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Reckless Driving Is the Other COVID-19 Epidemic

1:41 PM PDT on April 6, 2020

New York City speed cameras are nabbing far more drivers than they were during the normal, pre-corona days — even though the numbers of cars on the road is down dramatically.

Over the 12 weekdays between March 5 and March 20, city speed cameras issued 151,896 summonses, nearly 11 percent more than the comparable 12-day period in January (Jan. 13-29), when just 135,380 speeding tickets are issued by cameras, city data show. (Cameras only issue tickets on weekdays.)

The 11-percent increase in tickets come as the total number of vehicle miles traveled in the five boroughs is down by 71 percent from that same January baseline, according to data shared with Streetsblog.

The latest speed camera data from the Department of Finance confirm what everyone is seeing out on the streets: Drivers are taking advantage of traffic-free streets to speed with reckless abandon. (It even prompted a Streetsblog song parody.)

The new data builds on stats, reported by Streetsblog last week, that covered March 5-16. But that coverage was based on preliminary data that the Finance Department has updated with hundreds more tickets that have worked through the system.

Camera-Issued Speeding Tickets 12 days 2020
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The agency provided Streetsblog with two more days of preliminary data — for Monday, March 23 and Tuesday, March 24 — which show slightly fewer tickets issued per day than the January average. But the agency often updates the database days or weeks later to add additional tickets. Even using the preliminary data for those two days, the city has issued 9.2 percent more speed camera violations over the full 14-day period.

Vehicle miles traveled on March 24 were 80 percent less than the January benchmark.

Streetsblog has asked the NYPD to discuss the automated numbers and to explain whether cops are under orders to crack down on speeding, but the agency would not respond to repeated questions.

On March 24, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said this in response to Streetsblog’s question about whether the NYPD would do anything about the speeding.

“We’d have to look at the data. It’s a little preliminary. You know, I can certainly pass it on to Billy Morris, our chief of Transportation who works very closely with DOT. And again, we’re in the middle of uncharted territory here, but we have not taken our eye off traditional crime. We haven’t taken our eye off many of the things that we do with communities throughout New York City and we haven’t taken our eye off Vision Zero either. So, if we have to reassess it and move resources around, we certainly will. I’ll have Billy Morris take a look at that and reach out to DOT. But thank you for bringing it up.”

Morris did not respond.

Speeding is not just an issue during the coronavirus pandemic. As the video below shows, drivers are increasingly accustomed to being able to get around with virtually no delays caused by tens of thousands of other drivers in their way.

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As such, after the virus crisis subsides, some road-safety activists believe that drivers will not want to go back to typical New York conditions. Many are already gearing up to re-argue long-settled debates about how roadways should be allocated.

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