Will Bill Bratton Make an Anti-Speeding PSA Like This?

A new anti-speeding PSA from DC police chief Cathy Lanier could be a good model for once and future NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton. Speeding is the leading cause of fatal crashes in New York City, and DC provides a model — starting with a video like this one.

Lanier, standing in front of a bank of screens showing busy roads, gives a stern warning to drivers. “High-speed collisions are much more deadly than other collisions,” she says. The video shows signs with DC’s 25 mph citywide speed limit. “When you have significant speeds involved, typically there are fatalities, and multiple fatalities,” Lanier says.

DDOT director Terry Bellamy and MPD Detective Joe Diliberto join Lanier in the video. “It’s a bad decision that’s made by the operator. Many of these collisions could have been avoided if it wasn’t for the speeding,” Diliberto says. “We’re all working toward zero deaths in DC, because every life counts.”

DC’s goal of eliminating traffic deaths sounds a lot like Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero promise. DC, which has far more extensive automated speed enforcement than NYC, is making the target look achievable. Traffic fatalities have fallen 76 percent since 2001 [PDF], to 19 last year. DC’s current traffic fatality rate is on par with New York’s, but its recent progress has been faster. Last year, when fatalities rose both in New York and nationwide, DC’s continued to drop.

DC has more than 130 cameras across the city to catch drivers who are speeding and running red lights, as well as turning right on red, rolling through stop signs, not yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, and blocking intersections. DC’s cameras also fine truckers for driving overweight vehicles and using restricted roads.

Here in New York, Albany has set caps on traffic enforcement by allowing only 150 red light cameras and 20 speed cameras. If New York, with a population more than 13 times that of DC, had as many automated enforcement cameras per capita as our nation’s capital, there would be more than 1,700 cameras catching dangerous drivers in the city.

As Gotham Gazette pointed out this week, Albany is a major roadblock to the city’s efforts to ensure the safety of its own streets. De Blasio has called for home rule over the city’s use of traffic cameras, instead of having to regularly ask Albany for a few at a time. State lawmakers will be loathe to give up such leverage. Convincing Albany to give the city control over automated enforcement will require a concerted and high-profile campaign.

The top priority for de Blasio in Albany is to enact an income tax hike on high earners to fund universal pre-kindergarten. As de Blasio’s team maps out its future priorities, will it launch similar home rule campaigns for automated speeding enforcement?

If Bratton made a video like Lanier’s, it would be an early signal that the de Blasio administration is serious about its street safety campaign promises.