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Andrew Lanza

Trauma Doctors vs. The New York State Senate

Richmond Hospital Medical Center staff rallying for speed cameras yesterday. Photo courtesy of RHMC

Staten Island trauma doctors are calling on the State Senate to renew and expand New York City's speed camera program.

Doctors and staff from Richmond Hospital Medical Center rallied with members of Families for Safe Streets yesterday for the Every School Speed Camera Act, which would renew the program and expand it to 290 school zones, more than doubling the current limit of 140.

The bill is currently bottled up in the Cities Committee, chaired by Brooklyn's Simcha Felder, and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan hasn't moved to bring the bill up for a floor vote even though it reportedly has the votes to pass.

"Because thousands more have been injured, including over 500 so far this year, we are joining with other NYC hospitals in the support of speed safety cameras," RHMC President Daniel Messina said in a statement. "We see first-hand these injuries and deaths, and want to encourage safe driving within the speed limit."

The hospital's endorsement is aimed squarely at State Senator Andrew Lanza, an influential member of the GOP majority when it comes to matters affecting New York City.

Not long ago, Lanza supported speed cameras to prevent dangerous driving. "I don’t think we should limit it to just around schools," Lanza said in 2013. "Let’s put the cameras where we can affect dangerous situations and make them safer."

Since then, the city's speed cameras have saved lives, reducing speeding by 63 percent in locations where they've been installed, according to DOT. But they're limited in scope, with 85 percent of traffic injuries and fatalities occurring at times and locations that camera enforcement is not permitted.

Lanza, however, has turned against the program. Last year, he called on the city to cancel it.

The surgeons at RHMC think that would be a terrible mistake.

The number of people treated at RHMC for traumatic injuries sustained in car crashes has declined since the advent of the speed camera program, said Dr. Loren Harris, chair of the surgery department. But fatal and near-fatal crashes persist, and car crashes still account for the majority of trauma cases at the hospital. Staten Island needs more speed cameras.

"We’re on course for this month to see 30-some patients who’ve either been struck by or involved in a car accident. It’s almost one a day," Harris said. "Clearly there’s a relationship between the velocity of the vehicle and the amount of trauma that occurs, either being struck or being in the vehicle."

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