Editorial: For kids' safety, install speed cameras
With traffic deaths rising sharply in the five boroughs, the city's Department of Transportation had a smart idea: Why not give speed cameras a try?
It's a no-brainer, right? Speeding drivers cause more accidents than drunken or distracted drivers put together. In all, New York City recorded 274 traffic deaths last year, up 20 percent from 2011.
"We have to do more," Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Kahn says. The roads near some schools feel more like the backstretch at Indianapolis Motor Speedway than places where children are trying to cross.
So the city is asking Albany for permission to try out 20 cameras to photograph speeding cars in school zones.
Unfortunately, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association has other ideas. "Street cameras are no substitute for live policing," says PBA president Pat Lynch.
Why not? Because some drivers are unlicensed, the PBA says. Some are operating vehicles under the influence. Some are fleeing crime scenes. Some are packing weapons. "Cameras let all these dangers slip by," Lynch says.
The PBA wants this proposal to disappear.
That's crazy. This isn't a choice between law enforcement by camera or law enforcement by in-the-flesh officers. It's a choice between some enforcement of speeding laws in selected school zones or no enforcement.
Maybe a few drunks or criminals or pistol packers will slip past the eye that never blinks. So what? If they know they're being watched, at least maybe they'll drive safely.
But, of course, a majority of drivers will likely be regular folks, people who usually abide by the law but sometimes have a heavy foot on the accelerator. The presence of a camera also might put them on their best behavior.
A study in the United Kingdom found that speed cameras reduced the number of people killed or seriously injured in accidents by 40 percent.
The PBA's opposition is essentially an exercise in job protection. And yet, no jobs are at risk. What is at risk is the safety of schoolchildren.