Transportation advocates and elected officials are renewing a long-standing push for Albany to give New York City more authority over its traffic decisions, as a new report shows that red-light violations hit over half a million in 2021.
Advocacy group Transportation Alternatives released the report Friday arguing for the city to be given home rule allowing the city to set speed limits, oversee school zone speed cameras, and increase coverage of red-light cameras and cameras for bus lane violations.
The report, analyzing data from the city Transportation Department, noted that 2021 saw 273 traffic-related deaths, the most since 2013. With 42 traffic-related fatalities in 2022 so far, this year is currently pacing 58% higher than the same period last year. Further: "February 2022, with 23 fatalities, was the deadliest February in New York City since at least 2008 — the earliest date where public records are available."
While red-light violations dropped between 2018 and 2020, last year saw 567,062 violations, the highest since 2014 when the . And with 150 red-light cameras in New York City, Transportation Alternatives argues it leaves 99% of intersections "unprotected" since there are a total of 13,250 intersections with traffic lights and no cameras.
"In 2019, t-bone crashes causing injuries fell as much as 58% at red-light camera locations, compared to a three-year period before New York City installed cameras," according to the report.
Furthermore, the report found, home rule would allow New York City to turn school zone speed cameras on throughout the day, versus only between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said in a statement, "Our automated enforcement programs save lives: data shows traffic injuries drop where we install these cameras. The DOT has proven for years that it can run the largest, most effective automated enforcement program in the nation and we deserve to determine how we keep New Yorkers safe on our streets.”
In 2021, the AAA, Governors Highway Safety Association, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, and the National Safety Council released guidelines to create more red-light camera programs nationwide, calling "automated enforcement" an effective tool in preventing dangerous driving. It is also a revenue generator; in the city, between the 2014 and 2020 fiscal years, the program net over $100 million in revenue.
"In June of 2021, motorists recklessly drove through 2,000 red lights a day, and that’s just counting the 1% of New York City intersections that have red light cameras," state Senator Brad Hoylman said in a statement.
The Manhattan legislator has been calling for New York City to be given home rule over red-light cameras and is sponsoring a series of bills for safer streets.
"During what is already one of the deadliest years for vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists, we need to do more to make our streets safer," he said.