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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

No to cameras should not mean yes to speeding

Cars drive past the speed camera in front

Cars drive past the speed camera in front of Cantiague Elementary School on Cantiague Rock Road on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 in Jericho. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The death of Nassau's school-zone speed cameras should not be a signal for speeding even faster near schools, or anywhere else on county roads.

On the contrary, Nassau now has an opportunity -- no, make that an obligation -- to build from what Norma Gonsalves, the legislature's presiding officer, called "a well-intentioned piece of legislation that turned sour."

The best analysis on why the program failed and failed so miserably, however, came from a speaker representing the AAA. "This is what happens when you turn traffic engineers into tax collectors," he said during a public comment session before the unanimous vote to kill the 6-month-old program.

So let's move forward by getting back to letting experts handle Nassau's traffic engineering issues -- rather than politicians, in Mineola and Albany, engineering revenue streams.

The school speed cameras appeared to have been placed according to where the most traffic was, rather than where there were more accidents. That left intersections and roadways with a history of multiple accidents uncovered.

As a revenue-generator, the program offered an odd juxtaposition of goals: County coffers would benefit from speeders, and would suffer once drivers slowed down.

To its credit, the program did begin to slow drivers in school speed zones -- and make motorists keenly aware of where schools are located along their daily driving routes.

That's a good thing.

A Newsday analysis showed that there had been zero accidents in 57 of the 76 school zones initially monitored by speed cameras -- which challenged the notion that the program was for safety.

But the analysis for the same five-year period also showed 23 speed-related crashes in the remaining 19 zones.

With the death of the program, what's supposed to happen in those districts now?

And what about the 379 other stretches of road in Nassau that showed more speed-related accidents than the most crash-prone school zones identified by Newsday's analysis?

There have been 81 speed-related accidents -- resulting in 80 injuries and five fatalities -- on the 9 miles of Jerusalem Avenue from Hempstead to North Amityville.

And over a quarter-mile stretch of Sheridan Boulevard in Inwood, between Solomon Avenue and Oak Avenue, there have been 14 speed-related accidents.

Since 2010, when Mangano took office, there have been three employees in Nassau's traffic engineering division, which is a part of the public works department, an official said. And the administration is planning to add a fourth.

Still, that office has lost veteran engineers in the years since Nassau began offering retirement incentives as a way of shedding staff. Could that be one reason why the county has yet to address some of its more dangerous intersections and roadways?

Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said Monday she had asked Nassau's police department to beef up its presence in school zones. That's a start, but it's not enough.

With the demise of school speed cameras, let Nassau's traffic engineers get back to traffic engineering.

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