City Council holds emergency hearing on speed cameras

Frustrated and angry at the State Senate’s lack of action on speed cameras, members of the City Council held an emergency hearing on Aug. 15 to see what if anything can be done at the local level to combat dangerous drivers.

At the hearing, led by the Transportation Committee, councilmembers put forth a non-binding resolution calling on the state legislature to re-authorize the state’s speed camera program and announced a renewed effort to secure passage of series of bills aimed at cracking down on speeding drivers.

“The City of New York has taken the lead on making streets safer and getting dangerous drivers off the road. So with the State Senate’s abdication on speed safety cameras, we need more action at the local level,” said Amy Cohen, a founding member of the group Families for Safe Streets. 
The proposed legislation includes a bill that would escalate the penalties for drivers with multiple violations for speeding and running red lights. Another bill would require doctors to report medical conditions of patients at high risk of suddenly losing consciousness behind the wheel.

Councilmember Brad Lander, a Democrat who represents Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and parts of Borough Park, has introduced two bills under the title “Reckless Driver Accountability Act.”

One bill would allow the city to boot or impound cars from drivers who accumulate five or more red-light and speed camera violations within a year. The other bill would require the city to conduct an annual study on dangerous driving and make recommendations for reducing it.

  There are 140 speed cameras mounted in school zones around the city. The cameras snapped photos of the license plate of a speeding vehicle. The vehicle’s owner was then sent a summons in the mail.

But the cameras were turned off last month. The devices were installed under a pilot program authorized by the state legislature in 2013.The pilot program was meant to last only five years and expired on July 25.

During the legislative session, the Democratic-dominated state Assembly passed a bill authorizing the extension of the speed cameras program to 2022. That bill would have also increased the number of cameras on the streets to 290.

The Republican-led State Senate did not take a vote, leaving the bill in limbo. The legislative session ended in June.

The city cannot install and operate the speed cameras on its own. State legislation is required.

With the new school year set to begin in less than a month, efforts to get the state Senate to move are intensifying.

“The Reckless Driver Accountability Act will help us change driver behavior and get reckless drivers off the road,” Lander said in a statement.

Lander expressed frustration with state lawmakers. “We’re outraged that the GOP-controlled New York State Senate cares so little about the lives of our kids,” he said.

“Implementing laws that can prevent injuries and the tragic death of children seems like common sense,” said Councilmember Alicka Ampry-Samuel, another Brooklyn Democrat, who sponsored the bill requiring doctors to report potentially dangerous patients.

Speed cameras serve as a deterrent, according to councilmembers. A study by the city’s Department of Transportation found a 63 percent drop in speeding incidents at intersections with speed cameras. Councilmembers also said 80 percent of drivers who received one speed camera-related ticket never get another one.

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