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Posts from the "Traffic Enforcement" Category

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Speed Cam Data: See How Enforcement Drops Off a Cliff Each Afternoon

State law keeps the city's speed cameras from issuing tickets beyond one hour before and one hour after school events. 20 cameras are allowed by Albany; five are currently operating. Image: Streetsblog via NYC Open Data

State law keeps the city’s speed cameras from issuing tickets beyond one hour before and one hour after school events. 20 cameras are allowed by Albany; five are currently operating. Source data via NYC Open Data

New data offers a glimpse of how New York’s small speed camera program is performing under the restrictions of current Albany legislation. Among other things, you can see that the cameras don’t issue any tickets at night, when fatal crashes are most prevalent.

The speed camera law Albany enacted last year allows up to 20 cameras, but there are only five cameras in operation since the city starting issuing tickets on January 16. DOT didn’t say why the other 15 cameras aren’t up and running, but the agency did say that as of this week, cameras have issued 11,500 tickets to drivers speeding near schools.

A peek inside the data, some of which is available through the city’s open data portal, shows that the five cameras were turned on for the 27 school days between January 16 and February 25, issuing tickets no earlier than 7:01 a.m. and no later than 4:10 p.m. That means that thanks to Albany’s school-hour restrictions, the cameras are functioning less than half the day.

While speeding was the leading cause of NYC traffic deaths in 2012, the cameras aren’t on at all between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., when three-quarters of all NYC traffic fatalities occur, according to 2012 DMV data [PDF].

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NYPD Tickets for Failure to Yield Up 108 Percent Compared to 2013

For the second month in a row, NYPD issued more summonses for failure to yield to pedestrians than officers wrote a year ago.

In February, 2,818 failure to yield citations were issued citywide, compared to 1,107 in February 2013. That’s a 154 percent increase.

Failure to yield summonses jumped 60 percent in January compared to January 2013. Overall, this year’s total is up by 108 percent over the same time frame last year.

The percent changes look so large in part because the baseline was small. The 4,811 failure to yield summonses issued through February still amount to a small fraction of total moving violations — which are down 4 percent from last year.

Tickets for red-light running and speeding increased as well, though as we reported last month it’s impossible to know if the uptick in speeding enforcement occurred on neighborhood streets or on highways, where most tickets are usually issued.

That said, in the two months after Mayor de Blasio announced his Vision Zero initiative, there’s no doubt that NYPD has stepped up enforcement of dangerous driving behaviors. We’ll keep eyeing the data to see if this trend continues.

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Albany’s Absurd Restrictions Prevent NYC Speed Cameras From Saving Lives

As City Hall, the City Council, and street safety advocates press Albany for greater freedom to deploy automated speed enforcement in NYC, they’re asking not just for more cameras, but also for more leeway to use cameras where and when they can save lives.

Because current legislation only allows cameras on streets where schools are located, many street segments with chronic speeding problems are ineligible for automated enforcement. Photo of Rockaway Boulevard: NYC DOT/Flickr

Compared to other major American cities with speed cameras, NYC’s automated speed enforcement program is strictly circumscribed, hindering the city’s ability to deter dangerous driving on streets with chronic speeding problems.

The speed enforcement program approved by Albany last year enabled only 20 cameras to operate citywide. Lawmakers also placed tight limits on when and where these cameras can operate. The cameras must be placed, for instance, within a quarter mile of a school and only on streets where schools are located.

Since NYC has 1,700 public schools and hundreds more private schools, the distance limit is less of a problem than the restrictions on which streets can have cameras. Some of most dangerous stretches of streets like Queens Boulevard or Northern Boulevard, which students have to cross to get to school, are ineligible for camera enforcement under the current rules.

The cameras are also only allowed to operate from one hour before the school day begins to one hour after school activities end, and can only ticket drivers going more than 10 mph over the limit. Fines are capped at $50.

It so happens that the hours Albany forbade cameras to operate are the most dangerous times for speeding-related traffic fatalities. According to an analysis of DMV data by Transportation Alternatives, 77 percent of fatal speeding-related crashes statewide occurred weeknights between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. or on weekends. Three-quarters of all NYC traffic fatalities occurred during those hours, and speed was the leading factor in fatal NYC crashes, according to DMV data from 2012 [PDF].

