Seven Reckless, Placard Abusing Drivers Who Can Speed With Impunity Starting Wednesday

NYC's culture of placard corruption and the impetus to undo the lifesaving speed camera program come from the same place.

Placard corruption doesn't stop with placard abuse. Photo: Ben Fried
Placard corruption doesn't stop with placard abuse. Photo: Ben Fried

If you could point to one decisive factor behind the impending demise of New York City’s school zone speed camera program, it would have to be the corrupt parking placard culture embedded deep inside NYPD and other public agencies.

For nearly five years, leadfoot drivers have had to think twice on New York streets. If they sped 11 mph or more above the limit in school zones, they were subject to $50 fines from the city’s speed camera program. Not coincidentally, pedestrian fatalities have dropped to historic lows.

As of Wednesday, however, drivers will be able to speed with impunity again. By failing to bring an expansion of the speed camera program up for a vote in the State Senate, Majority Leader John Flanagan, Marty Golden, and the rest of the Republican caucus are elevating the risk of death and dismemberment for millions of people.

The city’s elected officials are as united on speed cameras as they are on any issue. The mayor, the City Council, and NYC representatives in Albany all align with the 64 percent of New Yorkers who support the speed camera program.

But there is one constituency glad to see speed cameras go dark: police officers. The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association opposes the speed camera program. The PBA also donates heavily to Senate Republicans, especially Golden.

Speed cameras put police in an unusual position. Instead of flashing a parking placard or a PBA card to get out of a ticket, cops have to pay the fines that speed cameras issue. With speed cameras, the police are no longer above the law.

The increased likelihood of traffic injuries and fatalities for the general population will be worth hundreds of dollars each year for placard holders who habitually speed.

Thanks to the city’s open data portal, the intrepid community of placard abuse hunters on Twitter, and the coding skills of Brian Howald (who created the @HowsMyDrivingNY bot), we can now identify the vehicles of these officers, or at least some of them.

Howald’s bot queries datasets of camera-issued fines to tally up the violations associated with a specific license plate. Often, a @HowsMyDrivingNY query will originate when someone spots a case of egregious placard abuse.

Here’s a look at seven placard abusers who’ve racked up violations for speeding in school zones since the cameras went live in 2013. This is not a scientific survey or comprehensive list — it’s what a handful of people happened to uncover in the course of observing their surroundings. If anything, the ease of spotting these recidivist reckless drivers should make us more alarmed about the disregard for basic public safety among the placard class.

This placard abuser with NYPD highway patrol stickers has 24 speed camera violations and 10 red light running violations on its record:

A police officer’s car with 10 speeding violations and 4 red light violations:

A purported NYPD detective with 13 school zone speed camera violations:

An NYPD vest belonging to someone with three speed camera violations, one red light violation, and eight bus lane violations:

The greenway abusing BMW SUV with an NYPD placard has seven red light camera violations, three bus lane violations, and one speeding violation on its record:

Black Mustang, NYPD placard, seven speed camera violations, two bus lane violations, one red light violation:

And finally, a driver using an NYPD manual to get out of parking tickets has racked up six speeding violations, four red light violations, and one bus lane violation:

There you have it. While the presence of speed cameras literally saves lives, the absence of speed cameras will save these officers money. This is what counts as a dilemma in the State Senate’s GOP conference.

  • Daphna

    Excellent journalism. Wish NYPD Commissioner James O’Neal would read this, and wish he would care.
    Maybe Internal Affairs at the NYPD would care if this article were put in front of them?? What about the Department of Investigations – this agency investigates corruption at all NYC agencies – is the NYPD an agency they have oversight of? Or does NYPD have a separate deal where they are supposed to ferret out their own corruption?
    I would like this to go two steps further: 1) Find out how many of those bus lane blocking, school zone speeding, and red light running tickets have been paid, and how many remain unpaid by these seven NYPD affiliated violators? 2) It would also be great to look up the vehicle owner of each and post the name and headshot. Is vehicle registration a public record?

  • Andrew

    I wish I had the time and resources to do it myself, but can’t we tackle this problem through lawsuits? Perhaps we could get Transportation Alternatives and/or Families for Safe Streets onboard to sue the NYPD for failing to enforce parking laws and for filing false responses to 311 complaints, and to sue the individual drivers for their violations. I know it would cost a lot of time and money to hold only a handful of individual drivers accountable, but it would set an example of them and bring a lot of press attention to the issue. I would happily donate to the cause.

  • Fool

    Ban Police Unions