By Bob Friedrich
Hold on to your wallets! A new effort by the city to pick your pockets is underway and it is called speed cameras. Remember when the city promised that red light cameras were being installed for safety, not revenue enhancement? We were sold that bill of goods by the same politicians who told us profits from the lottery would bolster education spending.
We soon learned that funds already earmarked for education were being reduced dollar-for-dollar by the lottery money that was being added, resulting in a zero-sum gain for education. The RLCs have proven to be a similar jackpot for local government while yielding no measurable safety improvements.
In fact, over the past five years the opposite has happened. There has been a rollback of ticket-camera programs across the country with at least seven states banning them outright while others have sharply limited their use, due to studies that have found certain RLCs increased rear-end collisions and injuries by motorists slamming on their brakes to avoid costly summonses.
This comes as no surprise to folks driving on Northern Boulevard at Douglaston Parkway, one of the first intersections to receive an RLC. Approaching this intersection at the speed limit provides insufficient time to safely stop when the light changes. Jamming on the brakes endangers everyone including the vehicle driver and occupants behind that may not be anticipating such a sudden stop.
And what about that ambulance or fire truck four or five cars behind with sirens screaming and lights flashing while you are stopped upfront waiting for the light to change green? Will a judge really believe you crossed the intersection to allow emergency vehicles to pass if those emergency vehicles are not visible in an RLC snapshot photo? Fork over $75!
The Union Turnpike-Lakeville Road intersection contains an RLC that regularly snaps pictures of unsuspecting motorists making a legal right on red. Why? Because they failed to come to a complete stop for at least five seconds. Is there any doubt that this is a tax, not a safety, camera?
If safety is the objective at RLC intersections, why not mount countdown clocks adjacent to traffic lights, as some other jurisdictions have done, so motorists can prepare to slow down and come to a safe stop? The only explanation for not doing this must be that revenue trumps safety.
The speed camera is next on the bait-and-switch agenda. Betting on the short-term memory of voters, these same politicians are now trying to sell us the same snake oil as they call for a “speed camera pilot program” to supposedly increase safety. In the absence of quantifiable evidence that speed cameras actually reduce accidents and increase safety, city officials once again are looking to put their hands in your wallet.
Mayoral candidates City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), city Comptroller John Liu and city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio all support the scheme. Little wonder, as the next mayor will need as much revenue as possible to balance the looming deficits that lie ahead.
Speed camera proponents say the cameras would provide a 10 mph leeway before tickets are issued. That leeway will fall as the city’s revenue needs rise. Safety advocates have sadly used the recent horrific auto accident that killed a mother and her unborn baby as the impetus to call for the installation of cameras.
Speed cameras would not have prevented this tragic accident nor others that are caused by excessive drinking or road rage. The cameras will siphon money from family budgets as folks go about their lives driving kids to school or soccer practice, only to be trapped by one of these ill-conceived, revenue-generating tax cameras.