Nassau County is cutting the hours that the controversial school-zone speed cameras operate so speeders will only be ticketed during the time frame when students are entering and leaving their campuses.
As of Monday, the cameras will be active on school days from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. instead of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. straight, as they have been operating since school started in September, county officials said.
“Let’s keep our kids safe by exercising common-sense and caution,” County Executive Ed Mangano said Wednesday of the cameras, which result in $80 tickets mailed home to drivers caught speeding 10 mph over the 20 mph limit during school hours.
New York State this spring had authorized Nassau to install 56 speed cameras—one in each of the county’s school districts. Shortly later, the county amended its red light camera contract with Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to have ATS run the speed camera program, too. But, the county executive declared amnesty on the first 40,000 tickets issued this summer following a faulty roll-out—nullifying the first $2.4 million in fines.
Suffolk County also got the OK to install 66 speed cameras earlier this year, but the program isn’t expected to launch on eastern Long Island until next year. ATSis also lobbying to legalize school bus stop arm cameras in New York, the Press has exclusively reported.
The latest change in Nassau came after county legislators who voted to create the program called for it to be suspended until issues with the program can be resolved. It also came after residents repeatedly protested outside of the Theodore Roosevelt Executive and Legislative Building in Mineola to express outrage over being repeatedly fined without what they say is proper notification.
“This was never supposed to be a gotcha program,” Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) said last month. “The idea was fairness for drivers and safety for students.”
In response to such critics, county officials said they plan to install flashing yellow lights indicating the school-zone speed limits and signage notifying drivers that there are speed cameras, but installation is not expected to occur until February, according to Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin.
The county Traffic Safety Board said Wednesday that there has been a 70-percent decline in the number of violations from Nov. 30 to when the program started in early September, but the administration declined to release figures backing up that statistic.
Newsday reported that the program has earned nearly $17 million in that time span, with ATS getting an about $4 million cut of that, but Nevin would not confirm those numbers. All 56 cameras has not yet been installed, but Nevin also would not say how many cameras were activated before installation was halted.