NYC’s life-saving School Zone Speed Camera program expired July 25 after the New York State Senate failed to re-authorize it. The City Council will explore the life-threatening impacts, call for the program to be renewed before school starts in September, and explore additional ways to combat reckless driving.
New York, NY — Today, the New York City Council will hold an emergency hearing in response to the crisis caused by the New York State Senate’s failure to reauthorize NYC’s life-saving School Zone Speed Cameras before they expired on July 25. The failure to renew the speed cameras directly puts children at risk.
A report completed by the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) found that at intersections with speed cameras, speeding dropped by a whopping 63%, leading to fewer and less dangerous crashes.
The cameras have also served to identify some of NYC’s most reckless drivers. Over 80% of drivers who received a ticket from the red-light cameras did not receive a second one; they slowed down instead, reducing crashes and saving lives. But 26,000 drivers (about 1%) received at least five camera violations — for speeding in school zones, or running red lights — over the past year.
“It is almost surreal to find ourselves here today again asking Republicans in the State Senate to simply do their jobs and protect New York City schoolchildren, but we will not let the obscenity of their failure keep us from taking action. We will do what we can on our own to keep people safe on our streets but we will not let the Senate Republicans off the hook – this remains on them,” said New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson. “We will not rest until they get their act together and get back to Albany to extend and expand the lifesaving school zone speed cameras.”
“We are just a few weeks away from the beginning of the school year and the New York State Senate has yet to approve speed cameras near New York City schools. Their inaction is alarming and troubling,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Chair of the Council Committee on Transportation. “I thank Transportation Alternatives and the brave families of those lost to reckless drivers who advocate for safer streets.”
“In my district, we’ve lost five kids to reckless driving, including the heartrending killing of 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein and 1-year-old Josh Lew this spring by a reckless driver who had 5 camera violations in the prior year alone. We’re outraged that the GOP-controlled New York State Senate cares so little about the lives of our kids,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “I’m grateful that Speaker Johnson and Chair Rodriguez have called this emergency hearing to discuss how New York City should respond to the State Senate’s abject failure of leadership. The Reckless Driver Accountability Act will help us change driver behavior and get reckless drivers off the road. Our deepest thanks to the fearless advocates, particularly Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives, who are working tirelessly to force the State Senate to turn the speed cameras back on before any more of our kids are killed, and to win safer streets for all of us.”
“Keeping children safe in NYC is not without its challenges; and as a mother, I share a serious concern when it comes to reckless drivers on city streets,” said Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel. “Implementing laws that can prevent injuries and the tragic death of children seems like common sense. There are ways to ensure that our children are protected, which is why I sponsored Res 0268 in support of the expansion of speed cameras in NYC, calling on our state senators to pass S.6046 and Governor Cuomo to sign S.6046/A.7798. My sponsored legislation also requires physicians to report medical conditions or incidents that indicate a driver is at high risk of suddenly losing consciousness or vehicle control. Our children’s lives depend on it and I will continue to support legislation that protects our children.”
At the emergency hearing, the Council’s Committee on Transportation, chaired by Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, will consider a resolution calling on the State Legislature to re-authorize the program, along with legislation that would combat reckless driving and improve street safety. The bills include:
Res 268 – By Council Members Ampry-Samuel and Brannan – calling upon the New York State Legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, (1) S.6046/A.7798, which would authorize the expanded use of speed cameras in New York City, (2) legislation that would provide for the escalation of penalties and consequences for multiple violations issued by red light and speed cameras and (3) legislation that would require physicians to report medical conditions or incidents that indicate a driver is at high risk of suddenly losing consciousness or vehicle control.
Int 322 – By Council Member Rodriguez – to require DOT to develop and publicize a checklist of street design elements that best promote safety.
Int 971 – By Council Member Lander – to boot or impound cars that accumulate five or more red-light and speed camera violations within one year (the top 1% most dangerous), until their owners complete a Reckless Driver Accountability Program.
Int 972 – By Council Member Lander – to require the City to produce an annual study on dangerous driving to determine which driving behaviors are associated with traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities, and to make recommendations for reducing dangerous driving.
“The City of New York has taken the lead on making streets safer and getting dangerous drivers off the road, so with the State Senate’s abdication on speed safety cameras, we need more action at the local level,” said Amy Cohen, founding member of Families for Safe Streets. “We give our fullest support to any City Council proposals which will protect New Yorkers from the anguish our families have experienced.”
“Because Senate Republicans won’t be moved to protect schoolchildren from reckless drivers, we need to do whatever we can to protect our kids when they head back to class this September,” said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “Until the Senate acts to renew and expand the city’s life-saving speed safety camera program, we’ll work with the City Council to tame drivers and prevent needless carnage on our streets however we can.”
“The driver who hit me faced no consequences even though cameras caught his license plate, because current NYPD policy is take no action unless the driver in addition to the vehicle is identified,” said Bernadette Karna, a crash victim who battled her way back from life-threatening injuries inflicted by a hit-and-run driver in 2016 and member of Families for Safe Streets. “If Intro 971 and 972 had been law then, the City could have taken the vehicle off the road until the owner accepted responsibility.”
“Intro 971 targets the thousands of cars used to commit five or more dangerous violations per year, whose drivers were apparently undeterred by the now-expired camera enforcement program,” said Steve Vaccaro, an attorney at Vaccaro & White representing crash victims. “By taking those vehicles off the road until the responsible driver undergoes safety training, the bill would provide a critical line of defense until, and after, the program is renewed.”