More Laser Speed Guns Equal More Speeding Tickets in NYC

Drivers in New York have another reason to slow down behind the wheel. According to a CBS News report, the NYPD has recently added over 300 laser speed guns to its arsenal and have trained approximately 1,000 officers on how to use them.

Radar Speed Gun
Radar speed guns are being supplanted by laser guns which are more accurate–and leading to more speeding tickets being written by the NYPD. (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

Unlike traditional radar devices, which are not as reliable when there is a high volume of traffic within its range, laser speed guns are able to selectively clock the speed of one vehicle traveling in moderate to heavy traffic. Officers are able to visually identify a vehicle, pinpoint its location on the roadway, and then confirm its exact speed.
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New NYC Speed Limit Signs Serve as Reminder: Slow Down or Pay Up

As SILive is reporting, new speed limit signs have been installed on Staten Island as part of the Department of Transportation’s goal to roll out 3,000 new signs citywide by the end of 2015. The citywide speed limit dropped from 30 MPH to 25 MPH back in November 2014, but the Department of Transportation said it would need time to manufacture the signs and install them at the appropriate locations.

The new limit stands as the biggest effort under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ‘Vision Zero’ initiative to eliminate traffic-related deaths in the five boroughs. According to the Department of Transportation, if a pedestrian is struck by a car traveling 25 MPH, as opposed to 30 MPH, the chances of death are cut in half.

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NYPD Denied Vacation/Sick Time Until Ticketing Increases

As we recently reported, there has been a drastic reduction in the amount of summonses and tickets issued by the NYPD over the past couple of weeks. In fact, the NYPD has issued 90% fewer tickets than it had in the same period last year.

NYPD Chief Bill Bratton
NYPD Chief William Bratton who has ordered police to return to issuing citations and traffic tickets in force. (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

This drastic reduction in ticketing, which is likely fueled by the officers’ disagreements with the de Blasio administration in light of the Eric Garner grand jury decision and the shooting of two officers in Brooklyn, will have a significant impact on both the finances of the city as well as the safety of its citizens.

In an attempt to rectify this problem, Police commissioner Bratton has ordered police officers back to work. The mandate to return to ticketing and writing summonses has gone farther then a simple directive. Looking at a few examples of the pressure being placed on officers to increase ticketing, consider this:

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NYC Traffic Tickets Down 90% with NYPD Work Slowdown

As reported by The New York Times, traffic tickets in New York City have plunged for the second week in a row.

NYPD Officers
Over the past 2 weeks NYPD officers have issued 90% fewer traffic tickets than the same period a year ago. (Photo source: wikipedia)

This drastic drop in ticketing, along with a drop in arrests and summonses, can directly be attributed to the NYPD work slowdown following the murder of two officers in Brooklyn. The murderer justified his actions as a response to alleged police brutality in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri as well as the Eric Garner case in Staten Island.

Officers partially blame Mayor de Blasio for encouraging anti-police rhetoric and have begun a work slowdown as a sign of protest against the de Blasio administration. Similarly, hundreds of officers turned their backs on de Blasio at the funerals of the two murdered officers.

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NYC Speeding Tickets Soar After Limit Lowered to 25 mph

As reported by the NY Post, the NYPD has chosen to crack down on speeders following the city’s lowering its speed limit from 30 mph to 25.

The reduced speed limit took effect on November 7 of this year and drivers have been bombarded with tickets ever since that date. Immediately following the switch officers issued a whopping 3,772 tickets between November 5 and November 12, 2014—more than double the number of tickets from the same period last year!

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Staten Island Speeding Tickets Nearly Double in 2014

According to a recent article, NYPD traffic data shows that there have been 4,756 speeding summonses issued in the borough of Staten Island through September of this year.  This is compared with 2,412 summonses issued through the first nine months of 2013, a 97% increase!

As the article mentions, “tickets issued for disobeying street signage in 2014 are also forecast to climb about 50% in Staten Island as well.”

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2013 NYC Pedestrian and Cyclist Injuries Highest in 5 Years

According to a report by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, more pedestrians and cyclists were injured in New York City last year than in the previous five years. The stats reveal that total traffic injuries increased by about 2% from 2012 to 2013, with pedestrians and cyclists bearing the brunt of it. Pedestrian injuries were up 5% and cyclist injuries rose an alarming 8%!

