Speed Cameras Switch Off When Crashes Are at Their Highest

Friday, May 30, 2014 - 04:00 AM

School zone in NYC (Kate Hinds/WNYC)

New York City averages almost 500 vehicle crashes every day — more than 180,000 a year — and four p.m. is the peak time for collisions citywide.

That's according to a new WNYC analysis of 22 months of crash data.

Advocates and Mayor Bill de Blasio fought hard to get both houses of the state legislature to up the number of speed cameras from 20 to 140. But since state law requires the cameras to shut off an hour after school ends, also about four p.m., the cameras can't help with traffic control when most of the crashes are taking place.

Here’s a look at when traffic crashes are happening in New York City — and what might be causing them.   


Andrea Bernstein


Comments [24]

Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

For the umpteenth time, the primary reasons for those cameras are revenue purposes not safety. If motorists are slowing down to avoid being mailed a ticket, then revenue can be made and it will be seen as a net money loser. Anything else, the cameras don't help at all especially in stopping accidents from occurring. This is just another boondoggle and a false sense of security.

Jun. 03 2014 02:42 PM
AMHess from Harlem

This is insane--I really hope NYC can get the law changed. I live within a couple blocks of at least four schools, and drivers are terrible--even those who are dropping off or picking up schoolchildren. I have nearly gotten hit several times by drivers who run red lights, whip around corners, and so on. 126th St is the worst--drivers treat it like an expressway, trying to beat the lights. I call the police but they won't do anything because they didn't witness the crime and are too lazy to do any enforcement. Did I mention that two of my close calls in the neighborhood were with police who were driving recklessly?

Clearly we need better camera enforcement. Police can't be everywhere all the time, but cameras can. Drivers will catch on quickly and slow down.

Jun. 03 2014 09:51 AM
David French from Manhattan

Vision Zero is applied to issues not fundamental regarding safety. The cause of most crashes is disrespect of laws, not speeding. Would a pedestrian still get crushed by a 10mph turning truck if the speed limit were lowered to 25?!
Compliance with stop signs is zero. At least 2 cars go thru red after a change. Cyclists heed no laws. Face it... enforcement is almost zero, and the enforcers are the worst drivers of all!

Jun. 03 2014 07:32 AM

Hey Tal the point of speed cameras is to slow drivers down. Not instantly, there is a delay of course. After getting a few tickets most drivers get the message and stop speeding as much. If it brings in revenue? Then it pays for itself. If it doesn't bring in revenue? Great!! That means people stopped speeding, and it was cheaper than getting cops to watch the street.

Safer streets a few months or a year from now because a speed camera slowed people down? Fantastic.

Jun. 03 2014 12:58 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Bronx, what you said to me was downright insulting. If anyone here is really trolling, it's you! I have just as much of a right to express how I feel about this as you do, and last time I checked, I didn't see anywhere saying locals only. There are ways to help give safe streets without pitting groups against each other, which is why there has been such concerns and criticism about such ideas. Unfortunately, the anti-car crowd will never agree to any compromises, just anything that only works in their favor only. There have been accidents that have shown where a pedestrian or cyclist did actually place themselves into harm's way. Perhaps, I should give an audio link of what I said at a Vision Zero hearing, and you will hear a loud applause for what I said there. Trying to get you to understand is sort of like trying to get the Muslim Brotherhood to accept Israel as a Jewish state knowing your attitude. For the record, I don't condone reckless driving at all, but I hardly ever you calling out rogue cyclists and jaywalkers. BTW, I don't call for anyone I don't like to be censored, so stop doing that at me!

Jun. 02 2014 10:53 PM
Bronx from NYC

Tal Barzilai is the biggest traffic safety troll on the internet. Dude doesn't even live in NYC.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that something is seriously wrong with the way our streets are designed and our public policies.

This is the era of cities, and we are re-imagining them in a more efficient and equal manner.

Jun. 02 2014 09:09 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Just another hypocrite telling others to do as they so but not as they do. I hate to break it to you joyauto, but whatever you say about us motorists demanding everyone else to follow all the rules, I can say the same thing about your kind doing exactly the same. Just look over at Streetsblog where the anti-car fanatics are always calling for them to follow the rules when at the same time, they are crying foul and acting like victims to the rules when it's on them. For the record, I do follow the rules a lot when I drive, which is more than what you all do combined. Just because you don't have to read some manual, it doesn't give you any reasons to disobey the laws, because they do exist. The way you act is sort of like a parent telling their children not to smoke when in fact they are smoking themselves, so start practicing what you preach. Overall, safe streets will only exist when everyone is following the rules not just one group only. One other thing, I do call out reckless drivers, which debunks your claim all the way, but I never hear calling out jaywalkers and rogue cyclists, so cut the double standard already!

Jun. 02 2014 02:41 PM

Hi all! Kat Aaron here, the reporter on the story. Some answers to questions:

- The camera legislation is here:

- @akil harris - the WNYC Data News team did not, as far as I know, do much cleaning of the data. You're right that there are many instances where the "contributing factor" is "unspecified" or blank. The data news team charted the factors that were available, to discern the peaks and trends for individual factors. But there is much left unknown in the current state of the data.

