To a new school year, and a powerful possibility
We never should have had to fight this battle. It’s still hard to believe that the New York State Senate GOP cares so little about the lives of our kids that they allowed the school-zone speed camera program to expire -- despite overwhelming evidence that they reduce crashes and save lives.
But we could not allow the first day of school to arrive with our kids at increased risk -- especially in our neighborhood, where we are still grieving the loss of Abigail Blumenstein and Joshua Lew from this spring.
So, led by the courageous mothers of Families for Safe Streets, we organized. We held press conferences. We got arrested together outside of Senator Marty Golden’s office in Bay Ridge. We called on Albany every day to reauthorize the speed cameras.
And we won.
Last week, in a creative solution reached by Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the Mayor, and the Governor, the City Council passed legislation to re-authorize the program (which I was proud to co-sponsor). Mayor de Blasio will sign the bill into law this morning, and the speed cameras will be on tomorrow, as our kids head back to school.
To celebrate this victory, join Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets for a Safe Way Back to School Rally tonight at City Hall Park (Broadway & Chambers Street in Manhattan). More info here.
Getting these speed cameras turned back on is an important victory -- but it’s just a start.
The current program covers only 140 school buildings, about 10% of the schools in New York City. We need drivers to stop speeding in front of all of them.
And we need to turn our focus to the most reckless drivers.
For the vast majority of drivers who get a school-zone speeding ticket, one $50 ticket is enough to get them to slow down. 80% of drivers who get one ticket don’t get a second one.
But the most dangerous drivers -- like Dorothy Bruns, who killed Abigail and Joshua -- just keep speeding and running red lights, despite the tickets. Her car had been caught 5 times for speeding in school zones or running red lights, in just the 12 months prior to that horrific and preventable crash.
And she’s not the only one. More than 25,000 cars (about 1%) have gotten 5 of these tickets over the past year. These reckless drivers are using their cars as weapons aimed at their neighbors -- and we know that turning on the speed cameras alone won’t stop them.
That’s why I introduced the Reckless Driver Accountability Act in June, which would allow the city to boot or impound cars that accumulate 5 or more camera violations in a year until the owner takes a reckless driver accountability course (which has been shown to reduce reckless driving recidivism through a pilot we created with the Center for Court Innovation at the Red Hook Community Justice Center).
The act also requires the city to produce an annual study on dangerous driving that determines which driving behaviors are associated with traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities, and to make recommendations for additional steps to address them. This is an innovative, data-driven, and restorative approach that will make NYC a leader in reducing dangerous driving and saving lives.
For today, let’s celebrate our big win. We never should have had to fight this battle -- but I’m proud that we did.
And tomorrow, let’s get back to the work of confronting reckless driving to prevent future deaths.
Together, we will do all that we can to make the memories of those lost to traffic violence into a blessing that saves the lives of others.