Councilman Jumaane Williams will sit down with safe streets advocates after the Daily News revealed his car had racked up 18 violations for speeding school zones since 2016.
Williams, also planning a run for public advocate, faced criticism from some of those advocates on social media Sunday after the News outlined the long history of tickets issued by school zone speed cameras to his car — so many that under a proposal before the City Council he would have had his car booted.
“I take full responsibility for the violations and have connected with advocates today about the issue,” Williams told the News. “The safety of our children is paramount, so I will continue these meetings in the days and weeks ahead, and will be taking extra caution moving forward.”
Advocates say that Williams — or whoever was driving his car, as camera tickets are issued to the owner, not necessarily the driver — is a relative rarity in the city. Eight in ten drivers who are ticketed by a camera do not get another ticket at the same location in the next two years.
“It seems that that number of tickets puts you in the 1% category — so of course it’s not good,” Marco Conner, the deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, told the Daily News.
But for most drivers, speed cameras are a strong deterrent — and have drastically reduced the number of injuries and fatalities in the locations they are placed, Conner said.
“I think it’s really important to highlight that, because if you focus on the small number of drivers who keep driving despite getting ticketed, you miss the bigger picture,” he said.
Williams isn’t the only pol who is an outlier when it comes to getting caught by the cameras — State Sen. Marty Golden’s car has been hit with 14 violations since 2014, which earlier this year prompted an outcry from speed camera advocates.
Doug Gordon, the advocate behind Brooklyn Spoke, said that’s one reason why he recommended Williams rethink his response to the story — which began with an assertion that his record coming to light was a “political attack” — in a Twitter exchange Sunday.
“My job as a safe streets advocate, the way I see it, is not to hold Marty Golden accountable because he’s a Republican, but let Jumaane Williams off the hook because he’s a Democrat — it’s to hold dangerous drivers accountable, no matter who they are,” Gordon said.
On Twitter, the two went back and forth about Williams’s insistence that he could both take responsibility and insist the story, based on public records, was a political attack — something Gordon had argued indicated he didn’t take speeding seriously.
“Williams should just apologize, that’s it — he should apologize, say that he’s learned his lesson and hopefully never get another ticket,” Gordon told the News.
If a person is issued a speeding ticket by a police officer, it can add points to their license — and if they receive many, they can lose their driving privileges. But camera tickets do not come with points — and so the 1% of drivers who are hit with five or more of them in a year face no consequences beyond repeated $50 fines.
Earlier this year, one of Williams’s colleagues sought to change that — after Dorothy Bruns, a driver with a history of red light and speed camera tickets, ran down two families in a Park Slope crosswalk earlier this year, Councilman Brad Lander proposed booting a car if its owner received five tickets in a year. The owner could avoid the boot if they took a traffic safety course after the fourth offense; and could get the boot off by taking the same course.
“We don’t want to just ticket people for the sake of punishment — we want to do it with a public social benefit, which is to deter the dangerous driving behavior and initially, kind of taking your ability to wield a multi-ton vehicle away is the way to go,” Conner said, coupled with educating drivers.
Lander said he believed “everyone” whose driving record included five or more camera tickets in the year should participate in the driver education program.
“I’d like to see lots of people who are in this upper one or two percent of violators come take the driver accountability program and change their behavior, reduce their speeding, their red light running. Statistics say that will save people lives,” Lander said.