TSTC Analysis: Speed Kills Near Nassau County Schools

nassau school zone

Newsday‘s Editorial Board said of the speed camera controversy in Nassau County: “No one reported an epidemic of serious accidents in school zones recently.”

However, a TSTC analysis reveals that there is in fact a high risk of being struck by a vehicle within a quarter mile of a school Nassau County. In 2012 alone, among the 37 pedestrians killed on Nassau County’s streets, 14 were hit within a quarter of a mile of school, accounting for nearly 40 percent of total pedestrian fatalities countywide. Though not everyone killed in these areas were school-age children, such a high probability of pedestrian deaths occurring near schools should raise concerns about potential traffic dangers for children, and call for more dedicated measures to enhance pedestrian safety.

Nassau County has been home to the most dangerous road in the region for pedestrians in five out of the six years since TSTC first began its Most Dangerous Roads for Walking analysis in 2008. Between 2010 and 2012, a total of 88 pedestrians were killed along roadways countywide. And according to Governor Cuomo’s Traffic Safety Committee, the 40,000 speeding tickets issued by a handful of speed cameras during the course of one month this past summer surpassed the total tickets issued by Nassau County police officers in all of 2012.

Despite the fact that a child has only a 30 percent chance of surviving being struck by a car traveling 40 mph, but an 80 percent chance of surviving if the car is traveling 30 mph, opponents to the speed camera program remain vocal. Complaints about a lack of signage indicating camera placement and confusion over whether school is in session have generated a fair share of outrage from people breaking the law.

Misguided opposition aside, the analysis highlights there is little room for debate about the need for speed cameras within a quarter mile of schools. Rather than complicating matters further by conceding to drivers’ demands regarding camera placement and visibility, Nassau County’s elected officials should be advocating for additional speed camera technology by calling for the lifting of time of day restrictions, the removal of distance-based regulations and greater measures to improve traffic safety around schools.


Editor’s note: All of Tri-State’s funding is provided by foundation sources.

10 Comments on "TSTC Analysis: Speed Kills Near Nassau County Schools"

  1. Please be more careful with drawing the conclusions you make – notwithstanding that you acknowledge that “not everyone killed in these areas were school-age children.”

    The TSTC study looks within “1/4 MILE” of a school zone – meaning, a 2,640 linear foot segment – whereas school zones are only allowed to extend up to 300 feet on either side of a school. So many of the fatalities you found, are likely outside the area where a school zone speed limit is permitted to apply.

    Next, there is no direct correlation between safety, and the number of tickets issued over the SUMMER. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, or just someone who graduated elementary school, almost no one thinks of July-August as being part of the school year, and certainly not the “some schools only, from Monday through Thursday, from 8 am to noon.” People driving at the posted speed limit of the road should not be considered “unsafe drivers.”

    Next, I notice some of these fatalities were of people who were hit “alongside the road” and not crossing the road. Wouldn’t this point to the lack of a sidewalk being the issue, and not the speed of the passing cars? Why else would pedestrians walk in the road instead of off the road?

    And finally, does TSTC know that school speed limits are the only speed limits which are permitted to be COMPLETELY ARBITRARY AS LONG AS THEY ABIDE BY A REGULATORY MINIMUM? It’s in the MUTCD and the NYS VTL.
    What does this mean? It means that regardless of whether the approaching road segments were designed to be driven at 40-plus mph, regardless of the setback of the school, regardless of the number of lanes the road has, and regardless of any other engineering-related element, the only requirement for a school speed limit is that it must be at least 15 mph. There are many (way too many) places where the drop from the posted speed limit to the school limit is 15, 20, even 25 mph less, and thus drivers must slow down significantly all at once. This creates more friction with other drivers, and is a LESS SAFE scenario than if the school speed limit is within 10 mph of the regular posted limit. Recall that the regular posted limit IS and MUST BE based on engineering considerations.

    Hence, there is NO correlation between “safety” and driving at the school speed limit when you know that school is not in session. I would find it both legally and morally wrong to advocate a 24/7 enforcement of any school speed limit for this reason.

    We don’t promote safety by demonizing people driving normally and rationally. I’m afraid that’s how these posts come across…

  2. I think both the author of this article and Rebecca’s rebuttal have valid points. I am a staunch advocate for pedestrian safety myself. One pedestrian hit by a motor vehicle is one too many. The need for sidewalks along roadways that have schools is obvious and the installation of sidewalks should be a high priority in all such locations. However, I think the practice of setting unrealistically low speed limits near schools needs to stop exactly because of the rear-end risk that Rebecca refers to. It is near impossible to slow drivers below 30 mph on almost any street on which a school would be located so although I love children and am the first to advocate for pedestrian safety, the disconnect between a pedestrian’s perceived sense of safety by the sign and reality almost gives drivers “permission” to break the law. This perceived sense of safety is the exact reason why engineers now discourage the all-too often requested in good taste “Children At Play” sign or the like. I would like to see all school speed limits be posted at 30 mph, but strictly enforced (at most a 5 mph tolerance). Yes, this would mean roads already posted at 30 mph would not have “school” speed limits but that’s okay. Drivers often react to their physical environment and not signs. I feel that uniform 30 mph limits in school areas (with the exception of areas already posted at 25 mph or slower) will bring credibility to other speed limits if this procedure is widely used and automated enforcement will deter violators and facilitate homogeneous and reasonable speeds near schools.

