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Speeding Epidemic Shows No Signs of Abating, Despite Return of Car Traffic

12:01 AM EST on November 16, 2021

The summer of hell has become the fall of our discontent.

Drivers are continuing to speed like mad — just as they did when roads were largely clear during the early days of the Covid-19 lockdown. In fact, drivers racked up more speeding tickets in October of this year than in any one-month period since September, 2020, when New York was still in the midst of the pandemic. And speeding over this summer was back to pandemic-era peaks.

A new Streetsblog analysis of camera-issued speeding tickets shows that there was a brief lull in camera-issued speeding tickets as traffic started returning to city streets early this year, but by June, drivers were up to their old tricks, with 390,000 tickets issued by city speed cameras. The number jumped to 434,000 issued in July and 427,000 issued in August before dropping slightly to 387,000 issued in September.

Those September numbers roughly translate to 17,600 speeding tickets issued during daytime hours on weekdays (the city's speed cameras are off on weekends and overnight). Speeding tickets are only issued if a car is caught on camera exceeding the posted speed limit by 11 miles per hour or more.

The epidemic in speeding and reckless driving is partly, if not almost entirely, responsible for this year's increase in road deaths. At least 230 people, including 110 pedestrians, have been killed on the roads this year, an increase of 13.4 percent over last year, according to the NYPD. And there have been 94,490 reported crashes citywide so far this year (roughly 300 per day), injuring 4,320 cyclists, 6,109 pedestrians and 31,837 motorists — injury numbers well above last year, city statistics show.

It was all predictable.

Streetsblog was the first outlet — back in March, 2020 — to spot the increase in speeding that began within days of the lockdown order. We then spent much of the pandemic documenting the ever-increasing number of tickets being issued and the NYPD's inability to keep up. By September, 2020, we observed that the speeding epidemic had not abated, despite promises from the de Blasio administration and the NYPD. It was so bad that members of the mayor's own advisory committee on surface transportation went public with its frustration that a "wave of congestion, pollution, inequality, and traffic violence" was about to crash on the city because the mayor failed to heed their warning about the inevitable post-pandemic increase in driving.

By December, Mayor de Blasio was begging leaders in Albany to give him the power to keep the city's speed cameras on all night and on weekends.

The mayor certainly needs automated help, given that the NYPD's enforcement numbers are paltry. Last September, cops wrote 9,665 speeding tickets, or roughly four tickets per precinct per day. But by April, 2021, the NYPD pulled back from even that low level of commitment, writing just 7,320 tickets that month, or roughly three speeding tickets per precinct per day. The number was basically the same in September.

Transportation Alternatives spokesman Cory Epstein put the blame more on Mayor de Blasio's leisurely pace towards reforming road design — and indicated his group is already eyeing a future leader.

“This is the predictable result of streets built for speed," Epstein told Streetsblog. "We are ready to work with the Adams administration on day one toward solutions that scale the success of Vision Zero, expand automated enforcement, and most importantly redesign streets to prevent speeding from occurring in the first place.”

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