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Nicole Malliotakis

Speed Cameras Have Saved Lives in NYC, But to Nicole Malliotakis, They’re a “Gimmick”

Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis says speed cameras are a revenue scam. These kids beg to differ. Photo: Brad Aaron

Staten Island Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis's attack on life-saving speed enforcement cameras is like a breath of stale air.

Yesterday Mayor de Blasio reaffirmed that the city will press state legislators to relax arbitrary restrictions on the cameras, the Daily News reported.

Albany limits NYC to 140 speed cameras to cover 6,000 miles of surface streets. Cameras must be placed near schools and can be operated only during school hours. This means they can’t be used on some of the most dangerous streets and are inactive during low-visibility hours when pedestrians are most at risk.

Eighty-five percent of fatalities and severe injuries occur in locations where speed cameras aren't allowed under current law, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said Tuesday.

Even with those limitations, traffic fatalities fell substantially in 2014 and 2015, when the city was rolling out new cameras. But last year, as the program ran up against the limits imposed by Albany, the improvement tapered off.

To hear Malliotakis tell it, however, the traffic safety benefits are a smoke screen. "This program is a gimmick to raise revenue for the city," she said, according to the News.

And you thought you'd heard the last of the old cameras-as-revenue-scam canard. Here are some facts: DOT data show that speeding, the leading cause of fatal NYC traffic crashes, drops by 60 percent where cameras are deployed. You can tell the cameras work because they issue fewer tickets over time, as the prevalence of speeding declines. 

But wait, there's more. From the News:

If the city cared about pedestrians, she said, it would add stop signs, install sidewalks, clear the snow at bus stops and go after drunk drivers.

Hold that straw man! As Malliotakis knows, speed cameras are one of many tools NYC uses to impose order on city streets. (The bus lane camera program she and Shelly Silver tried to kill is another.) By framing speed cameras as an "either/or" alternative to other traffic-calming measures, Malliotakis has to hope New Yorkers haven't noticed the city has been redesigning streets (while prosecuting drunk drivers) for the last decade.

“Anyone that would get behind the wheel and gamble with the lives of others on the road deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” Malliotakis once said. Sounds like an argument for speed cameras.

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