Slow the hell down: New York City needs more freedom to use speed cameras to catch dangerous drivers


December 29, 2020

Originally published in New York Daily News on December 29, 2020.

Mayor de Blasio and his traffic safety experts have proof that speed cameras work. In 2020, where the cameras were deployed, speeding dropped 71.5% and injuries fell 16.9%. Conversely, three-fourths of traffic deaths happened in areas or at times without the devices and more than a third of non-highway traffic fatalities were in range of existing cameras, but overnights or on weekends, when a silly state law requires the machines be turned off.

De Blasio, who is struggling to reverse a rise in road deaths that makes a mockery of his Vision Zero campaign, properly wants that time restriction repealed. We’ll go further and urge Albany to allow the cameras to be used on highways as well as local streets. Hey, Gov. Cuomo, here’s a chance to see the mayor’s call and raise it.

History explains how we got here. The city’s streets are foolishly under state purview and, for years, speed cameras were outlawed. A 2013 pilot program of cameras near 20 schools was grudgingly expanded to 140 in 2014, active from an hour before school to an hour afterward and mothballed during summers.

Speed ahead to 2019, when camera opponent David Gantt was no longer the Assembly transportation chair, and in the Senate, Andrew Gounardes had ousted Marty Golden, replacing a speed camera foe who was repeatedly caught speeding himself with a champion. A new law allowed 750 zones near schools, active from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday to Friday, holidays, vacations and summer included. And they work.

Limiting the cameras makes no sense. It’s not just school kids who need protection. It’s every pedestrian and bicyclist and other driver, all endangered by speeders. Nor can we count on cops with radar guns; they’re mainly an outside-the-city phenomenon.

Deliver protection around the clock, and step on it.