Sadly, children accounted for many of the injuries as NYC drivers injured 4,278 children aged 13 and under—8 of whom were killed. In fact, motor vehicle crashes have consistently been the leading cause of death due to injury for children within the 5 boroughs.

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Obama Administration Officially Endorses Vision Zero

Recently, the Obama Administration officially endorsed Mayor DeBlasio’s “Vision Zero” program.

Under Vision Zero, New York has installed numerous speed cameras, reduced its speed limits in order to catch more drivers, and dramatically increased the issuance of New York speeding tickets.

President Obama
President Obama, whose administration has endorsed Mayor DeBlasio’s “Vision Zero” by allocating $25 million in funding. (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

Similarly, the United States Department of Transportation announced that $25 million in federal gas tax funds would be given to the NYC Department of Transportation in support of the mayor’s initiative.

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Are Traffic Cameras Always Right?

A question that most drivers want an answer to is: Are traffic cameras always accurate?

One Manhattan judge certainly does not think so!

State Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Wright recently received a NY traffic ticket for driving in a bus lane. However, he is convinced that the camera was not accurate.

Although the fine is only $115, Justice Wright is fighting this one on principle.

Red light camera
Traffic cameras are supposed to provide photographic, incontrovertible evidence of traffic infractions—but that may not be the case. (Photo Source: Wikipedia)

According to Justice Wright, he was driving a 2005 Mazda MZ6 that was registered to his 94-year-old mother when he was caught by a traffic camera on 23rd Street.

He claims to have photos from the ground to prove he was just to the left of the designated lane. These photos show two bus lanes on First Avenue with manhole covers visible in those spaces.

Wright contends that his car was to the left of those manholes, so he could not have been in a bus lane.

Interestingly, the city’s camera images that are attached as exhibits to the lawsuit are too blurry to make out exactly where the Mazda was in relation to the lanes—casting further doubt on the reliability of some NY traffic cameras.

However, in spite of this, Mayor de Blasio wants the New York Legislature to allow for the installation of even more traffic cameras.

It is lawsuits like this that really call into question the veracity of red light cameras and traffic cameras generally.

It seems that the picture and video quality on traffic cameras is usually good enough to detect that a specific car was in violation of a vehicle and traffic law. However, determining the driver of that vehicle is much harder.

Similarly, in order for red light cameras to be accurate, the speed at which they take photos and videos needs to be within milliseconds.

Ultimately, although courts throughout the country have universally accepted the accuracy of traffic cameras, there still seems to be enough wiggle-room to take Justice Wright’s lead and stand up against them.

New York City’s Car-Mounted Speeding Cameras

As CBS News reports, New York City’s new car-mounted speeding cameras are popping up in neighborhoods across the city, issuing speeding summonses to drivers as they pass.

The speed cameras, mounted to the roofs of unmarked NYPD vehicles, appear as simple flashbulbs—but don’t be fooled. They are actually highly calibrated technology with each radar going through its own 26-point checklist prior to deployment.

Aimed at passing traffic, the radar is programmed to snap a picture of any vehicle going 11 or more miles above the posted speed limit. The photo is then uploaded to the NYPD database and the owner of the vehicle is sent a $50 summons in the mail.

A $50 summons is actually much better for the driver than if they had been pulled over by an NYPD officer. A standard speeding ticket can mean up to a $600 fine plus points on your license that can lead to a DMV assessment and even a driver’s license suspension.

While many New Yorkers see these cameras as a quick and easy revenue generator for the city, Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg argues otherwise. “We are really not trying to engage in ‘gotcha,’ and we’re really not trying to do this as a revenue-raising exercise,” Trottenberg stated. “And one thing that I say is if the drivers of New York slow down, obey the speed limit, and stop running red lights—and the city collects no revenue—I’ll consider it a victory.”

Driver safety has been a platform of Mayor DeBlasio’s administration since he’s taken office. His Vision Zero plan to eliminate traffic deaths by the year 2024 has meant a slew of recent ticket blitzes. Increased speed enforcement in school zones and work zones has also been a focus.

To date, the city’s six speed camera cars have issued nearly 70,000 tickets.