NYC Announces School-Zone Speed Cameras

(AP Photo/Al Behrman)
(AP Photo/Al Behrman)

When students go back to class this year, the city will have a lesson for drivers who go too fast near schools.

Bringing a concept that’s gained ground in other communities to the nation’s largest city, 20 school-zone speed cameras will be watching when city public schools reopen Sept. 9, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday. The state Legislature agreed in June to let the city set up the cameras to catch and deter speeders.

“Curbing speeding around schools will help us continue to make our city’s streets safer for everyone,” Bloomberg said in a release. A person hit by a car going at the city speed limit for surface streets — 30 mph — has an 80 percent chance of surviving, while a person hit by a car going 40 mph has only a 30 percent chance of survival, he noted.

The cameras record the speed of passing vehicles, and the data is used to issue tickets.

Speed cameras have been installed near child-friendly places, such as schools and parks, in cities including Chicago, Cambridge, Mass., and Annapolis, Md.

Police say the cameras slow drivers, though they have generated some complaints that they’re electronic cash cows — and even generated an offbeat attack in Ellicott City, Md. A man who’d recently gotten two speed-camera citations there was arrested last year on charges of using a slingshot to fire glass marbles at a van that housed a camera.

In New York City, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association police union opposed the cameras, saying they’re no substitute for officers. The devices can’t tell whether a speeding driver is drunk, has a weapon or is fleeing a crime, the union noted.

“Money spent on speed cameras would be far better used to improve public safety by hiring more fully trained police officers,” PBA President Pat Lynch said this winter.

But proponents in City Hall and the statehouse say the cameras will help both pedestrians and drivers by encouraging motorists to slow down.

The cameras will be at unspecified spots within a quarter-mile of some schools. The city is allowed to change the locations periodically.

For the first few weeks, motorists found on camera to be going 10 or more miles per hour above the speed limit will get only warnings. Eventually, such drivers will face $50 fines.