Vance: Speed cameras can make NYC streets safer
When I was an assistant district attorney in the high-crime era of the 1980s, hundreds of shooting deaths were common in New York each year. In response, law enforcement developed proactive strategies and successfully drove down crime rates.
Today, speeding is one of New York's leading causes of preventable death. In 2012, the city saw 274 traffic deaths, and about a third of those with fatal crashes involved speeding. It is time to aggressively address this problem.
The NYPD took an important step in March by announcing a revamped and renamed Collision Investigation Squad. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly is addressing one of the city's most dangerous challenges: our roadways.
Prosecutors in my Vehicular Crimes Unit are already seeing results, getting called to more crashes and collecting evidence that will enhance our ability to prosecute vehicular crimes. But more can be done to make streets safer.
Legislators in Albany must allow New York City to begin a pilot "speed camera" program, starting at city schools.
In a recent study by the New York City Department of Transportation, 97 percent of vehicles that drove past PS 187 and PS 048 in Washington Heights were speeding. Speed-enforcement cameras -- which record a vehicle's speed and license plate number -- have undeniable potential to save lives. They have been deployed in 13 states and the District of Columbia. A 2010 study in the United Kingdom found a 71 percent drop in speeding at sites with cameras.
The pilot program has strong support from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and the police commissioner -- the people who know best which safety measures are likely to be effective.
Unfortunately, none of us has a vote in Albany -- we can only beg, plead and loudly encourage our colleagues in government to do the right thing for New York City: Give us the ability to save lives by using this important tool to make our streets safer, encourage responsible driving and reduce crashes.
According to the State Department of Motor Vehicles, 1 in every 4 people killed in a vehicle crash is killed by a speeding motorist.
In crashes where vehicles going faster than 40 mph hit a pedestrian, there is a 70 percent chance that the pedestrian will die. If the car is instead traveling at 30 mph, that same pedestrian has an 80 percent chance of surviving.
As the transportation commissioner says, "It's a matter of physics."
The argument made by the few remaining opponents of speed cameras -- that we are choosing cameras over more police officers -- is a red herring. Speed cameras will not reduce the number of police officers in our neighborhoods. They will add to our safety, not detract from it.
Law enforcement is doing everything we can to reduce violent crime. Last year in Manhattan, 22 people were killed by gun violence, a 30 percent reduction in shooting deaths from 2011 and almost a 40 percent reduction since 2010. But in 2012, there were 51 fatalities from vehicular crashes in Manhattan.
Speed cameras are an inexpensive and technologically savvy way to slow down drivers and maximize our existing resources to investigate and prosecute vehicular crimes.
Now we need Albany to remove the last roadblock.