Written by Farmingdale observer Staff Thursday, 03 July 2014 00:00
School zone speedsters face an new round of surveillance in the state’s effort to thwart their reckless ways.
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently enjoyed a photo-op at nearby Bethpage High School, signing legislation that authorizes the addition of school speed zone cameras in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Proponents say the new law aims to enhance safety in school areas by encouraging drivers to travel with caution, as well as support law enforcement efforts to crack down on violators and prevent accidents caused by speeding.
“New York State will not tolerate drivers who exercise reckless behavior and put other people at risk—especially around our schools,” Cuomo said. “By empowering Nassau and Suffolk Counties to install dozens of speed cameras in school zones, we are helping to protect our students and ultimately save lives. This should send a message to all drivers.”
But some taxpayers see the move as another revenue gimmick.
The addition of school speed zone cameras comes after five Farmingdale High School teens—Carley, Tristan, Jesse, Noah, and Cody—died in a car wreck on Conklin Street this past May. Conklin, also known as Rt. 24 and Hempstead Turnpike, has seen an average of three pedestrian deaths a year, over the past decade.
Although the accident was nowhere near a school zone, it has become a sensitive issue.
Following the accident, Cuomo sent a letter to Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand, informing him that the state recently installed two speed controller trailers to inform motorists of their speed. Additionally, in an effort to try and prevent any future accidents, Cuomo said the state plans on installing new radar technology that will identify speeding vehicles, which will trigger the connected traffic signal to switch to red, forcing the driver to come to a stop.
Camille Toma, a member of the Farmingdale PTA, said that residents have been complaining about people speeding down Conklin and Rt. 24 for years.
“If he really cared then he should have done something when people were complaining,” Toma said. “I think the Governor is capitalizing on our tragedy ... I think it’s disgusting.”
While some in the Farmingdale community feel Cuomo’s efforts are too little, too late, others agree that catching more speeders is a necessary measure towards saving young lives.
In the adjacent community of Bethpage, Round Swamp Road resident Scott Grann said he has been living in front of the Old Bethpage Elementary School for close to 20 years. In that time, he said he has seen and heard many drivers burning rubber, just steps away from his house.
“People drive like animals down this road,” he said, adding that he hopes cameras will deter high-speed driving. “It’s beyond people just going a touch over the speed limit. Trucks driving to the
expressway from Farmingdale come barreling down the road, right past the school, going at least 50. They don’t care.”
The new law, which will take effect in 30 days, authorizes Nassau and Suffolk counties to establish a pilot program with speed cameras in school speed zones—one per school district—to record speeding violations as they occur, without requiring a police officer to be present at the scene. The law enables speed cameras to be placed in up to 56 school speed zones in Nassau County.
According to data released by the governor’s office, there is a 70 percent chance that a child hit by a vehicle going 40 mph will be killed, but a child hit by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph has an 80 percent chance of surviving. Officials said implementing speed cameras in school speed zones will supplement police presence on the streets in catching speeding violations and preventing the accidents that arise from speeding.
Aside from catching drivers in the act, officials said the presence of speed enforcement cameras will also encourage drivers to proceed with caution through school speed zones, thus enhancing the safety of children, pedestrians and drivers alike.
“A school zone safety report indicates 200 motorists per hour exceeded the posted limit by 25mph,” said Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano. “I thank Governor Cuomo for approving this pilot program as it protects our children and serves as an important message to motorists to exercise care in our school zones.”