Sin City: New 24/7 Speed Cameras Issue a Whopping 70 Percent More Tickets

A speed camera close to a public school in Brooklyn. Photo: NYC DOT
A speed camera close to a public school in Brooklyn. Photo: NYC DOT

New York City’s speed cameras have ticketed 70 percent more drivers since they’ve been able to stay on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, according to new data from the city.

According to an analysis of the city’s Open Parking and Camera Violations numbers by Jehiah Czebotar, there were 513,777 camera-issued speeding tickets during a three-week period between Aug. 1 and Aug. 21 — roughly 211,000, or 70 percent, more compared to a similar three-week period between July 11 and July 31, when the cameras were only active five days a week and between 6 am and 10 pm.

“We know speeding doesn’t take nights or weekends off. With speed safety cameras now operating 24/7, speed safety cameras are working as they should — catching more speeding drivers and combatting reckless driving,” said Elizabeth Adams, Senior Director for Advocacy and Organizing at Transportation Alternatives. “In 2020, more than half of all drivers who received a first violation from a speed safety camera never received another and the vast majority never received more than two — helping to change driver behavior.”

And the breakdown of when drivers were getting all those extra tickets is crucial, according to Czebotar, considering the spike in reckless driving and the number of fatal crashes that took place when the cameras had been off, like on nights and weekends.

The cameras were turned on 24/7 on August 1, and during the first three weeks of August, the city’s 750 camera systems in school zones issued 332,464 tickets during weekdays, and 181,313 during weekends. On Saturdays and Sundays between 6 am and 10 pm, there were 142,240 tickets issued, and between 10pm and 6 am, there were 39,073.

“The data confirms what we already knew: drivers are excessively speeding at night and on weekends when cameras were turned off,” said Czebotar, a software engineer who is also a data analyst and safe-street advocate.

Drivers are getting more tickets, thanks to the city's expansion of its speed camera program 24/7. Source: Jehiah Czebotar
Drivers are getting more tickets, thanks to the city’s expansion of its speed camera program 24/7. Source: Jehiah Czebotar

An unexplained drop in tickets on weekdays between 6 am and 10 pm could be a sign that drivers are getting the message — like they did the first time around during a previous expansion in 2019 — or perhaps the result of New Yorkers fleeing the city for their vacations during the last few weeks of the season.

“We anticipated an initial uptick in violations as we expanded hours of operation; we’ve seen reckless driving on the rise across the city during the pandemic and turning on speed cameras 24/7 is helping us hold drivers accountable,” DOT spokesperson Vin Barone said in a statement. “These cameras save lives and, in previous expansion efforts, we’ve seen increases in violations followed by large declines.”

The new all-day everyday speed camera program that went into effect on Aug. 1, after getting Gov. Hochul’s signature earlier in the summer, was the result of years of advocacy from pols and safe street advocates who trekked up to Albany time and time again to make their case before wary upstate legislators.

State lawmakers eventually reached a deal late May to renew and expand the city’s speed camera program, keeping them on 24/7 — but only after the city failed to gain control of the speed- and red-light camera programs through what’s called home rule, and after some of the bill’s boldest provisions were nixed, including those that would have stripped cars of registrations for 90 days if drivers accrued multiple tickets, created an escalating fine schedule for repeat offenders, and forced the DMV to notify insurance companies about their clients’ recklessness.

Still, the data proves that the fight was worth it, and that it will save lives, said state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, a co-sponsor of the bill.

“The data is in and the proof is in the data. Keeping our speed cameras on 24/7 has and will continue to make a difference in saving lives on our streets from reckless driving,” Gounardes said Wednesday.

Czebotar’s analysis follows earlier data from a previous iteration of the speed camera program, which showed thousands more reckless drivers getting caught for speeding near schools, but also causing thousands fewer crashes, thanks to the city in 2019 expanding the program to allow for up to 750 cameras systems citywide, up from just 140 at the time, and expanding the hours that the systems could operate, which was previously just school hours.

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