City Council transportation chair Ydanis Rodriguez said yesterday that he wants both more cameras and fewer strings attached. “We must expand this program not only by increasing the number of speed cameras on our streets but by bolstering their ability to stop deaths and injuries. This means increased hours of operation and usage on surrounding streets,” he said in a statement. “Keeping people safe is the spirit of their implementation in the first place so it is counter-intuitive to not have them working when the majority of crashes occur.”

“It would be a real shame if we looked back a few years from now and we realized they could’ve been turned on at night,” said Transportation Alternatives general counsel Juan Martinez. “Everybody gets that we have to protect kids, but we also have to protect our parents.”

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Alan Dershowitz: Penalize Reckless Drivers Before They Kill

Noted attorney Alan Dershowitz says that to dramatically reduce traffic deaths and injuries in NYC, police and prosecutors must crack down on all dangerous drivers, not just those who kill while driving drunk.

In a Daily News op-ed, Dershowitz says he has been rebuffed by 911 operators when he reports reckless drivers. The reason, he says, is police aren’t interested in handling such calls unless a crash has occurred.

Dershowitz’s sister-in-law was killed by a driver in Chelsea in 2011. Ian Clement left the scene after running Marilyn Dershowitz over with a U.S. Postal Service truck as she was cycling with her husband. Though the crash was captured on video, a jury acquitted Clement of hit-and-run.

Dershowitz writes:

It is this combination — little concern about reckless drivers who haven’t killed yet, and legal difficulties in prosecuting drivers who have — that has likely contributed to the epidemic of pedestrians deaths in New York, resulting in a sizable increase in 2013 from 2012. The law, and those who are supposed to enforce it, are not doing their job in deterring dangerous driving because reckless drivers have little to fear from persisting in their potentially lethal behavior. This breakdown reflects a larger moral conundrum: How should the law deal with conduct that causes lethal results in only a small percentage of cases?

Dershowitz says punishing a relatively small number of reckless drivers for killing people does not deter others from driving recklessly, “because few drivers expect to kill and even fewer expect to be successfully prosecuted if they do.”

“Clearly,” he writes, “the law would buy more deterrent bang for the buck if it vigorously prosecuted every reckless driver, regardless of whether they happen to kill.”

Dershowitz offers a few suggestions for increasing enforcement, like making penalties more severe for deadly crashes in which speeding or texting are a factor. He says more frequent ticketing and higher fines for dangerous moving violations might also help.

Dershowitz, who made his name as a civil libertarian, doesn’t explicitly endorse automated enforcement, though he acknowledges that traffic cameras are an important tool. Penalizing all reckless driving behavior might be seen as “governmental action that compromises privacy for prevention,” he says, but he doesn’t think it’s much of a trade-off.

Are these costs worth the benefits of a more proactive and preventive approach? When it comes to dangerous driving, where privacy interests are minimal and safety concerns considerable, the answer is yes.

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New Vision Zero Details Emerge at Astoria Town Hall

Last night, more than 100 people gathered in Astoria for the latest in a series of Vision Zero town halls bringing together residents,  city officials, elected representatives, and advocates to talk about street safety. New information regarding City Hall’s current thinking about the safety of trucks and large vehicle fleets came to light, and officials also hinted at opening more street safety data to the public.

NYPD and DOT will hand out this flyer at high-crash intersections.

NYPD and DOT will soon start handing out this flyer at high-crash intersections.

While the city continues to flesh out policies, Queens residents affected by traffic violence came to last night’s meeting seeking answers and highlighting areas where the NYPD still needs to improve.

“We haven’t heard from the police yet. It would be nice to find out as much information as possible,” said Satie Ragunath, whose father-in-law Kumar was killed in a hit-and-run while crossing Northern Boulevard earlier this month. “We’d like to know, what can you guys do about accidents that have already happened?”

Deputy Inspector Kevin Maloney, commanding officer of the 114th Precinct, told Streetsblog that the Collision Investigation Squad was unable to find surveillance video of the crash and was broadening its search area, using cameras on nearby blocks in an attempt to identify the hit-and-run driver. “I’ll talk with the detective in charge of that investigation and I’ll be sure he speaks to you,” Maloney told Ragunath.

