Speed Camera Controversy in Nassau County Shows Speeding Bigger Problem than Realized

A "mobile unit" speed camera on patrol in Bethpage. | Photo: Newsday

A “mobile unit” speed camera on patrol in Bethpage. | Photo: Newsday

Late last month, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano dismissed almost $2.5 million in speed camera violations because roughly a quarter of the 40,000 tickets issued were found to be issued in error. The 56 speed cameras are to be active during school events and placed anywhere within a quarter of a mile of school.

Today, with schools back in session, those speed cameras go live again, this time with Nassau County’s elected officials calling for greater signage and giving motorists a ‘heads-up’ as to the cameras’ locations. But the real story about Nassau County’s speed cameras is being missed: speeding is an even more chronic problem in Nassau County than people initially thought.

Even if you remove the roughly 10,000 disputed tickets from the total speed camera tickets issued, the remaining 30,000 tickets, issued in just a month at a handful of locations, accounted for more speeding tickets than were issued by Nassau County police officers in all of 2012, according to Governor Cuomo’s Traffic Safety Committee.

Instead of letting motorists know where not to speed by identifying the locations of speed camera technology, Nassau County’s elected officials should hold those who routinely and deliberately jeopardize lives and threaten public safety accountable by advocating for additional speed camera technology and more flexibility to combat what is clearly an epidemic of dangerous driving on Nassau County’s roadways.

2 Comments on "Speed Camera Controversy in Nassau County Shows Speeding Bigger Problem than Realized"

  1. While I think this program has potential, its rollout and implementation left much to be desired.

    (1) For traffic control devices such as signs to be legal, they must be UNIFORM. We may not implement a law that requires you to listen to local radio and TV in advance. ALL traffic control must be done so that if you’re from Alaska, you still know at that exact moment what’s expected of you. So to say that “school days” include July-August, Monday to Thursday, 8am to noon, is ludicrous. How is anyone supposed to know? You can’t follow a law if you don’t know what the law is!

    —>> SOLUTION: Add the phrase “when flashing” and add flashing lights. OR, add variable message signs during non-standard school days that say, “SUMMER SCHOOL OPEN… SPEED LIMIT XX” Because normal people think of the school year as being September to June.

    (2) If the real issue is safety, why would someone who drives 31 mph get the same fine as someone who drive 55 mph? Shouldn’t we impose higher fines for higher speeds, especially since pedestrian safety is exponentially more threatened with higher and higher speeds?

    —>> SOLUTION: Increase fines for higher speed ranges.

    (3) School speed limits are only in effect for up to 11 hours a day (per State law they may only be in effect from 7 am to 6 pm), 180 days a year. This leaves speeds unsupervised 75% of the time. Why can’t we use these cameras to enforce the regular speed limits, the other 75% of the time? That would at least be uniform, and make it look like we actually care about speed-related safety.

    —>> SOLUTION: Use these cameras all of the time, to enforce the regular speed limit when schools are not in session.

    (4) The difference between the regular speed limit and school speed limit is not uniform at all. On a 5-lane major arterial with a 40 mph regular speed limit, the school limit could be 30 or it could be 20-25. The drop in speed has to be 10 mph at most because otherwise, you get people slamming on the brakes to cut their speed in half before reaching the cameras. And that’s the biggest threat to safety!

    This is especially problematic because drivers aren’t even aiming for the same speed as they slow down. Say the school speed limit is 20. Well, some people will aim for 29 to avoid the ticket, some people will aim for 20 to match the sign, and some people will aim for 19 or less, to be under the limit. This expands the range of speeds on the road, which is actually the most dangerous situation you can have.

    —>> SOLUTION: Keep the school speed limit within 10 mph of the regular limit, and make the cameras a 5 mph cushion 24/7 to minimize the speed variation.

    ======================================================

    The people who implemented this program may mean well. But these cameras as they were rolled out will only serve to draw contempt for speed limits in general. And studies have shown that people who believe speed limits are useless, will violate that speed limit in the absence of cameras and visible police. They’ll also accelerate as soon as possible to “make up for lost time” and none of this is good for safety.

    We need enforcement, but we need to show the public that speed limits are fair and practical.
    Otherwise, they’ll break the speed limit any chance they get.

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