Fall 2003, p.13

Safe Streets
Speed Cameras Prove Huge Success in D.C.

D.C.'s automatic speed cameras caught 408 drivers for extreme speeding using speed cameras in 2001. This helped reduce traffic fatalities by 30%, from 71 to 50; aggressive speeding by 75%; and average speeds in 25 mph zones by 8 mph.
D.C.'s automatic speed cameras caught 408 drivers for extreme speeding using speed cameras in 2001. This helped reduce traffic fatalities by 30%, from 71 to 50; aggressive speeding by 75%; and average speeds in 25 mph zones by 8 mph.

The District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department recently released the results of its two year-old speed camera enforcement program, and the results are staggering proof that speed cameras lower speeds and save lives.

In the first 25 months of its speed camera program, D.C. issued $34 million in fines and 651,000 infraction notices. New York City, a city of 8.1 million, compared to D.C.'s 550,000, issues only approximately 100,000 speeding summons each year. In 2002 alone, D.C. officers using speed cameras nabbed 408 drivers for extreme speeding, up from a mere 75 in 2000 (pre-speed cameras). These numbers are directly related to street safety: Between 2001 and 2002, traffic fatalities fell by 30%, from 71 to 50; aggressive speeding by an eye-opening 75%; and average speeds in 25 mph zones by an impressive 8 mph.

Law enforcement agencies in more than 75 countries around the world have used speed cameras for upwards of 30 years, with similarly impressive results. The public supports speed cameras. A 1997 survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 70% of respondents supported the use of speed cameras. An even larger number of drivers-80%-supported speed cameras at frequent-crash zones, and 90% supported speed cameras in school zones.

But despite the documented public support, these impressive safety results and a drastic need for cameras at high-profile drag strips and pedestrian death traps, New York City currently has no speed cameras, and the campaign to get them is in bureaucratic and legislative limbo. T.A. has long advocated a citywide speed camera program similar to New York City's highly effective and praised red light camera program, in which 50 cameras-soon to be 100-catch deadly red-light runners around the city. To their credit, Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City Department of Transportation have also been persistent advocates for red light and speed cameras. However, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of Lower Manhattan has allowed years of foot-dragging by upstate assemblymembers on speed cameras despite his powerful position, which means that it may be years before New Yorkers see the safety benefits of these cameras.

Speed cameras are] "a major element in our overall strategy to prevent needless injuries and deaths on the streets of the District of Columbia by reducing the number of aggressive driving incidents." - Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey

Impact speed and severity of injury

What New York City should be doing:

  • The Mayor and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver need to push strong to pass speed camera legislation in Albany.
  • The City should unveil an anti-speeding advertising campaign similar to San Francisco's recent highly successful campaign.
  • The NYPD should put all traffic statistics, including pedestrian injuries and death, online.

Unfair? Big Brother? No.

  • Alleged violators still have the chance to argue their case in court.
  • All citations would be mailed within six business days of the alleged offense, reasonable notice also given in other locations.
  • Only the license plates of speeding vehicles are photographed.
  • The motoring public is accustomed to red light camera, and approves of them. Speed cameras are no different.

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NYC Safety Ads Stuck

The City of San Francisco recently launched a hard-hitting traffic safety media campaign. It hired a marketing firm to create bus shelter posters that remind motorists that speeding kills. New York City should follow suit and create a prominent "Kill Your Speed, Not a Child" safety campaign.

Read the latest news on this subject.