NYC Lowers Speed Limits After Reckless Driving Deaths

New York City officials have announced plans to reduce the speed limit on eight city streets to 25 miles per hour. The announcement follows a wave of drag racing, speeding, and reckless driving in the city’s biggest thoroughfares, leading to speeding tickets and deaths. According to a recent New York Times report, authorities anticipated that because the surge in speeding was the result of the coronavirus pandemic reducing the number of cars on the streets, it would get back to normal as cars returned to the streets. “But as restrictions lifted this summer and traffic crept back toward pre-pandemic levels, the spate of speeding — and fatal collisions — did not end,” the Times reports.

The streets affected by the new regulation include segments of Manhattan’s Riverside Drive, Brooklyn’s Flatbush Avenue, Queens’ Northern Boulevard, the Bronx’s Bruckner Boulevard, Brooklyn’s Shore Parkway Service Road and Dahlgren Place, Staten Island’s Targee Street, and the Bronx’s Webster Avenue, per the Times, which notes that Queens’ Rockaway Boulevard will see a speed limit reduction from 40mph to 35mph.

In a statement given to the Times, New York City’s transportation commissioner said, “People got in the habit of driving too fast and too recklessly when roads were more open, and unfortunately, we’re still seeing that behavior.” Data show that so far in 2020, “more passengers, drivers and motorcyclists have been killed in car crashes than all of last year.” 28 vehicle drivers have died, as well as 16 passengers and 26 motorcyclists, per the Times. Though traffic levels in New York City reached about 80% of their status before the pandemic began, driver and passenger fatality numbers “jumped 22 percent compared with the same month last year.” Then, in July, “those deaths spiked 300 percent compared with last year.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has implemented other measures to mitigate traffic driving, including the installation of “new automated speed cameras every month since the beginning of the year, bringing the total to nearly 1,000.” Nonetheless, the Times reports, experts believe that the city’s existing measures will not be enough to mitigate the consequences of imminent subway cuts and an increase in bicycle, scooter, and car ownership in the city, which pose a threat to safety in the city’s streets. As such, experts recommend a rapid increase in the establishment of bus lanes and protected bicycle lanes, as well as increased traffic restrictions. As one transit expert summed it up to the Times: “New York City is facing four existential challenges: the death spiral of public transit, ballooning car ownership, an increase in traffic deaths and serious injuries and the lack of a plan for addressing these from the mayor… The decisions we’re making now about street infrastructure will affect us for decades.”

To read more about New York City’s efforts to reduce speeding, and the challenges that remain, check out the Times report here.

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