Following a string of car crashes, including the fatal Park Slope crash that killed two children, City Comptroller has released findings from a recent analysis that examines just how repeat traffic offenders are allowed to continuously accumulate fines without consequence. Amid calls for increased action to make streets safer for pedestrians, the report shows why more stringent penalties might not be a bad idea.
Stringer’s report, entitled “A Tale of Two Tickets: How Disparate Standards of Traffic Enforcement Compromise Safety on City Streets,” shows that in the last 26 months, there have been more than 121,000 cars in New York City to receive at least five tickets for speeding near schools and/or running red lights. Among those, 24 vehicles had amassed more than 50 infractions within the 26-month time span.
Digging into camera-issued fines for speeding and running red lights near schools, Stringer found that 82,307 vehicles had earned five or more tickets and 17 vehicles managed to each accumulate over 50 speeding violations near schools. In short: on average, there are 46 dangerous violations occurring by a vehicle with multiple violations throughout the city each hour, totaling up to an alarming 1,107 times potentially fatal incidents per day, happening at least once every 78 seconds.
A large part of the problem is that camera-issued tickets don’t hold the same weight, consequence-wise, as tickets issued by police officers. A Wall Street Journal study found that traffic violations caught on camera are not reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles if the $50 fine is paid, whereas, drivers with repeat offenses are more likely to have their license suspended when confronted by a police officer. While cameras are great at generating tickets, those are not attributed to the actual driver, only to the vehicle, making it difficult to result in license suspension and getting dangerous drivers off of the road.
“This analysis is shocking, outrageous, and almost unbelievable,” said Stringer in a statement. “If your car has more than 50 violations near a schools, 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.”
Following the analysis, Stringer is urging city and state officials to consider creating stiffer penalties that will directly target drivers who rack up numerous traffic violation offenses. His recommendations include creating punishments that are equal between camera-issued and police-issued tickets with the aim of getting bad drivers off the streets; increasing the number of cameras in school zones, and having the DOT leverage traffic violation data to target “hot-spots” that could inform road redesigns.
Check out the full report here.