Albany Leaders Can Save Lives By Including Speed Cameras in Their Budget. Will They?

Traffic violence victims and AARP pressed legislative leaders to expand NYC's automated speed enforcement program as budget negotiations conclude.

Photo: @AARPNY
Photo: @AARPNY

Victims of traffic violence and their loved ones are in Albany today to convince lawmakers to authorize more life-saving speed enforcement cameras for New York City in the state budget.

Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives, along with AARP, delivered 4,000 signatures to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie asking for an expansion of the program, which has been capped at 140 locations since 2014. Heastie’s conference supports the speed camera expansion — the question is whether the speaker will successfully work it into the final budget deal.

As it stands, Albany restricts camera locations to streets that abut a school entrance and limits their operation to school hours. Though cameras reduce speeding by 63 percent where present, the city is permitted a relative handful of cameras to cover 2,000 schools and 6,000 miles of streets.

Eighty-five percent of traffic deaths and severe injuries happen at locations and times when camera enforcement isn’t allowed. Unless state lawmakers renew it, the program will expire altogether this year.

The Assembly’s budget proposal included language that would permit the city to add 150 camera locations to the current 140, allow cameras to be sited anywhere within a quarter-mile radius of a school, and extend the program through 2021.

But the State Senate has so far introduced no speed camera legislation this session. Brooklyn rep Marty Golden, one of the Senate’s most influential members, is a habitual reckless driver whose car has been ticketed several times for speeding in school zones.

If the Assembly’s speed cam proposal, known as the Every School Speed Camera Act, is included in the final budget, negotiations over standalone legislation later in the session won’t be necessary. Senators including Golden and Simcha Felder have repeatedly blocked such bills in previous sessions.

With Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders expected to wrap up a budget deal by the end of the week, traffic safety advocates are asking Heastie to press hard for the cameras in budget talks. We should know in the next couple of days whether Albany will let NYC expand the use of this proven, life-saving technology.