Two lawmakers call for expansion of speed cameras in school zones

By Bill Parry

Speed cameras have been critiqued and criticized as a cash grab for the city, according to state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst). But he says they work and he wants more of them to save children from injury and counter the city’s epidemic of hit-and-run collisions.

“Our children need and deserve safer streets,” Peralta said. “We must ensure we put all the mechanisms in place to make sure people drive at safe speeds, at slower speeds.”

Peralta and state Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) unveiled three pieces of legislation last week that would crack down on speeding drivers in an effort to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities ciywide.

The proposals would eliminate time restrictions on school speed cameras, expand the program to all school zones in the city and suspend the registration of a vehicle after five traffic camera violations. The use of these speed monitoring devices currently is limited to one hour before school starts to an hour after the school day ends.

“Clearly, installing speed cameras in school zones has been a successful initiative and to make it even more effective we should do away with these senseless restrictions on times of operation and the nuber of cameras that may be in use,” Peralta said. “Accidents, especially preventable accidents, can occur at any time of the day, any day of the week. Speeding is one of the leading factors in many fatal and serious accidents, so let’s make sure we do everything we can to deter drivers from speeding, especially in school areas. This new legislation would make streets safer for our kids and all pedestrians in general.”

Since 140 speed cameras were installed in school zones beginning in 2014, 945,000 speed violation tickets were issued by September 2015. City Department of Transportation statistics show that at first each speed camera issued an average of 192 violations per day. By September 2015 the number decreased to an average of 69 summonses per day, or a 60 percent drop.

“Just by looking at the number of tickets issued, we can see that drivers are speeding less and less in areas where cameras are installed,” Peralta said. When the state Legislature authorized the use of speed cameras in 2013, it established a 2018 end date to the pilot program. Under Peralta and DenDekker’s measures, the program to improve pedestrian safety would be made permanent.

In a separate bill sponsored by DenDekker, if a vehicle has five traffic violations in one year, the owner of the vehicle will have its registration suspended for six months. When a speed camera issues a summons, the owner of the vehicle receives a $50 ticket in the mail.

“The speed cameras are working, but nobody is held accountable because the camera can’t tell who was driving that car,” DenDekker said. “If you allow someone to drive your car dangerously, then we’ll take your car away for six months if that car has five traffic camera violations in one year.”

Peralta hopes all three bills will pass by the end of the legislative session June 16. Cristina Furlong, co-founder of Make Queens Safer, supports each measure and wants the program expanded citywide.

“Speeding is the leading cause of traffic deaths in New York, and if we have a way to deter people from speeding in our neighborhood, it must be enacted,” she said. “Traffic safety cameras have reduced speeding by 60 percent in school zones where they have been installed, but 93 percent of schools in the city still lack them. Every child deserves the protection that these cameras provide for a safer trip to school.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.