Taxi Driver Rep Bhairavi Desai: Speed Enforcement Is a Government Scam

The Times ran a story yesterday on the supposedly improving outlook for state speed camera legislation. The bills have failed to gain traction in Albany for several years running and have yet to clear either house this session, though the Senate version has picked up a sponsor in Staten Island Republican Andrew Lanza.

This 2009 Upper West Side crash injured the cab driver, his passenger, and a pedestrian. Witnesses said the cabbie was speeding when he careened onto a traffic island and slammed into the 72nd Street subway station. Photo: Lisa Sladkus

Speeding-related crashes killed 71 people in New York City in 2009, and injured 3,739. Cameras reduce the number of drivers speeding by 10+ mph by up to 88 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Speed cameras have the endorsement of NYPD, NYC DOT, and the city’s Department of Health.

Times reporter Matt Flegenheimer devotes three actual paragraphs to the benefits of automated enforcement. And then:

Still, some drivers said they retained a certain romantic attachment to the rare interactions with officers and their radar guns; the surge of pride derived from talking one’s way out of a ticket; the tacit kinship forged between drivers who slow in unison at the sight of a patrol car in the distance.

For the second half of his 1,000-word story, Flegenheimer talks to a random motorist who is skeptical that speeding is “truly dangerous” to pedestrians, along with a city cab driver and a chauffeur who, we are told, need to speed in order to avoid the wrath of their well-heeled passengers.

Then there’s Bhairavi Desai, head of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, who believes speed cameras are “simply another tactic to raise revenue for the city.”

Ms. Desai said many cabdrivers had received bus-lane violations after performing what they thought were legal pickups or drop-offs in bus lanes.

“With a camera, who do you argue against?” she said.

So to hear Ms. Desai tell it, the problem with speeding cabbies is that they sometimes get caught.

You would think that someone who gets paid to advocate for the well-being of cab drivers would understand that, in addition to pedestrians, bus riders, restaurant patrons and school kids, speeding cabbies also pose a danger to themselves. The fact is that, with thousands of New York City drivers and passengers killed and injured in speeding-related crashes each year, any driver who argues against speed enforcement is arguing against his or her own safety.