By Mark Hallum
City and state officials condemned the inability of lawmakers to renew speed camera legislation at schools, citing the success of Vision Zero measures in reducing the casualty rates in a joint statement from the mayor’s office.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said thanks to Vision Zero, traffic fatalities were at an all-time low for the first six months of 2018, with only 81 recorded deaths, which could be reduced even further with speed cameras at schools.
“No loss of life on our streets is acceptable,” de Blasio said. “Under Vision Zero, we have made enormous strides towards safer streets for all, with traffic fatalities declining for the past 4 1/2 years. But we will never rest on our laurels, and will keep fighting for the safety of our fellow New Yorkers. The state Senate’s failure to act on speed cams puts this progress, and the lives of schoolchildren, at risk. They must act now. Lives are at stake.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) was a sponsor of the bill to extend the speed camera program that failed to attract enough votes in the recent legislative session in Albany.
“Data shows that Vision Zero is working,” Peralta said. “Although one traffic fatality is one too many, the reality is that in New York City there has been a reduction in the number of traffic-related deaths. But we need to do more, and to help ensure that this trend continues, we have an obligation to students and New Yorkers to renew and expand the school zone speed camera program, an initiative that has saved countless lives.
The School Speed Camera program has lowered speeding by 63 percent and reduced pedestrian injuries by 23 percent in places where it was implemented, according to the city Department of Transportation, but the program is set to expire July 25.
“New York City has made so much progress reducing traffic fatalities and so much of that progress can be credited to the use of speed cameras,” said Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton), chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee. “Every life lost is a tragedy, which is why it is critical that our state legislators return to Albany to renew the program and protect New Yorkers from the next tragic accident.”
But for how successful elected officials claim the program to be, only 7 percent of schools throughout the city have speed cameras at their locations, according to the mayor’s office.
“A single death is still one too many,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria). “The numbers demonstrate Vision Zero is working. Part of our equation here has been speed cameras, a proven deterrent for reckless driving, especially in school zones. The state Senate needs to stop playing politics and ensure these life-saving devices continue protecting our communities.”
The legislation to extend the program would bring an additional 150 cameras to the current 140 already in place under the pilot program launched in 2013.
“It’s not a coincidence that New York City has seen traffic deaths falling year over year since speed safety cameras were installed,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “These cameras are saving lives, we must not let them be turned off because of petty politics. It’s a simple proposition. Do we want to continue to prevent death and injury on our streets, or don’t we?”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall