way that respects the safety of others, especially others who are not themselves inside cars.

  • Andrew

    No they don’t make sense. They don’t follow long established, and proven, traffic engineering methodology.

    Are you referring to a methodology developed in the context of rural highways? Rural highways and urban streets have different safety concerns. “The 85th percentile speed” may be the correct solution to a problem, but it isn’t the correct solution to the problem of motorists killing and injuring pedestrians.

    It’s not simply changing the law and expecting things to change. That makes no sense.

    I fully agree! With no incentive to respect the legal speed limit, drivers aren’t going to respect it. That’s where serious enforcement comes in – the step you conveniently omitted.

    You need to also redesign the roads. Then they might make sense.

    Redesigning the roads sounds great! I’m a big fan of street redesign. But it takes a lot of time and money and politics to redesign all of the streets where drivers tend to drive at dangerous speeds. So, while we’re going through the gradual process of redesigning all of those streets, is there any way to persuade drivers to respect the speed limit rather than driving at whatever speed they feel like driving at? Hmmm, any ideas?

    It’s not that drivers feel entitled to go fast, it’s that the roads were designed for a certain speed and drivers will naturally go to that design speed.

    Without enforcement, yes, drivers will naturally go at the speed that they feel comfortable at (even if the pedestrians and cyclists sharing the street with them may feel less comfortable and, more importantly, may be at significant risk). Which is why enforcement is important.

    The entitlement comes when some of those drivers then whine at length about the enforcement, as if they ever had the right to speed.

    They don’t.

  • Alex_nma

    You read it wrong. I’m all for appropriate enforcement of appropriate speed limits. With that said, camera enforcement is never appropriate as it is only used to make money. You can get 1000 camera tickets and keep your license.

  • Alex_nma

    Many people have been killed with hammers. Dropped from 20 feet up it can easily kill. Swung at someone’s head, it can kill. Just like a car, possible, but not probable. Cars just don’t drive into the nearest person when the driver is careless. Cars, like so many other objects, CAN be deadly. No different than so many other tools we safely use every day. The main problem in this conversation is that so many people think that responsibility for all pedestrian/car crashes are the fault of the car. They can’t see how the pedestrian can’t be at fault even when the evidence is all there pointing to the fault of the pedestrian. Look at the government data and you will see that pedestrians are responsible for at least half the crashes.

  • Alex_nma

    No, I was not referring to that document. I wasn’t aware of it. I meant the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. What about the problem of pedestrians disobeying the law and getting themselves hurt by cars? According to the governments data that is the bigger problem.

    According to data provided by the government, pedestrians are responsible for over 1/2 car/pedestrian accidents. Why are you attacking cars when pedestrians are at fault more often. It makes sense that the solution is to approach this problem from both the car and pedestrian end.

    Since you balk at the time and expense of redesigning roads, it would make sense to approach the problem from where you can make the greatest impact on safety. That means getting pedestrians to act in a safe and responsible manner. This does not mean cars also don’t need to act responsibly, but data shows that pedestrians are at fault more often. So starting with pedestrians will yield more results.

    Entitlement is one group does not want to take responsibility for their actions. Pedestrians and drivers both need to act properly when on the roads. You want to shift all the responsibility to drivers, which makes no sense. The whiners are those who think it is just drivers at fault.


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