Mayor Bill de Blasio said he will call on the state to amend current law to allow speed cameras to operate around the clock as part of an enhanced Vision Zero plan announced Tuesday. That plan also involves a crackdown on drunken driving and public awareness campaigns.
The mayor said the new measures are needed to combat year-end data he said proves the COVID-19 pandemic led to unsafe driving speeds on emptier streets, especially on weekends.
Three-quarters of traffic deaths in 2020 happened in times or places where no automated speed enforcement is permitted under current state law, de Blasio said. More than a third of non-highway deaths happened in school-camera zones during hours when the cameras could not issue tickets, he added.
Under current state law, cameras are limited to 750 school zones citywide and can only operate between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays. Thirty-six percent of all 2020 traffic non-highway traffic deaths happened within school zones outside the hours during which speed cameras can legally issue summonses, data shows.
Furthermore, de Blasio said city data shows speed cameras are a proven safety enhancement tool. Department of Transportation statistics show that speeding has been reduced by more than 70 percent, on average, at locations where speed cameras are installed. Injuries are down 17 percent at those same locations, and two-thirds of vehicle owners who got a speed camera summons in 2019 didn't receive another one within the same calendar year.
While pedestrian fatalities are on pace to be their lowest ever in 2020, total traffic deaths have increased. This year saw a marked increase in deaths among motorists and motorcyclists, and NYPD collision reports frequently cite excessive speed as a contributing factor in fatal crashes, the mayor said.
“Emptier streets are not an invitation to drive at unsafe speeds, and we will not let drivers threaten New Yorkers’ safety without consequence,” de Blasio said Tuesday. “I’m proud to stand with partners in government across the city and state to increase enforcement and call for commonsense traffic safety reforms that let us catch bad actors, no matter when they choose to put this city at risk.”
The mayor's office has installed 720 new speed cameras this year, more than had been installed in the previous six years combined. Next year, the Department of Transportation plans to continue installing them at a rate of 60 per month, with the ultimate goal of having 2,000 cameras in place by the end of 2021. That would make New York City's speed camera program the largest in the country.
In addition to the calls for 24/7 speed camera option, de Blasio said the NYPD will step up its annual holiday enforcement, including for DWIs, in areas that have seen high rates of speeding crashes this year. The NYPD and Department of Transportation also announced a new public service education campaign on motorcycle and disabled vehicle safety as well as seatbelt reminders.