Goundardes takes lead with life-saving red light camera bill, responding to startling statistics on street deaths

State Senate passes bill to quadruple number of cameras

June 11, 2024 Special from State Senator Andrew Gounardes
Crowds of diverse people cross the busy intersection on 23rd Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan with rush hour traffic in the background.
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New York City has the highest pedestrian density in the U.S., with households without cars edging out households with car owners. It’s crucial for elected officials to protect foot travelers to keep NYC a walkable city.

New York State Sen. Andrew Gounardes released the following statement recently after the State Senate voted to pass his legislation to renew and expand New York City’s red light camera program from 150 to 600 intersections:

“By expanding the number of life-saving red light cameras to 600, we’re quadrupling the size of New York City’s existing program. This expansion will save lives, and it’s a win for all New Yorkers. 

All New Yorkers should be able to cross the street wherever they live without fearing they might be killed by a driver running a light.

“We’re facing a traffic safety crisis on our streets. In 2023, 56% of all traffic fatalities in the city happened at intersections. The logic behind red-light cameras is simple: most drivers don’t run red lights. And those drivers, along with everyone else, are safer when the ones who do are held accountable.

“Three decades of data makes it clear: red light cameras reduce crashes and change driver behavior. But right now, the City’s Department of Transportation operates these cameras at just 1% of the city’s 13,500 intersections. If we found the antidote to a deadly illness, would we give it to only 1% of patients? Of course not.

“All New Yorkers should be able to cross the street wherever they live without fearing they might be killed by a driver running a light. This expansion brings us one step closer to a future where our streets are truly safe for everyone.”

USA, New York, Manhattan streets. Skyscrapers and crowded streets, cars and busy people walking downtown in a spring sunny day
NYC’s busy sidewalks. Photo: Rawf8/Adobe Stock

Background with frightening statistics:

Between 2020 and 2023, 101 New Yorkers lost their lives to red light running. 2023 saw the highest annual total of people killed in red light running crashes ever recorded: 29 fatalities — more than double the average annual total of such deaths from the previous decade.

The program has been effective at deterring drivers from running red lights. The average daily number of red light running violations issued at camera locations has declined by 73% since the program began in 1994.

Overall, there was a 65% reduction in deadly right-angle (or T-bone) crashes at intersections with red light cameras. And although there has been concern that red light cameras would lead to an increase in rear-end collisions, NYC saw a 49% decrease in these types of crashes as well.

A close up to a traffic speed Camera or red light camera on a sunny day with a blue sky.
A red light camera. Photo: oasisamuel/Adobe Stock

Like other indicators of reckless driving, red light running has increased in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic. Red light cameras have seen a 54% increase in the number of daily violations issued since 2020.

Most drivers obey the law, but a small percentage are dangerous frequent offenders. Less than 0.5% of drivers who receive a red light camera violation receive five or more. Research has shown that drivers who receive five or more red light camera violations are three times more likely to be involved in a crash that causes injury.

The expansion comes alongside other recent street safety and transportation victories, including the passage of Sammy’s Law as well as $4.2 billion in funding in the state budget for the MTA, which includes money specifically dedicated to improving bus service.

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