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Legislature OKs speed cameras near schools

By Chris Engelhardt

The New York state Legislature approved a bill last week allowing the installation of speed cameras around 20 schools with documented speeding issues in the city.

The bill — passed June 22 and sponsored by Senate Majority Coalition Leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) and state Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) — authorizes the first-ever use of speed cameras within a quarter-mile of schools. Drivers caught speeding by cameras will face $50 fines.

Officials said fines, in addition to existing red-light cameras and continued aggressive enforcement of traffic laws, will enhance traffic safety throughout New York City. Roughly 130 jurisdictions across the country currently use speed cameras to combat drivers who speed.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that although traffic fatalities in the city have fallen by more than 30 percent over the past decade, he noted that speeding remains the single greatest contributing factor in traffic fatalities across the city and believes speed cameras will help save lives.

“If a driver strikes a child at 40 miles per hour, there is a 70 percent chance the child will be killed,” he said. “At 30 miles per hour, there is an 80 percent chance the child survives. Decreasing the number of drivers who speed is a proven life-saving measure — and this legislation, which will place speed cameras at 20 key locations throughout our city, will ensure that we continue to protect some of our most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who lauded Klein and Glick for helping to put a “critical roadblock in front of dangerous driving,” said the city has seen record low traffic fatalities in the past five years — rates less than one-third of the national average and half that of other major cities. Speeding, however, led to 81 fatal traffic crashes in 2012 and stands as a major issue on the radar of city officials, she said.

“The Legislature has clearly stated that the streets around our schools should be safe havens, not speed traps,” she said. “Speed cameras will help put a freeze frame on the No. 1 killer on our city’s roads.”

In March, the City Council approved a resolution calling on the Legislature to pass a law for a city speed camera pilot program that would test 20 to 40 speed cameras at high-risk locations.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), a sponsor of that bill, expressed enthusiasm after state lawmakers moved forward with speed camera legislation, which, he said, will protect pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.

“The passage of the New York City Council’s [resolution] shows strong support for the implementation of a speed camera pilot program in our local neighborhoods,” he said. “Not only will the implementation of this program make New York City’s streets safer, but it will also actively save the lives of those we would have lost without them.”

The legislation will now head to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Reach reporter Chris Engelhardt by e-mail at cengelhardt@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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