According to city data, three-quarters of traffic fatalities this year occurred in times or places where speed enforcement is not allowed under state law. Over one-third of non-highway fatalities happened in school camera zones, but during hours when the cameras cannot issue tickets.
To combat this, Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Transportation (DOT) are calling on state lawmakers to amend the state speed camera law to allow the devices to operate around the clock. The NYPD will also focus on enforcement along corridors that have high rates of speeding crashes.
“Emptier streets are not an invitation to drive at unsafe speeds, and we will not let drivers threaten New Yorkers’ safety without consequences,” de Blasio said.
New York City saw an increase in deaths among motorists and motorcyclists, according to the city. NYPD collision reports have cited excessive speed as a contributing factor in fatal crashes. While total fatalities increased, pedestrian fatalities are on pace to be the lowest ever, city officials said.
A city analysis of fatal crashes found that 36 percent of all traffic deaths this year that were not on highways happened in school speed zones where cameras are located. But these crashes happened during nights and weekends, when the automated cameras as not allowed to issue summonses.
Under the current speed camera law, cameras are limited to 750 school zones citywide. They only operate between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays. The city is pushing to change the law to make the cameras operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Car owners who exceed speed limits by more than 10 miles per hour are fined $50 per violation.
According to DOT, the department will seek to install 60 speed cameras per month next year, with the goal of adding 2,000 cameras by the end of 2021.
“New York City has faced so many challenges in 2020, including on our roadways,” Acting DOT Commissioner Margaret Forgione said in a statement. “But as this difficult year comes to a close, we appreciate the mayor’s leadership in proposing changes to the hours when we can operate speed cameras, which we have hard evidence have contributed to safer streets.”
As part of its holiday enforcement campaign, the NYPD Highway Patrol and local precincts will be using radar detectors. Enforcement will take place on highways and streets where excessive speeds have been observed, city officials said.
“Our officers’ ongoing work to enforce speeding laws and target drivers who needlessly endanger others reflect the police department’s precision policing philosophy and commitment to Vision Zero,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said. “As 2021 begins, the NYPD remains committed to protecting pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike.”
The NYPD and DOT will be using social media in the next few weeks for a series of public awareness campaigns.
The first campaign “Legit and Alive,” will work with the Motorcycle Advisory Council to encourage safe and legal riding. According to the city, motorcyclists will be offered safe diving tips and be encouraged to license and register their vehicles.
“Mover Over for Stopped and Emergency Vehicles,” the second campaign, will remind New York drivers to move as far away as possible in a moving lane from a vehicle that is disabled or stopped on the roadway, including police and emergency vehicles.
The last campaign, “Everybody, Every Seat,” will remind drivers that in November, the state began mandating that all car passengers, including adults, must wear seat belts inside a vehicle.
State Senator Andrew Gounardes, who sponsored the speed camera legislation in 2019, said in a statement that there is more to do to improve the law and build upon its success.
“No one should fear for their life crossing the street,” he said. “Let’s work toward a city free from vehicular violence.”
Newly elected Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson added that public awareness campaign can help promote safety in communities.
“We must continue to drive safely this holiday season with an awareness that senior citizens, bicyclists and students are statistically most vulnerable to the impacts of dangerous driving,” he said.
Street safety advocates said these initiatives, especially on speed cameras, will help prevent collisions, injuries and fatalities.
“The city’s speed cameras have already delivered safer streets,” said Jon Orcutt, advocacy director for Bike New York. “Redoubling their effectiveness should be a top priority in Albany in 2021.”