  3. http://humantransport.org/sidewalks/SpeedKills.htm
    Why can’t one go below 30 in a school zone? — is there a force that pushes the vehicle forward that is outside the driver’s control — I thought self driving cars are not road legal yet

  4. Mike, it makes a huge difference if the approaching speed is 30-40 and you don’t need to slow down as much, or if you’re approaching at 45-plus mph and then you have to slam on the brake to slow down by a significant amount.

    And to discuss the issue of survivability, the best survival is from not getting hit, so we should be focusing on ways to prevent jaywalking and to concentrate pedestrian crossings at specific locations when the road is a wide road with faster vehicles. Because this is a hard and fast rule:
    Pedestrians won’t be hit if they’re not in the street at the same time as an oncoming driver.

  5. While the numbers are perhaps correct, the conclusions are not.

    First off – If the study states the safe speed limit is 30 – then why set the speed limit to 20? This is an unrealistic speed limit as in most cars it is very difficult to maintain a speed of 20mph – the cars are not designed to travel easily at this speed, specifically automatic transmission systems, the smallest foot movement will propel a car to a higher speed. If this speed limit is to be realistic – the car manufacturers would need to put into place some type of technology to help drivers maintain such a speed.
    Second the study does not control for other factors, such as how many pedestrians are actually present. In many states people drive everywhere – there is little pedestrian traffic, and one cannot infer that nassau county is in fact worse off than other places in terms of pedestrian traffic vs deaths.
    Third – if safety is indeed the goal, then there should be flashing yellow lights and ample warning about the school zones, and not obscure signs and sudden speed transitions. Not to say that traffic tickets are not effective, but they need to be coupled with ample warning.
    Fourth – Having gone to court recently – The judge actually said outright to the record that these fines are a way to fill the public pocket and not only a way to rectify a safety issue. This is outright wrong because it smells like entrapment. To me is seems like way for the county to claim “tax reduction” where in fact the county is shifting the tax from the home owners to the car owners.

  6. If drivers are now planning alternate routes to avoid the speed cameras, then children are in even more danger, as they will be navigating a surge of new traffic without the benefit of reduced speed limits or crossing guards (which they have in the current school zones).

    Also, this entire article is a case on faulty premise conclusion. No clear cause and effect.

    I bet 90+ percent of all pedestrian accidents happen in a quarter mile vicinity of Starbucks.

  7. While one death of a child is one too many, referring to this study and its use to justify the school camera rollout, no student has ever been killed during the school hours of 7am-6pm within a school zone.

    Additionally if this is indeed a school student initiative, why isn’t there clear and apparent signage? Furthermore, why are camera sites placed within school districts that offer 100% bussing?

  8. Research&Design | November 15, 2014 at 6:09 pm |

    One of the basics you learn in statistics, is that correlation does not imply causation. And the importance of confounding factors.

    How many students during school days/hours were injured or killed IN a school zone? I don’t believe there was one.

    The reality is that roadways of this nature across Nassau County warrant comprehensive traffic studies to successfully mitigate traffic concerns and in turn make the ENTIRE road safer for both pedestrians and drivers. Studies driven solely by qualified urban planners, engineers, and experts that lead to a permanent, productive, safer outcome. The plethora of speed cameras in school zones (designed to essentially increase revenue for a financially strapped County), attempts (but fails) to treat the symptom, not the cause. And, they do nothing to address the roadways of interest in their entirety, rather, a 100-300 foot section of many roadways that have traffic concerns for miles.

    Every civilized, developed municipality across the Country conducts traffic calming studies to mitigate these concerns and permanently address the issue. Utilizing the speed camera located on S. Oyster Bay Road in Hicksville as a case study: the camera is located on a heavily trafficked, truck-laden roadway, where the speed limit for over 4.4 miles of roadway is 40 MPH. This is a roadway that leads to an entrance to the LIE and Northern State. The accidents noted on this roadway were out of the school zone, even in different neighborhoods from where the camera is placed. The camera placement on this roadway has resulted in two things: a) Individuals traveling at 40 MPH immediately have to slam on brakes to get down to 25 MPH within a few several feet as there is inadequate warning that this is even a school zone (it is not a traditional school facility) putting now drivers and pedestrians at risk due to this nonsense b) Individuals are utilizing back roads in the Plainview developments to avoid the speed camera fines, leading to complaints from local residents, particularly young children walking home from school at risk on these back roadways where crossing guards are not present. Further, the areas where accidents have occurred on this roadway have been left completely unaddressed.

    The speed camera program is a poorly planned, poorly executed project that fails to even treat the symptom, rather than the cause. Pedestrian safety can be accomplished without the excessive installation of cameras, and, in the case of S. Oyster Bay Road, to boot, the total denuding of the thoroughfare including the removal of 250 healthy decades old oak trees. These two endeavors introduced by our local administration together constitute completely misguided policy and I sincerely hope a change in direction is seriously considered–a change to soundly include the implementation of evidenced-based practices, urban planning basics, and appropriate studies involving qualified individuals, than continue to rely on entrapping cameras and engage in the destruction of our neighborhoods.

  9. Let’s remember North of the L.I.E it’s almost impossible to drive 1/4 mile in any direction without being near a school, so naturally most accidents occurred within a 1/4 of a school, those stats are pure BS, and I’m pretty sure ATS FUNDS TSTC

  10. Enough of this garbage, residents dont want speed cameras regardless of whatever BS statistics you put out there. Elected officials work for US, dont forget that.

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