Last Tuesday, both the Assembly and State Senate passed legislation to expand the speed-camera program to 750 school zones throughout the five boroughs. The bill also establishes a similar pilot program in Buffalo.
The previous program only covered 140 school zones, representing just seven percent of all New York City school children.
With this legislation, all elementary schools and the majority of middle schools in the city will have speed cameras operating on weekdays between 6 and 10 a.m. School zones are limited to a radius of 1,320 feet from a school building, entrance or exit.
The city will also be required to install signs giving notice that a speed camera is in use.
“These bills will help keep our students, families and school staff safe around schools,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
According to data from the Department of Transportation (DOT), speeding reduced by 63 percent in areas with speed cameras. Traffic injuries also fell by 14 percent.
The risk of a pedestrian being killed by a vehicle increases from five percent, at a speed of 20 miles per hour, to 45 percent, at 30 miles per hour.
“The numbers don’t lie,” said State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “Speed cameras work.”
The passage of the legislation culminated a years-long push from safe streets advocates, including people who have lost loved ones to traffic crashes. Amy Cohen, a founding member of the group Families for Safe Streets, called the traffic fatalities a “preventable epidemic.”
“It’s on par with gun violence and the opioid epidemic,” she said. “It’s a silent killer. No one ever really talks about it.”
Cohen lost her son 12-year-old son Sammy to a reckless driver in October 2013. She noted that in the past two-and-a-half months alone, 34 New Yorkers, from pedestrians and cyclists to drivers, have been killed in traffic accidents.
“We stand committed to fighting until we have ended this epidemic,” she said.
State lawmakers said hearing the stories of people who have lost their family members to traffic fatalities helped make street safety among their top priorities.
“I can only imagine the pain they must go through, having to face everyday what happened,” Heastie said. “But at least today we know what happened to those wonderful children won’t be in vain.”
Brooklyn State Senator Andrew Gounardes, the bill’s sponsor, said he lost family members to unsafe streets, making the issue deeply personal.
“We can talk about the stats and figures and the data points, but until you look in someone’s eyes and they tell you they lost a loved one to a traffic crash, you can’t fathom what those figures mean,” he said. “Figures mean nothing without the human stories behind them.
“No one should live in fear of crossing the street,” Gounardes added. “No one should live in fear of strolling down a parkway or walking down a boulevard.”
The location of the 750 speed cameras will be determined by DOT, which will use speeding data, traffic data, history of crashes and other factors to determine the placements.
“We do expect, with this legislation, that we’ll get to every school that has any kind of a speeding program,” said Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “Any one where the data sends us.”
Trottenberg added that the city is working on a new contract now, and expects for the implementation to take two to three years.
“We’re committed to moving as quickly as possible,” she said.