Police Ticketing More Drivers on Long Island
Drivers in Nassau and Suffolk seem to be coming under increasing scrutiny from law enforcement in the past decade. The total number of drivers receiving traffic tickets increased almost 13% from 2009 to 2018, according to new data from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
In 2017, 548,426 drivers received traffic tickets on Long Island. This is a 10.3% increase over the number of drivers ticketed in 2016 (497,062). It’s also a 13% increase over 2009, the earliest year for which there was detailed data available. The increase is notable given that the combined population of Nassau and Suffolk declined slightly from 2,872,000 to 2,862,514, or 0.33%.
Suffolk County saw the greatest increase in traffic enforcement. In 2017, 264,563 drivers in Suffolk received traffic tickets, a 11.3% increase over 2016 and a 33% increase over the number of drivers ticketed in 2009. Despite this notable uptick, Suffolk County still saw fewer drivers ticketed than neighboring Nassau County. Police issued tickets to 283,863 motorists in Nassau in 2017, a 9.4% hike over 2016. However, this figure is less than 1% fewer than number of drivers in Nassau ticketed in 2009 (286,633).
The total number of tickets written by police on Long Island rose 18.6% between 2009 and 2017, from 536,305 to 635,961. Once again, Suffolk County made up the bulk of the increase. Police in Suffolk County wrote 284,202 tickets in 2017, up 34.3% from 211,686 in 2009.
A lot of Tickets, But not Per Capita
When looking at the number of tickets Long Islanders get, it would be easy to think that the counties are populated with bad drivers or that the police are uncommonly aggressive in traffic enforcement. Indeed, both Nassau and Suffolk ranked No. 3 and 4 respectively for most drivers ticketed in 2017, below Manhattan and Brooklyn. They also rank No. 2 and No. 4 for the total number of tickets issued last year.
However, when considering the size of Long Island’s population, those figures are not as bad as they might seem. Nassau saw 207.3 drivers ticketed for every 1,000 who reside in the county, while Suffolk saw 177.2. This puts them in the bottom half for drivers ticketed per capita–No. 36 and 48 respectively.
Where LI Drivers Got the Most Tickets
Drivers in the Town of Hempstead got hit the hardest with traffic tickets in 2017. More than 94,000 tickets were issued there by police. This accounts for 27% of all tickets issued in Nassau County that year. Hempstead was followed by the Town of Brookhaven, which saw 71,000 tickets given to drivers, representing 25% of all tickets for Suffolk County.
Long Island’s numerous towns aren’t the only place where drivers got pummeled for traffic violations. The Village of Lynbrook issued the eighth most tickets in 2017, with 16,834. It’s followed by Freeport, Garden City, and North Hills.
|Top 20 Municipalities for Traffic Tickets on Long Island|
|Municipality||2016 Tix||2017 Tix|
|TOWN OF HEMPSTEAD||83,159||94,230|
|TOWN OF BROOKHAVEN||60,359||71,043|
|TOWN OF ISLIP||48,848||65,185|
|TOWN OF NORTH HEMPSTEAD||45,502||50,751|
|TOWN OF BABYLON||15,932||29,790|
|TOWN OF HUNTINGTON||22,338||24,884|
|TOWN OF SOUTHAMPTON||20,256||19,800|
|VILLAGE OF LYNBROOK||15,337||16,834|
|VILLAGE OF FREEPORT||13,948||15,083|
|VILLAGE OF GARDEN CITY||9,682||10,986|
|TOWN OF RIVERHEAD||8,537||7,844|
|VILLAGE OF NORTH HILLS||6,647||7,832|
|TOWN OF EAST HAMPTON||4,693||6,247|
|VILLAGE OF EAST HILLS||3,349||6,031|
|VILLAGE OF MALVERNE||5,054||5,680|
|VILLAGE OF ROCKVILLE CENT||5,983||5,137|
|VILLAGE OF OLD WESTBURY||4,035||4,601|
|CITY OF GLEN COVE||4,937||4,535|
|VILLAGE OF HEMPSTEAD||5,365||4,460|
|VILLAGE OF LAKE SUCCESS||3,088||4,065|
Bucking the Trends
Long Islanders are bucking trends seen in the rest of the state. While drivers on LI have experienced an increase in traffic tickets, the total number tickets written in New York State fell by 8.7% between 2009 and 2017, from 4,080,449 to 3,724,952. The number of drivers ticketed statewide also decreased during that time by 9.4% from 3,838,941 to 3,476,421, the exact opposite of what happened on Long Island.
When it comes to speeding tickets, Suffolk County drivers more or less conform to the rest of the state, with tickets rising and falling sporadically throughout the nine-year period. However, Nassau County drivers caught a break (or used their brakes). With the exception of a slight uptick in 2010, speeding tickets in Nassau county declined steadily through 2017, from 38,753 to 25,559—a 34% decrease.
Similarly, citations for impaired driving in NY—including driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both—have fallen every year since 2009, with a net decrease of 24.8%. Taking both counties together, the same trend can be observed. Taken separately, only Suffolk County has experienced a continuous drop-off in impaired driving tickets. Impaired driving tickets declined between 2009 and 2012 in Nassau County only to rise sharply through 2015 before ticking downward the next two years.
Long Island has also defied trends in automotive accidents. Car crashes declined by 9.9% in Nassau and 7.4% in Suffolk between 2016 and 2017. Police reported 29,541 accidents in Suffolk and 30,389 in Nassau. By comparison, statewide crashes rose 2.5% during the same time period, from 301,908 in 2016 to 309,389. Overall, accidents dropped 5.5% from 2009 to 2018 on Long Island, but dipped just 1.8% during the same time period statewide.
There’s no clear reason why Long Island would be an outlier to so many of the of the overall traffic ticket and traffic accident trends in New York State. While most of the state has seen an overall decline in the number of drivers ticketed and the number of tickets issued, Long Island has experienced the opposite. This is generally true for most kinds of traffic violations for which there was data. It’s possible that the disparity is associated with the high rate of plea bargains in both counties. Nassau County offered plea deals for more than 80% of speeding tickets and more than 66% of texting and cell phone tickets. Suffolk County negotiated with drivers on more than 60% of speeding tickets and just over half of all cell phone and texting tickets. Our analysis of 2009 through 2017 traffic ticket and accident data has unveiled many other interesting trends across New York State, which you can check out here.