- @superf8 - yes, this is a WNYC Data News analysis of public data. Other people have many interesting and useful maps showing crashes by location; we chose to look at the data from another perspective.

- @Steve - yup. That's my mistake in the copy of the story. By the time I realized that I had misspoken, it had already aired. But thanks for the kind words!

Jun. 02 2014 12:53 PM

To Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY.
Your comments are so foolish. You demand that pedestrians and cyclists should obey the law. May I inform you that pedestrians and cyclist do not have to study a law book, or take any written or road tests. Drivers do! Why are drivers (like you) so demanding of pedestrians and cyclists? You're required to drive your vehicle in a responsible manner so that no one is endangered. If you can't accept that responsibility then you should give up your license.

Jun. 02 2014 11:05 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

What didn't you understand? If they are making motorists reduce their speeds, then no money can be made off of it. In a way, they sort of want us motorists to still speed just to make a revenue or it's seen as a waste of money. The same thing can be said with congestion pricing is still wanting many to drive, because it will also be seen as a net money loser. The cameras don't prevent accidents, they just mail that said speeder the ticket and that's it. If you asked me, this is just another way the city is desperate for money, so they do it by sticking it to the little guy. If it's really about revenue, then they should be going after the cyclists and pedestrians that constantly flout the laws and even act as if they are above them all not to mention act like victims to the rules as well.

May. 31 2014 10:56 AM
Jim Demers from NYC

For those who insist that the cameras don't reduce speeds . . . how many $400 tickets would you have to get, before you slowed down? How many hikes in your insurance premiums, as the points on your license pile up?

Serious answers only, please -- no noise.

May. 30 2014 08:02 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Tyler, instead of making personal attacks, explain what the real purpose of those cameras are if it's not about making a revenue, because I hardly see this as presenting safety.

May. 30 2014 06:01 PM
akil harris from Brooklyn


Did you guys clean this data up at all? I'm just wondering because I'm working on a project with it ( and it seems like a vast majority of accidents are missing some part of the data or have "Unspecified" as the contributing factor?

May. 30 2014 03:52 PM
Manvir Singh

Does someone where I can find the actual text for the law that makes cameras stop at 4pm?

May. 30 2014 03:38 PM
Tyler from Brooklyn

Well, there we have it folks -- the convoluted mind of Tal Barzilai has shared its thought for the day. It's unfortunate that several legislators in Albany and on the City Council share his lack of rational thought.

Recap: Speed cameras don't reduce speed. Speed cameras only produce revenue. When speed cameras reduce speed, there is no revenue. Thus they don't work because they don't produce revenue, only reduced speed.

May. 30 2014 03:35 PM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

I tend to find speed cameras nothing more than a joke when it comes to safety. The real reason they are placed is for revenue purposes. Unless they can create barriers to stop the speeders or some sort force field, they are useless. Also, it's not like the alert the police to stop them either. If excessive speeds are down, then no money can be made off of this, and they will be seen as a waste of money for not producing the revenue. As for this group called Right of Way, I'm very suspicious about them when it comes to the car culture knowing that they have a strong anti-car bias. Let's not forget that bicycles can also hurt someone when they are flouting laws, but I don't hear that same group doing anything about that.

May. 30 2014 02:50 PM
Stanley Greenberg

Lots of kids are in school until 4PM, or even later. I guess we don't care about whether they get hit by cars.

May. 30 2014 02:00 PM
Komanoff from NYC

Great graphics, important reporting, excellent bookend to Right Of Way's press release one month ago today:

May. 30 2014 12:09 PM

If this report is the discovery of WNYC, as stated -- then a big congratulations! This is an example of genuine community reporting, due to creative, innovative thinking which can make the world a better place. Keep reporting on this info please.

May. 30 2014 11:34 AM
Tyler from Brooklyn

Oh, but after 4:00pm is when the lawmakers are driving home... They might get a ticket.

May. 30 2014 10:46 AM

For drivers, summer is one long safety break. No school !

May. 30 2014 10:31 AM
David from Brooklyn

A teacher, and a big advocate for the 'Bike to School' program, I ride my bike to school nearly everyday. When I bike against the sun, I bike against the traffic so motorists can see me. It's illegal, but it's safer than riding in the blind spot. My assumption is that drivers don't want to hurt cyclists and pedestrians.

Why on earth are the cameras shut off at a specific time? If they can't capture readable images, switch them off as the lighting changes, not with the hour! The Cameras don't get tired, and we are paying for them, whether they are switched on or off. The assumption for drivers should be that they are on all the time- God has eyes everywhere, should be the message.

May. 30 2014 09:41 AM

I'd love to see statistics on how many School Buses are speeding. Every morning around 7:00AM along 19th Avenue in Bensonhurst I observe yellow school buses, (full and half sizes) obviously speeding. Many of them are passing by PS 186 (an elementary school; they are not transporting kids to this school) but I do not know if PS 186 is part of the red light camera program.

And of course countless other drivers can be observed exceeding the speed limit, running red lights and turning into crosswalks without slowing down.

May. 30 2014 09:08 AM

Small Correction: P.S. 180 is on Morningside *Avenue*, not Drive. But great report!

May. 30 2014 08:57 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.