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Council Committee Greenlights Speed Cameras and Tougher Ticketing

By Dennis Zhou | March 19, 2013 5:41pm
 The City Council Transportation committee gave a thumbs up to legislation that would bring speed cameras to the city and make it easier for cops to ticket drivers in crashes.
The City Council Transportation committee gave a thumbs up to legislation that would bring speed cameras to the city and make it easier for cops to ticket drivers in crashes.
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Flickr/Linus Henning

CITY HALL — City Council members are looking to put the brakes on speeders and reckless drivers with a key committee giving the thumbs up Tuesday to speed cameras and a measure that would allow cops to ticket drivers for accidents they didn't witness.

The move comes as traffic fatalities spiked to 274 in 2012, a 12 percent increase from the year before and highest number since 2008, according to data released by the city's Department of Transportation.

“People doing 50-60 miles an hour on side streets bordering schools and senior centers belong at the Daytona 500 and off our city streets," said James Vacca, the chair of the transportation committee. "They are posing a public danger to our people.”

Both speed cameras and traffic enforcement laws are under the jurisdiction of the state, but the city has to approve them as well.

The council's transportation committee voted 10-1 to pass a resolution urging the the state to pass legislation that would allow the city to set up a pilot program to test speed cameras in at-risk locations, such as schools and senior centers.

According to DOT officials, speeding was a factor in 30 percent of all traffic fatalities and was a particular problem in school zones.

“Just like speed bumps and stop signs, and all those things that so many of us fight for on a daily basis, speed cameras can and will be an effective tool in slowing drivers down,” said Queens City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, the resolution's chief sponsor.

“Even 5-10 miles slower can result in a serious injury as opposed to death.”

A pilot program to install 20 speed cameras in school zones was passed as part of the state assembly's budget bill and Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports adopting a similar program in the city, according to the Daily News.

But the state Senate did not, meaning that it might not show up in the final budget, the state said.

Some criticized the measure, saying that it was an attempt to generate revenue for the city, a criticism leveled against the state's red light camera program.

“I just think this is the wrong approach,” Councilman Vincent Ignizio, who represents Staten Island. “This is more about revenue generation than it is about curtailing speeding.”

Ignizio, the lone dissenter, proposed a two-strike policy instead, where speeders would receive warnings first and bills only for repeat offenses.

Councilwoman Deborah Rose, who also represents Staten Island, gave a thumbs up to the resolution, but was worried that not enough speed limit signs existed to inform drivers of the law.

The committee also unanimously approved a resolution pushing for legislation that would allow cops to ticket drivers in incidents that they didn't witness.

The legislation would strengthen "Hayley & Diego's Law," a measure spurred by the death of two children by those names in Chinatown in 2009, allowing drivers to be ticketed in crashes where a pedestrian or cyclist were killed.

The measure, passed by the state Senate's transportation committee Tuesday, would allow cops to cite drivers for "failure to exercise due care" even if they didn't witness the accident.

Both resolutions will go to the full council for a vote on Wednesday.