Chris Vanterpool said he and his 3-year-old son were struck by a turning driver two weeks ago while they were in a crosswalk near their Astoria home. Vanterpool said it was difficult to get information from the precinct after the crash. “I had to make 10 phone calls to get the report number,” he said, and when he wanted to get a copy of the crash report, the precinct required a $10 money order. “It costs $15 at the bank to get a $10 money order,” Vanterpool said.

Maloney, who spoke with Vanterpool about the crash after the forum, told Streetsblog that the precinct tries to focus on speeding, cell phone use, and red light summonses. The five officers in its traffic enforcement division, as well as a handful of patrol officers, are trained to use the three LIDAR speed guns available at the precinct.

“When I was a cop, precinct cops didn’t even shoot radar,” Maloney said. “Since then, the department’s evolved, so it’s something that on the precinct level we take seriously.”

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Victims’ Families Optimistic About Change After Meeting Albany Lawmakers


During yesterday’s trip to Albany, members of Families for Safe Streets not only won over a key new backer of legislation to set the city’s default speed limit at 20 mph, they met with more than 30 legislators to ask for lower speed limits and more automated enforcement.

“It was absolutely exhausting, emotionally and physically,” said Mary Beth Kelly, whose husband was killed by a tow truck driver in 2006 while the couple was riding their bikes on the Hudson River Greenway. “It’s very hard for us to keep telling our stories over and over again.” But Kelly said that more than ever, she thinks now is a time when victims’ families will make a difference. “I’ve been doing this seven-and-a-half years,” she said, “and the sense of hopefulness that I have right now is probably greater than it’s ever been.”

In their meetings with lawmakers — including Speaker Sheldon Silver and the staff of Assembly Transportation Committee Chair David Gantt — Families for Safe Streets focused mostly on lowering the city’s default speed limit to 20 mph, but also talked about the importance of expanding automated enforcement.

“The speed camera program is only operational during school hours,” said Transportation Alternatives general counsel Juan Martinez on the bus ride to Albany. “That’s a big problem, because 77 percent of people who are killed in speeding crashes are killed after school hours — in the evening and on weekends.”

The State Senate’s budget proposal includes a nine-fold expansion of the existing school-zone speed camera program, but Assembly Member Joe Lentol said it was unlikely to survive to the final budget. “It was a tremendous lift to get just 20 speed cameras last year,” he said.

Despite the challenge of making progress in Albany, the families remain undeterred.

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Will Bratton Direct All NYPD Precincts to Get Behind Vision Zero?

NYPD summons data from last month show that ticketing for deadly traffic violations increased overall compared to February 2013, but in the weeks after the official launch of Vision Zero, enforcement remained wildly inconsistent from precinct to precinct.

WNYC mapped data on citations for speeding, failure to yield to pedestrians, and red-light running. The dark blue areas on the map indicate the biggest increases, but reporters Jenny Ye and Kat Aaron note that those numbers come with a caveat:

Some precincts wrote 10 times more tickets this February than they did in February 2013. But that’s because ticketing last year was strikingly low. In Brooklyn’s 84th precinct, which covers Boerum Hill and Brooklyn Heights, officers wrote just 10 tickets for speeding, failure to yield and ignoring a signal combined. This year, they have issued more than 100.

Though the 84th Precinct figures from this February are a 930 percent increase over February 2013, 103 tickets in a month for three dangerous driving offenses still represents a small fraction of total violations that could be ticketed.

In the Upper West Side’s 24th Precinct, which in January responded to three pedestrian deaths with a jaywalking crackdown, local officers wrote just 64 summonses last month for speeding, failure to yield, and red-light running combined, compared to 47 in February 2013. (The Daily News reported today that the 24th Precinct will be getting a new commanding officer after Inspector Nancy Barry was named Bronx adjutant.)

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Victims’ Families Head to Albany, Calling on Legislators to Save Lives

Families of some of those included on this map of traffic fatalities are meeting with legislators today in Albany. Map: Families for Safe Streets

Families of traffic violence victims on this map are meeting with legislators today in Albany. Map: Families for Safe Streets

The State Senate budget released late last week includes a plan to expand New York City’s school zone speed enforcement program from 20 cameras to 180 cameras. As the Senate, Assembly and Governor Cuomo enter budget negotiations, families of traffic violence victims are in Albany today to meet with legislators and push for policies that would do more to reduce traffic violence: lowering the citywide speed limit and giving NYC control of automated enforcement.

