A recent report by The City found that reckless drivers in New York City may have avoided traffic enforcement as many as 1.5 million times by making it difficult for red light and speeding cameras to accurately read their license plates. According to the report, based on an analysis of Department of Transportation records, “delinquent drivers” have evaded detection by enforcement cameras by bending their license plates, “putting plastic covers over them,” and even by spraying them with chemicals that “make it impossible for the cameras to accurately read them.”
The City’s analysis found that these evasion techniques reduced the number of monthly tickets issued by authorities by as much as 4% in December 2021. This translates to as much as $75 million in uncollected fines, though the report stresses that the adverse effects of enforcement evasion go beyond lost revenue: there’s also the danger posed by reckless drivers who think they can escape the eyes of the law. As safe streets advocacy group Transportation Alternatives told The City in a statement, “Drivers using illegal license plates to evade accountability make our city more dangerous, while taking away revenue from life-saving street improvements.” The group’s executive director, Danny Harris, called for government officials to take action to combat the use of camera evasion.
As the report notes, this news comes in the context of rising traffic violence in New York City and across the nation. It also comes as city officials call for state legislators to give New York City more power to enforce traffic violations in its own streets. Mayor Eric Adams and other city leaders have specifically called for the lawmakers to pass legislation that would give the city authorization to operate its speed cameras 24/7, rather than between 6am and 10pm on weekdays. Department of Transportation records show “an approximately 72% drop in speeding at locations with speed cameras and a roughly 80% drop in red light running.”
More information on the rise of speed and red light camera evasion in New York City is available via The City.