Albany to decide if NYC schools speed zone cameras get real teeth

New York City officials are once again locked in a battle with their fellow Democrats in Albany over an issue that has plagued New York’s political leaders for years: speed cameras.

There are 2,000 speed zone cameras around New York. They are only allowed to be placed within a quarter mile of a school and can automatically send a $50 ticket to the vehicle owner if their car is driven at least 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. speed. But the cameras only work from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on school days because that’s how the state bill was drafted.

With 82 road deaths so far in 2022, the city is on track to have a year as deadly – ​​if not deadlier – than 2021. (Last year was the deadliest since 2013.) could play a greater role in accident prevention. But the program could be in jeopardy if Albany lawmakers can’t agree to renew it by June 2.

A bill introduced by State Sen. Andrew Gounardes would renew the program, but could also give school speed zone cameras more teeth to crack down on reckless driving.

For example, if a driver is caught speeding more than five times in two years, that driver’s information will be sent to their insurer by the Department of Motor Vehicles. A sixth offense would result in the suspension of the driver’s license for 90 days.

Although Gounardes himself admits those particular changes are unlikely to happen this year, he said he is confident other changes in his bill have a better chance, such as extending the hours of speed cameras. beyond the school day. Another could be a new fines structure that increases for repeat violations.

“I am reasonably confident that the Legislative Assembly will renew the speed camera program and at a minimum extend the hours of operation 24/7,” Sen. Gounardes told Gothamist. “And we’re still discussing ways to crack down on repeat drivers.”

In 2018, Republican state lawmakers waited for the school speed zone bill to be renewed and used it as bargaining chips for a variety of unrelated issues. The bill didn’t pass in time and cameras failed to issue tickets for nearly two months until it finally passed the state senate.

“Admittedly, I don’t think anyone in any of my conversations has articulated anything close to this type of horse trading,” Gounardes said. “Being seen as playing politics with something that you know is black and white, those things work, that’s part of the solution. I haven’t spoken to a single person who wants to play politics with this kind of politics.

Mayor Eric Adams and his supporters have called on lawmakers to give New York City a “rule of the house”, which would allow the city to decide how many speed cameras to place in the city and how they should be placed. run — as well as setting the speed limit — but that doesn’t seem to have substantial support from Albany lawmakers.

Currently, under the New York State constitution, these types of decisions are made by state legislators in the Assembly and Senate, not by local municipalities.

So far this year, 39 pedestrians and three cyclists have been killed on city streets, about the same number as this time last year, according to the city’s transportation ministry. However, there is a significant increase in the number of drivers killed, with 28 fatalities compared to 15 last year at this time. The DOT said this is indicative of dangerous driving on city streets. The remaining deaths in this year’s tally were in other motorized vehicles such as motorcycles.

“We need all the tools at our disposal to save lives and tackle the rise in the number of reckless drivers,” Transport Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said at a city council hearing on Thursday.

The DOT said it also hoped the state legislature would allow the city to install cameras in bike lanes that constrain vehicles parking in them and increase the number of red light cameras. Currently, cameras that automatically issue tickets for vehicles equipped with red light cameras can operate at 1% of city intersections, per Albany law. This equates to approximately 223 cameras at 150 intersections.

There are only nine working days left in the legislative session.

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