Amy Cohen, whose son Sammy was killed on Prospect Park West last October, is one of the organizers of Families for Safe Streets. At the group’s second monthly meeting earlier in March, its members decided to make the trip to Albany. Today, about a dozen people who lost their children to New York City traffic violence, or were injured themselves, got up before dawn and boarded a bus to the capital.

“Many of the families that are going don’t tend to know the different legislative options,” Cohen said. “Most of the people going haven’t been to Albany for this kind of thing.”

Families have set up meetings with more than 30 lawmakers, including their own representatives and legislators from the places where their loved ones were killed. The day includes meetings with Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assembly transportation committee chair David Gantt of Rochester, and members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus.

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Tell Albany Where You’d Like to See Traffic Enforcement Cameras

With Mayor de Blasio looking to gain home rule over NYC’s red light and speed cameras as part of the Vision Zero Action Plan, Transportation Alternatives wants to take your requests for camera locations to Albany.

Here’s why local control is critical: Currently, Albany has limited NYC to a handful of speed cameras that can only be used during school hours and don’t ticket drivers unless they exceed the speed limit by 11 or more miles per hour. State law also limits speed camera placement to “a distance not to exceed 1,320 feet on a highway passing a school building, entrance or exit of a school abutting on the highway.” So rather than siting the cameras within a quarter-mile radius of a school, DOT can only put them on streets that go directly past schools. That means streets with dangerous speeding problems can’t get camera enforcement, hampering efforts to keep kids safe.

Though NYC has had red light cameras for two decades, it’s still considered a pilot program, and remains under the control of state lawmakers. The program is up for reauthorization this year, and there are two active bills that would expand its reach. Legislation sponsored by Assembly Member Carl Heastie and State Senator Tony Avella would increase the number of camera locations from the current 150 to 225 and 250, respectively. The program was last expanded in 2009.

Automated traffic enforcement is a proven life saver. Cameras are responsible for more than 95 percent of all red-light running summonses issued in NYC, according to TA, and serious injuries are down 56 percent at locations where red light cameras are installed.

To rally support for more traffic cameras, TA has posted a form for New Yorkers to list intersections “where red-light running or speeding is common.” Multiple forms may be filed to nominate multiple locations.

“As the automated enforcement debate heats up,” writes TA, “advocates will hand-deliver your red-light and speed camera requests to State Legislators.”

TA says the camera request form will be up for at least two months.

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Ignizio Bill Would Turn Pedestrian Timers Into Countdown Clocks for Drivers

City Council Member Vincent Ignizio has another red light camera bill — one that seems to be a variation on a failed bill from six years ago.

Council Member Vincent Ignizio says NYC owes speeding drivers a chance to get away with endangering lives. Photo: ##http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20131211/tottenville/councilman-ignizio-elected-city-council-minority-leader##DNAinfo##

Vincent Ignizio wants the city to prioritize pedestrian countdown clocks at intersections with red light cameras. In 2008 he tried to get signal timers for drivers at the same locations. Photo: DNAinfo

In addition to a bill that would require DOT to post warning signs where red light cameras are stationed, Ignizio last month introduced legislation that would mandate pedestrian countdown signals at those same intersections.

We’ll get to that second bill in a moment, but first some background. As we reported in February, Ignizio is known for opposing measures to make streets safer and improve transit. He wanted to subject NYC bike lanes to environmental review, and succeeded in erasing the bike lane on Father Capodanno Boulevard, watering down Select Bus Service on Hylan Boulevard to preserve parking, and degrading SBS service citywide by getting the MTA to shut off the flashing blue lights on all SBS buses.

Ignizio premised his pedestrian countdown bill on street safety. Here’s an excerpt from an Advance story that mentioned the bill:

The pedestrian countdowns have been shown to decrease crashes at intersections, and those with red light cameras have already been identified as high-risk spots.

“We’re deploying countdown clocks throughout the city, all I’m saying is deploy them in areas where you have red light cameras first,” Ignizio said.

A couple of things about this proposal don’t make sense. One, Ignizio is not a fan of automated traffic enforcement. In that same Advance story, he said of red light cameras, ”These ‘safety devices’ — in quotes — sometimes are causing more accidents than they’re trying to avoid.” In fact, NYC’s red light camera program has led to a significant drop in dangerous T-bone crashes – and if Ignizio thinks cameras are causing crashes, how would pedestrian countdown signals help?

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