New York City permits default speed limit to drop to 25 mph

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 8/18/2014

Speed limits on New York City streets can now be lowered to 25 mph in an effort to improve safety for pedestrians.

Following Mayor Bill de Blasio’s traffic safety campaign to get the state’s permission to lower the city’s 30 mph speed limit by 5 mph, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law that permits 25 mph speeds to be the default speed limit.

“We have seen too many injuries and deaths as a result of traffic accidents, and this legislation will be yet another step in our efforts to make New York’s streets safer for all,” Cuomo said in a news release.

Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, D-Manhattan, has referred to numbers from 2013 that show vehicle speed strongly correlates with the likelihood that an accident with a pedestrian will be fatal.

“This bill, by reducing the speed limit on city streets, will protect all of New York City’s pedestrians,” O’Donnell wrote in a memo attached to A10144.

O’Donnell highlighted statistics that show about 4,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured and more than 250 are killed each year in traffic accidents in the city. He said that reduced speeds have been proven to reduce fatality rates and give pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and drivers increased response time.

In addition to the lowering speed limits, O’Donnell said several traffic safety initiatives need to be implemented to reduce preventable pedestrian and vehicle fatalities. He said that contributing factors include driver inattention and failure to yield to pedestrians.

Critics of the change said it’s an overreaction. They caution about traffic problems that will be created by lowering the posted speed limit. Instead, opponents said they would prefer to see stiffer punishment for aggressive drivers.

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