Transportation Alternatives’ recent report, “Executive Order: A Mayoral Strategy for Traffic Safety,” confirms with hard data what is apparent to anyone who has walked, ridden a bicycle, or driven in New York City recently: that the streets can resemble a scene from Escape from New York, with little enforcement of the most basic traffic laws such as speeding and failing to yield.
Even as the number of traffic fatalities resulting from speeding grew by 11% and those resulting from failing to yield jumped by 26% from 2005 to 2007, summonses written for those violations fell by 22% and 12%, respectively. According to TA’s analysis, the odds of a New York City driver receiving a speeding ticket are 1 in 12,968. A driver in NYC could fail to yield every day and get a ticket only once in 1,589 years.
Some of the report’s recommendations include creating an Office of Road Safety in charge of reducing traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities; deploying police to areas with frequent crashes; and closing DMV loopholes that allow dangerous drivers to avoid license suspension. These recommendations were sent to Mayor Bloomberg in an open letter signed by Transportation Alternatives, TSTC, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and 21 other individuals and organizations (the letter appears on page 5 of the report).
“Force Multiplier”: The Case for Red-Light Cameras
The report has been broadly covered in Streetsblog and the mainstream media since its release earlier this month. But the data on red light running could use more attention, as it makes a strong case for enforcement cameras.
Like other violators of traffic law, red light runners aren’t caught often. The state comptroller has estimated that over 1,700 red-light-running violations occur every minute during a typical workday in NYC. But in 2007, TA found, only 2,711 tickets were issued for red light running every day.
Still, that’s up significantly from 2006, before legislation was passed in December of that year authorizing the city to double the number of red light cameras to 100. After that increase, the number of red light running summonses issued by police and cameras more than doubled, from about 429,000 in 2006 to more than 989,500 in 2007, according to the TA report and an unpublished report from NYCDOT.
The vast majority of those violations were issued by cameras. New York City’s 100 red-light cameras were responsible for 95.5% of red light summonses in 2007, though they monitor only a small fraction of the city’s more than 12,300 signalized intersections. They also deter would-be red light runners, with the NYCDOT report showing that violations at monitored intersections have dropped over time.
The state legislature recently passed legislation which will increase the number of red-light cameras in NYC to 150 and allow other municipalities in the state to install cameras. This is a step in the right direction, but the report clearly demonstrates the value of installing more cameras. As Richard Retting of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes in the report, “automated enforcement is a force multiplier” that can help tame the city’s out-of-control traffic while freeing up limited resources at the shrinking NYPD.
Image: TSTC infographic. Summonses numbers have been rounded to nearest hundred.