S-COP-LAWS, CONT’D: Police Personnel Drive a Lot Worse than Everyday People

To protect and swerve.

Police officers drive their personal cars about twice as recklessly as the general population, a new Streetsblog investigation reveals.

Coming on the heels of 12 days of intense coverage of police officers’ poor driving records, we decided to compare cops to the regular folk that they’re supposed to be protecting. We chose two random blocks — one in Park Slope, one in the West Village — and ran the plates of 100 residents’ parked cars through the Howsmydrivingny database and discovered that regular people drive far more safely than cops.

To wit:

  • Exactly 36 percent of the normal people’s cars had been ticketed for at least one serious moving violation — compared to the 58 percent of police officers’ personal cars.
  • And 19 percent of normal people have received a second ticket for a serious moving violation — nearly half of the 37 percent of cops who have gotten more than one serious moving violation.

full totalsAnd none of the 100 Manhattan and Brooklyn car owners exceeded eight serious moving violations — something that is common for police officers, as our ongoing investigation has found. At the top end, we found a Park Slope cop with 58 serious moving violations and one at the 23rd Precinct in East Harlem with 41. In checking the driving records of more than 800 personal vehicles parked in NYPD-only parking at a dozen station houses, we found scores of cops whose cars would be impounded under the provisions of a pending City Council bill authorizing the city to seize cars with five or more camera-issued tickets in any 12-month period.

Such a provision would easily ensnare more cops than regular citizens, Streetsblog’s investigation has revealed.

Regular people do eclipse police officers in one respect: They are more likely to receive parking tickets, such as failure to move for street cleaning or for an expired meter. Eighty-five percent of non-cops have received tickets for those non-moving infractions, compared to 77 percent for police officers — though there’s a simple explanation: non-cops do not have NYPD-issued placards that allow them to park wherever they wish.

“We’re not the least bit surprised by Streetsblog’s comparison,” the keeper of the seminal @placardabuse Twitter feed said. “We see traffic enforcements aggressively writing every possible ticket as they work their way down the block, only to skip the most dangerous violations because the perp displays a placard. When we have checked on people parked illegally with placards, sometimes chronically in the same dangerous spots, we have often found the only tickets ever issued to their vehicles were from automated cameras. And the police are so motivated to maintain their ability to drive and park however they want, no matter how dangerously, that they have opposed life-saving enforcement cameras to protect their ability to tin their way out of a stop for speeding or running a stop light.”

Officially, the NYPD has only said that it expects all its employees to follow the law as part of the agency’s commitment to Vision Zero. The numbers show that the rank-and-file has not gotten with the program with their personal driving habits.

Streetsblog’s ongoing investigation into police officers’ driving habits are all archived here.