OPINION: Speed cameras are essential for safer streets
Walking helps prevent diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, fractures and more. But for too many older New Yorkers, the threat of reckless, impatient drivers turning city streets into speedways means that simply walking around the neighborhood can be more hazardous than healthy.
Fortunately, a silent squad of enforcers that get drivers to ease off the gas has protected an increasing number of New Yorkers during the past few years.
Speed safety cameras, which photograph the license plates of drivers going at least 11 miles per hour over the speed limit, have reduced speeding by about 60 percent at schools where they have been stationed. Better yet, they are changing driving behaviors — getting drivers to slow down for good. Data shows that more than 80 percent of drivers who get one or two $50 tickets from the cameras don’t get a third within two years.
These cameras have been a crucial part of the New York City Vision Zero program’s street safety package, which has reduced pedestrian deaths by 45 percent since 2014. Still, last year, 51 people over the age of 65 were killed while walking in the city, with speed being a major contributor to crashes. Others suffered needless pain and disability after being hit by drivers disobeying the speed limit. Clearly, there is more work to be done.
Step one is for the New York state Legislature to reauthorize the speed safety camera program. If lawmakers don’t act soon to renew the program, it will expire this summer — and the lives of residents and visitors, old and young, will be put at needless risk.
But beyond reauthorization, the program should be expanded. Increasing the number of school zones where the City can install cameras will help lower the number of New Yorkers of all ages hurt or killed.
Right now, even if a busy road is near a school, a camera is only authorized to operate if the building’s entrance is also on that street. Legislation being considered by state lawmakers would allow more flexibility in the placement of the cameras, so that they can go to where they are most needed within a quarter-mile of the school. That means more protection for kids and adults alike on large arterials roads where speeding is a problem.
AARP has joined with advocates for families and children in supporting this legislation, and we applaud state Sen. Marty Golden of Brooklyn for his important co-sponsorship of and support for the bill.
Speed safety cameras have a proven record of making streets safer through fines even lower than a ticket received from a police officer. It would seem as if every busy road in the city should have a camera. While we are far from that, the state does have the opportunity now to act to ensure the safety of more pedestrians.
Beth Finkel is AARP New York state director and a native and resident of New York City
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