Advocates to Albany: Let NYC Enforce the Speed Limit at Every School

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Graphic: Transportation Alternatives

Advocates from Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets will head to Albany tomorrow calling on legislators to expand NYC’s automated speed enforcement program. They want speed cameras by each of the city’s 2,500-plus schools, operational at all times.

Speeding is a leading cause of crashes resulting in injury or death, yet state law limits New York City to just 140 active cameras. Moreover, the cameras must be placed on streets abutting schools within one-half mile of school entrances, and they can only issue tickets during school activities. During the 12 hours of the day when fatal crashes are most likely, the cameras are off.

There were no speed cameras in the city until 2013, when Albany passed its first speed camera legislation, which allowed NYC to install 20 cameras. (Title VII of the state Vehicle and Traffic Law mandates that localities cannot implement speed cameras without state approval.) The next year, the de Blasio administration pushed to expand the program, and Albany increased the number of speed cameras to 140.

Camera enforcement has proven effective in cutting speeding and increasing pedestrian safety. While the city has not released a detailed study of the cameras, traffic deaths and severe injuries reached historic lows in the two full years since automated speed enforcement took effect.

The speed camera program can be greatly expanded. Cameras now issue more than seven times as many speeding tickets as police officers, according to numbers provided by TA, but they are positioned by only 7 percent of New York City schools. The location restrictions also prevent the city from placing cameras on many dangerous streets that children cross to get to school, because those streets don’t directly abut a school entrance.

“Every child in New York City deserves to be safe on their way to school. But right now we only have 140 speed cameras to protect 1.1 million students,” said TA Executive Director Paul Steely White. “And those cameras are only turned on for 60 hours a week — even though more than half of fatal crashes take place outside of school hours, when the cameras are prevented from working.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Public Advocate Letitia James have also made the point that
a vast majority of crashes take place outside of current enforcement hours. At his Queen Boulevard press conference last month, de Blasio lauded the program’s impact and said City Hall wants an expanded speed camera program. “We’re going to push to pass state legislation that will ease these restrictions that will allow cameras to operate overnight and on other streets so we can really maximize the impact of these cameras and protect lives,” he said.

To get legislation through Albany, the members of the Assembly and State Senate will have to pass legislation and Governor Cuomo will have to sign it.

Advocates are collecting signatures for a petition supporting more speed cameras and tweeting at state assembly members and senators with the hashtag “#everyschool.”