Analysis: How Local Control of Traffic Enforcement Will Benefit NYC’s Streets

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The New York Times recently reported on the city’s effort to bring back a rule that would allow for local authorities to control the use of speed cameras and establish speed limits, which could be an effective way of decreasing the surge in New York City traffic violence.

A recent report by the New York Times examines the effort to bring “home rule” to New York City.  “Home rule” refers to the local control of traffic enforcement mechanisms, the use of speed cameras and the establishment of speed limits, that currently fall under state authority. City officials are currently pushing state lawmakers to turn this authority over to the city, in order to help it combat recent surges in traffic violence stemming from reckless driving behaviors.

As the Times notes, there are almost 2,000 speed cameras in 750 school zones around the city, issuing fines of $50 to the owners of cars that they identify driving more than 10mph over the speed limit. “Last year, the cameras issued 4,369,250 tickets, up from 1,287,968 tickets in 2017,” according to the Times. However, city law required that these cameras turn off from 10pm to 6am, which is why advocates for local control sought authority to operate them 24/7. (The Times report notes that after it was published, state lawmakers “reached a tentative agreement to extend the speed camera program in the city for three years and to keep the cameras on 24 hours a day, seven days a week, pending a vote and official support from the City Council.”)

Both research and empirical data suggest that speed cameras are an effective tool for reducing speeding. Studies show that “well-designed” speed camera enforcement programs “can deter drivers from running red lights, reduce speeding by up to 65 percent and help prevent up to 44 percent of serious crashes,” while New York City enforcement figures show that the issuance of speeding tickets decline “significantly” following the initial year of a program’s operation. “For instance, a camera installed in 2020 in the West Village in Manhattan now issues about 33 tickets a day compared with more than 300 tickets a day during its first month,” the Times reports.

Then there are the city’s 223 red light cameras at 150 intersections, which reportedly issued 538,541 tickets in 2017 and 555,442 in 2021. City officials are lobbying state lawmakers for the power to expand the program these cameras fall under, currently set to expire in 2024, as well as the authority to “to introduce a pilot camera program to catch drivers who block or speed in bike lanes.”

More information on the push to bring local control of traffic enforcement to New York City is available via the New York Times.

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