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Do cameras mean safer streets, or just more traffic tickets?

For years, activists have urged New York City to do something to protect pedestrians from traffic accidents. The city's latest answer? A network of cameras that will monitor the streets, detect cars that are going too fast, and send their drivers speeding tickets in the mail.

Critics say the new initiative won't do much to improve pedestrian safety, and is primarily motivated by the desire to fill city coffers with the fines drivers will have to pay.

Traffic cameras have been in place around New York schools for several years, and have been responsible for sending out more than 5.2 citations, worth more than $5.2 million in fines. Now, the city plans to greatly increase the camera network, with more than 2,000 units in 750 areas. Officials say there will be at least one camera within a quarter-mile of every school in the metropolis.

The city says the cameras will be equipped to detect when drivers are exceeding the speed limit and photograph the license plates of the offending drivers. Through a computer system, the network will track down the license owners and send them a citation, which usually involves a fine of $50.

Proponents of the cameras point to studies that suggest the cameras increase safety by encouraging drivers to be more careful. But critics say the camera network amounts to policing for profit, and say that the city's money would be better spent in redesigning streets for safety.

It may be too early to predict what the cameras will mean for pedestrian safety, but it's probably a safe bet that the expanded network will mean a big increase in the number of traffic tickets for urban drivers.

For some drivers, a traffic ticket represents little more than an inconvenience. For others, it can be a lot worse. For many, a $50 fine can be a heavy burden. For others who have prior violations on record, a speeding ticket can endanger a driver's license.

A lawyer with experience in traffic violation defense can help drivers understand their options for protecting their rights and driving privileges.

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