NEW YORK—At the intersection of Riverdale Avenue and 256th Street in the Bronx, 96% of cars speed through faster than the 30 mph speed limit. On that intersection sits P.S. 81, with 691 elementary school students.
Now Mayor Michael Bloomberg hopes a new bill passed by the NY state legislature will get cars there to slow down. That bill would allow the installation of speed cameras in up to 20 school zones throughout New York City. The cameras would catch speeding drivers, identifying them by license plate. Drivers going more than 10 mph above the speed limit would be recorded automatically and get a fine in the mail, starting at $50.
“This city is safer because of this legislation, and particularly it’s our kids that are safer,” said Bloomberg at a press conference in the library of P.S. 81 on Tuesday.
In New York City last year, 148 pedestrians were killed in traffic accidents—many of them by speeding motorists.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said that a pedestrian struck by a car traveling at 40 mph has only a 30% chance of surviving. But if the car were going 30 mph—the legal speed limit in most of New York City—the pedestrian has an 80% chance of surviving.
“Something as simple as a camera can save lives,” Sadik-Khan said.
Due to New York state law, installing these speed cameras is a state issue, not a city issue. Getting this bill passed in the legislature has been a tough battle for Bloomberg and New York State Senate co-leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx/Westchester), one of the bill’s sponsors. An earlier draft of the bill called for 40 speed cameras throughout the city, but it met with too much political resistance. By cutting the number of cameras in half and focusing exclusively on school zones, it got through. It was passed Friday by the Assembly, and early Saturday morning after a late-night Senate session.
It is still opposed by one group: the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. This police officers’ union says instead of installing cameras, the city should hire more police officers who can also be on the lookout for other crimes.
Nonetheless, the bill is expected to be signed into law shortly by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“I think people are going to think twice before they speed at a school, before they hit that accelerator, when they know they’re going to get caught by a speed camera,” said Klein.
Sadik-Khan said various engineering tests still need to be carried out, but that the first of these school zone cameras will be installed before the end of 2013.