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De Blasio urges Albany to permit 24/7 speed cameras near schools

Photo Credit: James Carbone

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday urged state elected leaders to approve the utilization of speed cameras in school zones to catch racing drivers 24 hours a day seven days a week.

The mayor’s comments came after the City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) issued their annual Automated Speed Enforcement Program report, which covers data from the speed camera program’s inception in 2014 through December 2020. The report found the cameras curbed speeding by over 70%. However, analysis of 2020 fatalities showed that nearly 30% of all fatalities occur in speed camera zones during the hours they are not allowed to operate: overnight and on weekends.

“Speed cameras are an essential tool to fight back against dangerous driving, and state law should not force New York City to keep our city safe only some of the time,” said de Blasio. “We’re proud to have one of the biggest speed camera programs in the world, and it’s time for Albany to let us operate them 24 hours a day. Anything less is unfair to everyone else who uses our streets.”

Legislation sponsored by Senator Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) and Assembly Member Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan), S5602/A6681, would allow speed camera operation 24 hours, 7 day a week, and allows for escalating fines with subsequent notices of liability for drivers who are repeat violators. New York City calls for the enactment of this legislation.

“While 2020 brought its own set of challenges with COVID-19, it also brought a second epidemic of reckless driving,” said DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman. “We know our speed camera program works to deter speeding, but we can do more. Nearly one-third of last year’s traffic fatalities occurred in school zones when cameras were not allowed to operate, so we continue to call on the state legislature to allow our cameras to operate 24/7 and for stronger consequences for dangerous drivers.”

In 2019, NYC DOT received State authorization to expand its speed camera program and operate cameras in 750 school speed zones, on all weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. and at any location within a quarter-mile radius of the school building. 

As outlined in this year’s report, speeding at fixed camera locations had dropped, on average, 72% as of December 2020. The program currently has 1,647 cameras in all 750 school speed zones. DOT will install an average of 60 new cameras per month, with the aim of reaching a total of 2,220 cameras in 2022.

Excessive speed is one of the leading factors in serious crashes in New York City. The faster a vehicle is traveling, the more time and space a driver needs to react to circumstances to prevent a crash. Speeding also worsens the damage caused upon impact when a collision happens – a pedestrian who is struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 MPH is twice as likely to be killed as a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 MPH.

De Blasio’s ask of the state comes after amNY reported that 2021 was the most fatal summer for road-related fatalities in the city’s history.

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