Data Shows that 1,100+ times per day in New York City, a Vehicle With Multiple Violations Is Brazenly Blowing Through Yet Another Red Light or Speeding Through a School Zone

121,000+ NYC Cars Have Received More Than Five Tickets For Speeding Near Schools and Running Red Lights, with 24 Having 50+ Infractions, in the Last 26 months Alone

Tickets Issued By Cameras Carry Far Fewer Consequences Than Equivalent Tickets Given Out By The Police, Creating An Unsafe Disparity In Traffic Enforcement

(NEW YORK) – Today, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer released an alarming analysis of traffic violations issued by traffic cameras near schools and intersections, showing how disparate enforcement of traffic laws allow drivers with multiple speeding and red-light violations to remain behind the wheel. The report comes amid calls for greater City and State action to reduce pedestrian fatalities, following tragic incidents recently in Park Slope and Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn.

Since 2016, nearly 3.5 million tickets have been issued to drivers caught by traffic cameras speeding through school zones or running a red light. However, despite accounting for the majority of traffic violations, those tickets issued by cameras lack many of the same consequences as tickets issued by police officers, allowing drivers with a slew of tickets to rack up violations with relative impunity and avoid facing real consequences for their reckless actions.

Comptroller Stringer’s analysis, “A Tale of Two Tickets: How Disparate Standards of Traffic Enforcement Compromise Safety on City Streets”, show how over the past 26 months a significant number of drivers have amassed camera-issued tickets for running red lights or speeding past schools without losing their licenses or facing any other significant consequences. According to the Comptroller’s report:

  • 82,307 vehicles have earned five or more camera-issued tickets for speeding within school zones, putting students at risk. Within this same time frame, a staggering 17 vehicles have chalked up a more than 50 speeding violations near schools, with some accounting for as many as 74 tickets.
  • 4,796 vehicles have been issued five or more camera-issued tickets for failing to stop at a red light. These include 87 vehicles responsible for more than ten violations that continue to drive on New York City streets.
  • Put another way, 1,107 times per day in New York City, a vehicle with multiple violations is brazenly blowing through yet another red light or speeding through a school zone. That’s 46 dangerous violations every hour – or one every 78 seconds in the five boroughs – each one a threat to the safety of pedestrians, and each one by a driver whose license would likely have been suspended if they had been stopped instead by a police officer.

“As we’ve seen heartbreaking tragedy in our communities, let this report be a part of the wake-up call for safer streets. This analysis is shocking, outrageous, and almost unbelievable. The numbers jump off the page. If your car has more than 50 violations near a school, or dozens of tickets for running red lights, you shouldn’t be on the road. Yet, our government is letting it happen. There are gaps in our system that must be fixed, because lives are at stake,” Comptroller Stringer said. “As a parent, I worry about my kids every day. As a government, our analysis unequivocally demonstrates that we must do more. These gaps must be closed. This report must serve as a clarion call for change, because if we fail to act on these findings, we will no doubt experience more tragedy.”

The Comptroller’s analysis offers a detailed breakdown of camera-issued fines earned for speeding near schools and running red lights. Within the last 26 months alone, Comptroller Stringer’s analysis shows that more than 82,000 vehicles have more than five violations for speeding in school zones. Of those:

Camera-Issued School Zone Speed Violations
Number of Violations More than five Violations
5-10 11-25 26-50 50+
Repeat Offenders 73,648 8,297 345 17 82,307

Among drivers whose vehicles have received fines for failing to stop at a red light, more than 4,796 motorists have amassed more than five violations.

Camera-Issued Failure to Stop at a Red Light ViolationsType of LicenseNumber of ViolationsMore than five Violations5-1011-2526-50Repeat Offenders4,7098614,796

Further, when analyzing both school zone speeding and red light violations from cameras across the five boroughs, the Comptroller’s Analysis shows that nearly 122,000 cars have a combined total of five or more violations of both types of infractions – in just the last 26 months. Of those:

  • 108,950 cars show 5-10 violations
  • 12,389 vehicles have between 11-25 infractions
  • 488 have 26-50 school zone speeding or red light violations
  • 24 have more than 50 tickets.
School Zone Speed and Red Light Violations
Number of Violations More than five Violations
5-10 11-25 26-50 50+
Repeat Offenders 108,950 12,389 488 24 121,851

Passenger vehicles accounted for 99,896 of these repeat scofflaws, followed by for-hire vehicles (11,905) and commercial vehicles (4,525).

School Zone Speed and Red Light Violations
Type of License Number of Violations More than five Violations
5-10 11-25 26-50 50+
Passenger 89,288 10,189 401 18 99,896
For-Hire Vehicles 10,754 1,125 26 0 11,905
Commercial 3,979 506 35 5 4,525
Total 108,950 12,389 488 24 121,851

In total, repeat offenders with five or more recorded violations are responsible for 874,629 school speeding and red light violations – or 25 percent of all offenses.

While cameras have generated more than 3.5 million tickets since 2016, the violations are not attributed to the driver’s record and only ticket the vehicle itself. As a result, violations cannot result in a license suspension under current law in New York State – even if an automobile has racked up dozens of violations. That gap makes it difficult to get dangerous drivers off the road. In response to this blatant discrepancy in State Traffic Law, the Comptroller urges City and State leaders to consider new strategies aimed at creating stiffer penalties for those with frequent violations and making city streets safer.

Those recommendations include:

Create a Unified Standard for Scofflaw Drivers

The State should explore ways to erase the discrepancies in punishments between camera-issued and police-issued tickets, with the goal of penalizing dangerous behavior and getting irresponsible drivers off the road. The State should explore ways of targeting tickets and possibly license points to drivers listed on the vehicle’s registration if a single vehicle accumulates a high number of violations.

Increase Number of Red Light Cameras

The State should consider allowing more red-light cameras within New York City. Research by the DOT shows that in locations equipped with cameras, speeding drops by 63 percent on average. Yet, the City is only authorized by the State to operate red light cameras at 150 of the City’s 12,700 intersections. This artificial limit on the use of cameras prohibits the City from more widely deploying one of the most effective traffic enforcement tools in its arsenal.

Increase Number of School-Zone Cameras

Similarly, State law also caps the number of speed cameras the City is allowed to operate within school zones. School speed cameras can only issue violations thirty minutes before and after scheduled student activities at schools, despite DOT research showing that “approximately 85 percent of fatal and serious injury crashes occur at times other than school hours on school days.” These limitations drastically restrict the City’s use of speed cameras and leave students at the more than 99% of schools without speed cameras at real risk from reckless drivers.

The City Department of Transportation should better utilize speed camera data to target and inform safety enhancements on New York City streets and around New York City schools

The City Department of Transportation should be mapping and leveraging traffic violation data to target hot-spots and inform road re-designs. Areas with multiple offenses should be prioritized and traffic calming measures should be swiftly implemented.

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