ROAD RAGE: More Than 1,000 Drivers This Year Already Meet the High Standard as ‘Reckless’

Photo: Julianne Cuba
Photo: Julianne Cuba
Flashback: How Streetsblog broke the story on Tuesday.
Flashback: How Streetsblog broke the story on Tuesday.

The failure of Mayor de Blasio to allocate money to stop reckless drivers is an even bigger problem then he likely knows: More than 1,000 out-of-control maniacs would have been caught already this year if the unfunded Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program was in effect, new stats show.

Data expert Brian Howald — whose Twitter bot, @howsmydrivingny, spits out the number of camera-issued tickets for any individual license plate — was asked to calculate the number of speeding drivers who would be forced to take a retraining course or have their cars seized because they had met law’s seemingly impossible threshold: 15 speeding tickets or five red-light tickets in any 12-month period.

The numbers are astounding:

  • Between Feb. 1 and April 30 — just three months — 691 cars were flagged 15 times or more by cameras for speeding. Over the same period last year, just nine cars had gotten that many violations.
  • The numbers are even worse between Jan. 1 and April 30: In just those four months, 1,012 drivers would have met the threshold for mandatory retraining. In all of 2019, 2,304 would have.
  • In April, 2020, the first full month of New York State’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order — which caused an epidemic of documented speeding — 180 cars received 15 or more speed-camera violations just in those 30 days. In the same month last year, no cars did.
  • In March, 2020, the month when the March 21 “pause” order went into effect, 18 drivers hit the 15-ticket threshold, compared to zero in the same month last year.

The Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Law — which passed the Council by a 41-5 vote, and was signed by Mayor de Blasio in February — also includes a mandate for more driver training if a car is hit with five or more red light tickets in any 12-month period. Full data is not yet available on the city’s statistics portal, but Howald said preliminary data shows that another 14 cars would have hit the five-ticket threshold so far this year.

But the law itself will not take effect this year, as promised, unless the City Council can restore funding that the de Blasio administration has declined to put in its budget proposal that made its debut at a hearing held today by the Transportation and Budget committees. Brooklyn Council Member Brad Lander, who wrote the law, had said he expected to question Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg about why the budget money — just $1.6 million out of a budget of nearly $90 billion — had been left out.

Lander, still smarting from the mayor’s defunding move, was horrified by the numbers spit out by Howald’s algorithm.

“We might have hoped that the COVID-19 crisis would make us all treat human life as more precious, but sadly, the opposite is true when it comes to reckless driving,” he told Streetsblog. “Those nearly 700 vehicles that received 15 or more speeding tickets [is] a staggering 3,000-percent increase from the same period last year. We need the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program more than ever.”

The irony is the law would have begun to be implemented at the very moment when speeding has become an epidemic in New York City, thanks to the fewer number of cars on the road during the lockdown.

As Streetsblog has reported, camera-issued speeding tickets are up more than 80 percent since the start of the state’s “pause.”

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg agreed that the cut was “certainly painful.”

“We look forward to discussions about when this can resume,” she told a City Council panel on Tuesday. “This one is obviously not only a budget matter, but [a] hiring freeze put a pause on contracts. Several elements need to be worked through.”

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