By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio joined a rally on the steps of City Hall last week to push state lawmakers to approve a measure that would allow the city to expand its life-saving speed enforcement camera program, especially in school zones.
A city Department of Transportation report on the status of the current school-zone speed camera program shows that speeding in these zones has been reduced by 63 percent, leading to 15 percent fewer injury crashes and 23 percent fewer pedestrian crashes since the cameras were first installed in 2014.
“The last three years of Vision Zero were the safest period for traffic fatalities in our city’s recorded history, and a significant portion of that success can be tied directly to our speed camera program,” de Blasio said. “But while cameras have reduced dangerous speeding, we know that 85 percent of serious deaths and injuries happen at places and times when the camera cannot legally operate. Since there can be no doubt that speed cameras save lives, and because we still have so much more to do, we urge the State Legislature to pass this life-saving expansion.”
Currently, the NYPD can only run the cameras during school hours and when school events are held. The measure, if approved by the legislature’s June 21 adjournment, would allow the city to operate the cameras year-round from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., giving the city a larger time frame to catch offenders, who are then issued a $50 fine for going 10 mph or more above the speed limit.
The bill, proposed by state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), would add 610 more speed cameras, up from the current 140 school-zone locations citywide.
“Simply put, my proposal is about making sure New York City streets are safer for our schoolchildren,” Peralta said. “Studies show that speed cameras deter motorists from speeding, so let’s ensure that we slow down traffic in school zones by expanding and extending the speed camera program.”
The DOT’s speed-camera report also showed that the vast majority of drivers receiving summonses are first-time offenders, and over 80 percent of drivers do not get another speeding summons after receiving their first.
“Indeed, if people drive at safe speeds and New York City collects no revenue, it would be a victory,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “We now need to build on this success to bring cameras to even more neighborhoods where they could make this kind of big difference.”
The legislation also extends the program through 2022. Additionally, the proposal requires signage within 300 feet of a school zone and prohibits the placement of cameras within 300 feet of a highway exit ramp.
“Speed cameras in school zones are a proven method to stop speeding and keep our children safe,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “I join with a broad coalition of transportation safety advocates to call on the State Assembly and Senate to pass legislation to immediately expand the safety camera program from 140 to 750 cameras. Lives are on the line, and we must act to protect our children from reckless speeding.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr