Mayor increases police presence near schools to enforce traffic safety

Jose Alzorriz, 52, was struck and killed in a chain-reaction crash at the intersection of Coney Island Avenue and Avenue L in Midwood earlier this month after a speeding driver ran a red light and T-boned a passing SUV. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

Due to traffic changes over the last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio is renewing his call for more traffic safety around schools.

Agency leaders and legislators at the state and local level are calling for 24/7 use of speed cameras near schools to reduce the risk of traffic-related deaths. 

Though students aren’t there during the overnight hours, high-traffic areas have many incidents when the cameras are off, according to the office of Brooklyn state Senator Andrew Gounardes. The senator originally co-sponsored the bill in 2017 and is pushing for its passage in the January session.

“​​Albany must allow us to operate our speed cameras overnight and hold dangerous drivers accountable, no matter when they break the law,” de Blasio said in a press release.

According to an analysis by the Department of Transportation, speeding has declined by 72% in areas that use cameras. However, about one-third of speeding events now occur when the cameras are not on. 

“As our children prepare to return to in-person learning, it’s especially important that we expand traffic enforcement and continue to take steps to build on the life-saving School Zone Speed Camera Program by allowing 24/7 operations of these cameras,” Senator Gounardes said in the press release.

Until that happens, the mayor’s office is cooperating with the NYPD to increase vehicle speeding enforcement around starting on Monday. 

Here’s what that will look like:

  • Officers will focus more on vehicles that do not yield to pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Impounding the cars of drunk drivers
  • Additional officers dedicated to enforcing laws around illegal cell phone use
  • Additional highway officers to enforce speed regulations
  • Prioritizing motorcycle safety, for reckless motorcyclists and vehicle endangering motorcyclists

“This citywide enforcement initiative will be focused on holding drivers that speed — and drivers that fail to yield to pedestrians and cyclists — accountable,” said NYPD Chief of Transportation Kim Royster. 

Traffic injuries have been the focus of the mayor’s Vision Zero plan since 2014, but 2021 recently became the second-worst year for traffic injury and death since de Blasio took office. Between January and May, 70 people were killed. If 2021 is to match the number of traffic deaths that took place in 2020, there would have to be over 234 incidents

“Many students are finally returning to in-person learning following the COVID-19 pandemic. The last thing that children and parents need is to worry about reckless drivers causing injuries and deaths on streets around schools,” said Liam Blank, a spokesperson for Tri-State Transportation Campaign, in a press release. 

The NYPD’s action now in addition to speed camera usage, may reduce the risk until Senator Gounardes’ bill can make it out of committee in January.