Street traffic in New York City has returned to prepandemic levels — but city data show authorities are doing far less to crack down on reckless drivers than three years ago.
NYPD data show cops issued 330,477 summonses to drivers for moving violations during the first seven months of 2022. That’s a plunge of 47% from the same period of 2019, when cops gave 627,818 summonses to rule-breaking motorists.
And the city’s long-stalled dangerous vehicle abatement program, designed to impound cars that rack up too many tickets from speed and red-light cameras, is hardly off the ground. The program has taken just five cars off the city streets so far, according to Mayor Adams’ office.
The downward trend in traffic enforcement concerns some advocates, as fatal car crashes remain above prepandemic levels.
At least 147 people — including 62 pedestrians and 12 cyclists — have been killed in car crashes in the city so far this year, according to data from the Department of Transportation.
That’s down slightly from the 151 who were killed in crashes over the same period of 2021, but up from the 127 killed at this point in 2019.
The NYPD data do not include the number of tickets issued by automated speed and red-light cameras, which have expanded since 2019 and on Monday began issuing tickets around the clock.
Since taking office at the start of the year, Adams has repeatedly said cops would do more to crack down on reckless drivers.
“We are going to enforce a new traffic rule,” Adams declared during a news conference in January. “Drivers and cyclists must fully stop at intersections, even if there are not four-way stop signs, whenever there is a pedestrian crossing or at the streetcorner about to cross.”
But it doesn’t appear that law enforcement followed up on Adams’ statement — which did not in fact announce a new traffic rule. Cyclists and motorists have long been required to yield to pedestrians.
The NYPD over the first six months of 2022 issued 20,035 summonses for failure to yield to the right of way of a pedestrian. That’s a 38% decline from the 32,383 such summonses the NYPD issued during the first six months of the prepandemic year 2019.
The NYPD provided the Daily News data for all moving violations covering the first seven months of 2019 and 2022 — but The News only obtained the first six months of data for each of those years on tickets issued for specific violations.
But the data show major categories of traffic enforcement by the NYPD has dropped significantly since before the pandemic.
— Tickets for disobeying a traffic device — such as a stop sign or traffic light — declined 59% in the first six months of 2022 compared with the corresponding period of 2019. In the first six months of 2022, police issued 45,383 tickets for disobeying traffic devices, down from 111,024 such tickets issued in the same period of 2019. In raw numbers, that was a decline of 65,641 such tickets.
— The number of speeding tickets given out in 2022 fell to 59,816 in the first six months of 2022 — a decline of 19,192, or 24%, from the 79,008 tickets issued in the same period of 2019.
— Tickets for making improper turns have also declined sharply. In the first six months of 2019, police issued 46,540 tickets for improper turns. Officers issued 15,642 improper turn tickets in the first six months of 2022, a decline of 31,078 tickets, or 67%.
Safety advocates are glad that the city is undertaking more automated enforcement of traffic rules with red-light and speeding cameras. But they believe the NYPD should continue enforcing traffic safety laws.
“No one ever said the expansion of the speed camera program was an invitation for the police to do less enforcement of dangerous behavior,” said Steve Vaccaro, a lawyer who represents crash victims in lawsuits.
“The police have retrenched on traffic enforcement after both the decrease in traffic during the pandemic lockdown and then the adjustment in relationship towards the NYPD from the populace at large after the George Floyd killing.”
In a statement to The News, police officials noted that as of July 31, enforcement is up compared with the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021. The NYPD says enforcement declined in the pandemic years because of the number of officers out sick and assigned to monitor civil unrest.
“Our enforcement is now trending upward for 2022,” the NYPD statement said. “This is a trend that we intend to continue with the ultimate goal of changing driver behavior.”
One of the categories of increased ticketing in 2022 compared with 2021 is failure to yield to pedestrians and cyclists, the NYPD says. In the first seven months of 2022, the department says, it issued 23,134 such tickets, an increase of 32% from the 17,550 such tickets issued in 2021.
The NYPD will “strategically deploy personnel to conduct traffic enforcement and education in precincts where it is needed most” and “at locations where the data has shown a high number of vulnerable road users injured in traffic collisions,” the statement said.
Safety advocates hope the NYPD follows through on plans to improve enforcement.
“Most of us in the safe streets community have felt for a very long time that traffic enforcement needs to be more qualitative, aimed at the most dangerous driving misconducts — and speed cameras do that,” said Vaccaro.
“But there is always going a role for police: Sometimes drivers have to be stopped.”