Speeding drivers beware: Cameras back in school zones
Just in the nick of time, before 1.1 million students return to school, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill on Tuesday allowing the city to once again hit drivers with tickets for speeding in school zones.
Under a law that went into effect immediately after de Blasio signed it, the owners of vehicles caught by a camera in a school zone exceeding the speed limit by more than 10 miles an hour will be slapped with a $50 ticket.
The bill was signed Sept. 4, one day before the opening of city schools on Sept. 5.
The law is currently enforced at 140 school zones. De Blasio announced that the city will be expanding the use of speed cameras to another 150 school zones, bringing the total number to 290.
Tuesday’s bill signing was the result of an agreement brokered by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson between de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to reactivate speed cameras after a state-sponsored pilot program authorizing the use of the cameras expired on July 25.
During the 2017-2018 legislative session, the Democratic-controlled state Assembly passed a bill to extend the pilot program until 2022. But the Republican-controlled state Senate did not take a vote on the bill. The legislative session ended in June.
An emergency declaration signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Aug. 27 paved the way for the city to take action.
In the executive order, the governor authorized the New York state Department of Motor Vehicles to permit New York City to have access to records kept by the agency on drivers recorded speeding on camera.
The council then took a vote authorizing the cameras to operate and de Blasio signed the council’s bill.
The two actions, the governor’s emergency declaration and the council’s vote, amounted to an end-run around the state Senate. Normally, state legislation would be required to issue summonses to speeding drivers caught on camera. Cuomo’s emergency declaration changed that equation, giving the city the green light to take action.
“The clock has been ticking, and the state Senate has refused to provide speed cameras to protect the lives of our school children,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We refuse to let their politics endanger our children, so the city is stepping up to provide these life-saving tools just in time for when 1.1 million children return to school.”
Educators, police officials, transportation safety advocates and health care experts all expressed relief that the speed cameras were back in operation.
“As 1.1 million students return to school for the start of a new year, I’m relieved that this life-saving safety measure will be in place in more school zones than ever before,” Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza said.
“Turning the speed cameras back on in time for the start of school will save lives and protect our students, parents and staff,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers.
NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas M. Chan called the new law bill a major accomplishment.”Speed cameras play a critical role in keeping students, school staff and families safe, and losing them would have been devastating,” he said.
Speed camera proponents said they have data on their side.
Speed cameras have reduced traffic injuries by 17 percent, according to the city’s Department of Transportation. Speeding in schools zones has decreased by 63 percent since the cameras were installed. And 81 percent of drivers who received one speed camera-related ticket never get another summons.
“The issue of pedestrian and bicyclist safety on our city’s streets must be viewed and treated as a public health crisis,” said Dr. Nicholas Gavin, chief of Emergency Medicine at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn. “When we have chosen to address public health issues in the past, whether it be smoking or the opioid crisis, we have chosen to use multi-faceted interventions that are proven to be effective. Speed safety cameras around our schools are proven solutions that make the streets safer for our children.”
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