CYCLE OF RAGE: Another Ticking Time Bomb Goes Off in Park Slope

Be on the lookout!
Be on the lookout!

The injuries were light. The outrage is heavy.

A Park Slope pedestrian was struck and injured recently by the driver of a Honda — a car that had been slapped with nine camera-issued speeding tickets and three red light tickets in less than two years.

The reason that the driver was even behind the wheel that day speaks volumes about why New York’s roads are so dangerous — even though the identity of the most reckless drivers are known to city officials. Before the June 9 crash, all but four of those $50 camera-issued tickets had been paid, so the driver was free to keep on driving.

“Our elected just don’t care that people speed, run red lights, block intersections and hit people,” said Kim Brettland, who witnessed the crash and posted the driver’s egregious record on Twitter. “There’s no way this would fly in Germany or the Netherlands.”

It flies here because there remains no simple mechanism for getting repeatedly reckless drivers off the road. Camera-issued tickets don’t count against a driver’s license. As long as tickets are paid, the sheriff doesn’t tow away the cars of reckless drivers. And the city has a requirement that drivers with more than 15 speeding or five red-light tickets in a year complete a safe-driving course. But only a fraction of the thousands of drivers who have met that threshold have been ordered to take the course. (Chart below is 2021; use filter to select this year, which is only six months old.)

Meanwhile, the state bill that extended the hours of speed camera operation to all day, every day, originally included a provision to increase the fines for repeat offenses, but City Council leaders balked and did not sign off on that provision as the bill was being negotiated in Albany.

“It was in the bill and I told the DOT that it seemed reasonable to me, but when we got to the end of [the legislative] session, I never saw that provision again,” said Assembly Member Bill Magnarelli (D-Syracuse). “The home rule message from the Council did not include it and that was the end of it.”

Other bills in Albany that would have counted speed- or red-light camera tickets also died in Albany, also lacking home rule messages from the City Council.

“It’s pretty clear that if your first ticket was $100 and then the second was $500 and then the third was $1,000, people wouldn’t speed,” said Brettland.

In the June 9 crash at the corner of Union Street and Sixth Avenue, it is unclear if the driver was speeding, though another witness said he ran a red light. The victim was struck by the front of the car, flew up onto the windshield and then was dumped onto the street, Brettland said. He wasn’t badly hurt, but the next victim may not be so lucky.

“It’s like that 3-month-old baby who was killed in Fort Greene by the driver with 91 speeding tickets,” Brettland said. “Why was that driver on the road with a record like that? That’s a choice by government to not hold drivers accountable. That in itself is negligence.”

Brettland couldn’t help but muse about the next victim of the driver of this Honda. “Maybe it’ll be me or my kid,” she said. “It’s fucking infuriating that there are literally NO CONSEQUENCES for hitting people.”

The NYPD declined to say if the driver in the June 9 crash was charged. Council Speaker Adrienne Adams declined to comment for this story.

Meanwhile, Magnarelli says he hopes that the legislature can pass escalating fines in the next session.

“I believe in cameras,” he said. “If you’re breaking the law and you’re caught, you get a fine. That’s fine. The laws are there to be enforced.”