[UPDATED] NYC Traffic Data Released: Cell Phones, Seat Belts Top Violation List

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(Photo: (cc) Flickr user Global Jet)

[Updated with comments from NYPD]

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) The NYPD issued more tickets for tinted windows violations than speeding so far this year. That's one little tidbit to come out of a new data dump that has road safety advocates excited. New York City traffic data is coming online, allowing anyone to evaluate which streets are the safest, and even which police precincts are the most active in traffic enforcement.

The NYPD has released some--but not all-- of the data required under New York City's Saving Lives Through Better Information Bill (human readable background here). You can now see how many tickets each police precinct has issued for 36 different categories of moving violations. The law requires the NYPD to have three kinds of data available online. Moving violations figures by category and precinct have been posted. Crashes by location and data on injuries and fatalities have yet to be released. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told Transportation Nation, "As soon as department computer personnel work out the technical requirements for accurately accumulating  motor vehicle accidents, the data will be posted."

The NYPD has issued 530,826 moving violations in the first five months of 2011. According to a WNYC analysis of the first data released, not wearing a seat belt is the top offense (if you include not using a car seat for children), eeking out cell phone use, each with a bit over 81,000 tickets. Combined, those two offenses are about 30 percent of all summonses issued in the five boroughs in 2011. Browne says those violations top the list because they are easier to enforce. "Seat belts and cell phone violations are commonly observed and they do not require special equipment like radar guns, to document or the specialized training that Highway Patrol has in stopping and often pursuing speeders." He added. "Also, illegal  cell phone use, because of its link to accidents and fatalities,  has been the subject of special quarterly enforcement efforts which tend to boost the numbers significantly."

Safer streets advocates like Noah Budnick of Transportation Alternatives is excited to see this law take effect. "This will show where there are the most crashes and the most common factors that contribute to them. Then, that can be compared to summonsing data and help the NYPD target their limited resources on the most dangerous locations and behaviors."

For example, Transportation Alternatives and the NYPD paired up on Wednesday to target a dangerous intersection in Williamsburg with an education campaign. Signs were made to remind cars they must yield to pedestrians and bikes, seen here. "We partnered with the local precinct to advance our shared goal of safety," said Budnick. "Now that the Saving Lives through Better Information Act is in effect, this event a great template for anyone to work with their local precinct to reduce crashes."

This kind of data has been closely guarded by the NYPD in the past. The department has turned over some similar data to Transportation Nation in the past, including bus lane enforcement, but have also frequently declined to provide data on other occasions, including bike ticketing.

Under the new law, the NYPD will issue a monthly report with this data. We'll keep an eye on it, especially after the crash data is posted, and see what we can learn about street safety and moving violations. Stay tuned.