The Case for Speed Cameras

Despite all the hoopla and controversy, speed cameras may soon be a reality for the five boroughs of New York City. Recognizing this, many have been outspoken in opposition of their installation including a number of fellow elected officials in New York. I would like to address their concerns as well as highlight the reasons behind my support. I am currently co-sponsoringthe legislation proposing a trial installation of these cameras for all of New York City, and it is my hope that local law makers and people throughout the country consider rationally the benefits of speed cameras as safety tools.

Most opponents argue that mechanical flaws and hardware glitches will cause too many unfair issues for drivers. Others state that this is just yet another way for government to increase revenue and that speed cameras haven't been proven effective by other municipalities that utilize them. In talking to many opponents of these cameras, their argument, more often than not, whittles down to nothing more than they've become accustomed to speeding and therefore feel it is their inherent right to continue to break the law.

Let's be clear here: there is no such thing as "responsible speeding," just as there is no justification for drag racing! If you don't believe me, than ask any number of parents who have lost a child to a contest for speed or other reckless driving, such as speeding.

The proposed legislation is only a trial run with a built-in sunset date. The test period is for a definitively set time span of five years. Following the end of the trial, a report on the camera's effectiveness will be issued to the state legislature and made public as well. Only after careful review of the report can we really have a true perspective of how well speed cameras will work in our area, if at all.

To address the opponents' fears of equipment errors, we have included measures to prevent over-ticketing drivers. The proposed legislation for New York City is intended to stop extreme speeding and provides for hardware glitches by giving drivers a 10 mile-per-hour leeway as a good preventative measure. Ten miles per hour will more than compensate for any issues regarding calibration of cameras or speedometers. Anything higher than ten miles per hour and it's comparable to granting drivers permission to exceed the speed limit and break the law. Studies have shown that once a driver is exceeding ten miles per hour over the speed limit, the safety risk for other drivers and pedestrians is greatly increased.

First and foremost, any perceived flaws are by far outweighed by the numerous safety measures brought on by their use. As an elected official, I have received numerous calls from concerned constituents and many others about speeding in their neighborhoods. In order to address these concerns, I have advocated for additional red lights, stop signs and speed bumps. Speed cameras are another useful tool to help prevent speeding and uncalled for safety risks.

Speed cameras are not a revenue raising scheme. As in other jurisdictions, we expect that the cost associated with the installation and maintenance will be generally equivalent to any revenue that is generated by tickets. The cameras will be strategically placed in known high speed areas -- they are simply designed to be a deterrent for speeding drivers and increase caution on dangerous roadways, nothing more and nothing less. In fact, revenue decreases as drivers become aware of the camera locations -- because less people speed, so less tickets are issued -- proving that the cameras work. In point of fact, the city of New York would be lucky if it breaks even on this pilot program. Besides, what sin has really been committed if a municipality profits from catching and prosecuting criminals who put others in harm's way?

The statistics show that speed cameras have been proven useful tools by the12 other U.S. states that currently employ them as well as Washington D.C., Canada, Australia, Italy and the United Kingdom. Washington D.C., for example, has reported that the number of drivers aggressively speeding has significantly decreased from 17 percent to 1.9 percent since the speed cameras were installed. Overseas, the United Kingdom found that speed cameras reduced the number of those killed or seriously injured by 40 percent, reduced collisions by 33 percent, and reduced speeding by an astounding 71 percent at the sites the cameras had been installed. More locally, we now know that in New York City there are more deaths attributed to speeding each year than drunk driving and drugged driving combined. It is my hope that the benefits seen by other municipalities utilizing speed cameras will be replicated not only in Staten Island, but throughout all of New York City.

Opponents often do not differentiate between red light cameras and speed cameras, but there are many distinctive characteristics and safety features. Speed cameras will attempt to make drivers slow down and proceed with caution through higher risk areas. This will create a safer environment for pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers sharing the road. On the other hand, red light cameras seem to encourage drivers to either quickly slam on their brakes or speed through an intersection to avoid a possible ticket -- even before the traffic light has even changed to red. By overreacting for fear of a fine, other drivers may not react as quickly or in the same manner, thus creating needless safety risks and accidents.

While some may argue that local police officers should be correcting drivers instead of cameras, the proposed legislation is meant to assist law enforcement in their job to ensure safety. With the exception of the NYPD's Highway Patrol Unit and a select few specialized units, most New York City police officers are not trained or equipped with radar speed detection. Should an officer issue a citation for assuming a citizen was speeding, his or her testimony would be severely compromised due to a lack of evidence. While the officer's case would likely be dismissed because of speculation, speed cameras provide picture proof of the infraction taking place.

Speed cameras save our police force time and energy so they can be out giving other dangerous jobs priority. Therefore the argument could be made that speed cameras are not a revenue generating scheme, but rather a cost savings initiative.

The risks associated with speeding and reckless driving are not geographical. It is my hope that all local government and their representatives give speed cameras the opportunity to save lives by providing safer roadways across America.