Albany Inaction Leaves Most NYC School Zones Fair Game for Speeding Motorists

A new Transportation Alternatives report finds that speeding is common outside schools where cameras aren't in use.

TransAlt observed 92 percent of motorists speeding outside P.S./I.S. 30 in Bay Ridge. Image: Google Maps
TransAlt observed 92 percent of motorists speeding outside P.S./I.S. 30 in Bay Ridge. Image: Google Maps

With the State Senate failing to pass legislation to expand NYC’s speed camera program, reckless drivers continue to put schoolchildren at risk. A report released today by Transportation Alternatives [PDF] found rampant speeding outside schools where no cameras are present.

Eight-five percent of traffic fatalities and injuries occur at times and locations that are ineligible for speed camera enforcement under Albany’s restrictions, according to DOT. To get a sense of how those restrictions enable dangerous driving, TransAlt researchers took LIDAR speed guns to six school zones where there are no cameras.

In some cases, researchers clocked drivers during times when speed cameras, if present, would have been operational. Other data samples were collected at times when Albany doesn’t allow the city to use cameras, but when children were present. Locations where cameras are permitted under current state law were included in the survey, as were locations where children would typically be — streets children must cross to get to schools, for example — but where Albany nonetheless prohibits automated speed enforcement.

Outside of P.S./I.S. 30 in Bay Ridge, 92 percent of drivers were driving above the speed limit on a weekday afternoon.

Seventy-four percent of drivers were found speeding on Manor Road, in front of the entrance to Staten Island’s Susan E. Wagner High School, days after a motorist struck and injured a 15-year-old student.

Outside schools in Harlem, Flushing, and Allerton, one-third of drivers were traveling above the speed limit.

Legislation passed by the Assembly yesterday would have enabled cameras at an additional 150 school zones over the next three years, up from the current limit of 140. But Senate Republicans like Marty Golden and Andrew Lanza prefer that speeding — the leading cause of fatal crashes in NYC — go unchecked outside the majority of schools.

“What we observed outside a handful of New York City schools is not unusual or exceptional — it is the rule,” the TransAlt report says. “In a truly equitable city, school children would not be subject to what is essentially a lottery to determine whether they get protection from speeding drivers on their way to and from school.”

“When we return to resolve mayoral control [of city schools], we must also do what’s right for our children in terms of their safety too,” Senate sponsor Jose Peralta said in a statement.

“We are thankful that the Assembly passed an expansion of the speed camera program, which we believe has already saved lives,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said in a statement. “We will continue to fight for this bill to become law.”

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Right now, Albany limits NYC to 140 speed enforcement cameras for all 6,000 miles of surface streets in the city. A broad spectrum of New York City voters approve of expanding the program. The question is whether Albany Democrats Andrew Cuomo, Jeff Klein, and Carl Heastie will take action to save lives.