Statistics Show Speeding is Out of Control During Corona Crisis

Photo: Jacob Robert
Photo: Jacob Robert

New York City’s speed cameras spit out 83,478 violations in an eight-day period in March — only eight-percent fewer than during a similar eight-day period in January, when there were tens if not hundreds of thousands more cars on the road.

It’s the first hard evidence that city drivers are treating the mostly open roads as speedways — and it won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been outdoors during the coronavirus crisis.

In the eight-weekday period between March 5 and March 16 — the last date for which there is camera summons data available — those 83,478 tickets average out to 10,434 per day, even though the vast majority of New Yorkers were working from home, or not working at all, during that period.

During an eight-weekday period in January — from Jan. 13 through Jan. 23, minus weekends and holidays —  city cameras issued 90,476 tickets, or 11,309 per day on average.

But on several days this month, there were more speeding citations issued by cameras than in January, when roads had their typical amount of cars (see chart; the blue line represents the eight days in March):

Chart: Streetsblog (based on NYC Open Data information)
Chart: Streetsblog (based on NYC Open Data information)

People have been noticing the speeding, even before Streetsblog crunched the numbers.

“It’s just my own anecdotal observation, but it does seem like the drivers who are still out there are taking advantage of the wide open streets,” said activist Doug Gordon, who tweets as @BrooklynSpoke. “I’ve even witnessed a driver in a Corvette treating many of the avenues in my neighborhood like his own personal speedway.”

At his Monday press conference, Mayor de Blasio said he was aware of the anecdotal evidence that drivers are speeding frantically now that the roads are mostly free of traffic.

“It’s not acceptable anytime and we are clearly not going to allow it going forward,” he said. “There’s a lot the NYPD is being asked to do right now and a lot of new things the NYPD is being asked to do, but we do not want a situation where people, because, you know, our lives have changed, they start doing things that are reckless and dangerous. … We will be very tough on people who are speeding, for sure, and I’m going to certainly insist on continued enforcement on that front.”

The mayor’s stern warning comes as Staten Island Council Members Joe Borelli and Steven Matteo have asked the city to turn off its speed cameras during the crisis because drivers on the Rock can’t be expected to maintain the speed limit when so much is at stake.

“Issuing summonses to New Yorkers for going 36 miles per hour on empty and deserted roads when school is not in session, some of whom are trying to care for elderly family members or out purchasing basic survival necessities for their families, is simply beyond the pale,” Matteo wrote to the city on March 19, as reported by the Staten Island Advance.

Borelli also complained in a tweet that “NYC DOT is still out there installing speed cameras. It’s tough to be on the same side as the city during this pandemic.”

The island’s Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis has also gotten in on the act, posting to Facebook, “Mayor de Blasio, Are you serious right now? You are telling everyone to stay home and then you have contractors out installing more speed cameras on #StatenIsland?”

Reminder: Of the 117,538 camera-issued summons sent to drivers between March 6 and March 16, 10,288, or roughly 9 percent, have been issued in Staten Island, which has only 5.6 percent of the city’s population.

Jon Orcutt, a former DOT official who is now with Bike New York said the “hard data” unearthed by Streetsblog shows that “turning speed cameras off now would be a surefire recipe for crash hospitalizations our systems can’t cope with.”

Indeed, the statistical confirmation of the danger on New York City streets right now comes after Streetsblog reported last week that injuries to cyclists were up 43 percent in the period between March 9 and March 15, more evidence that drivers are behaving recklessly.

And anecdotal evidence of the dangers are being posted daily on social media:

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