The governor’s decision to sign a bill that gives the city the right to reduce the speed limit to 25 mph was welcomed in Queens, particularly the western part of the borough, where lead-footed drivers have piled up a staggering roster of pedestrian fatalities.
Queens Boulevard, known as the “Boulevard of Death,” and Northern Boulevard have been speedways worthy of a NASCAR track for drivers who have mowed down innocent residents on their way to work, school and neighborhood stores.
The peril has been so great on the borough’s most dangerous streets that Queens is facing a major shortage of school crossing guards, who have been threatened by impatient drivers and subjected to the hostility of the motoring public. It is hoped that lower speeds will encourage more people to take the job of shepherding children across busy thoroughfares to the safety of school grounds.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation authorizing the city to drop its default speed limit from 30 to 25 mph in a move to save pedestrian lives after a series of reported deaths. The move supports Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, which envisions an eventual era of no traffic fatalities once new speed reduction measures are in place.
But this well-intentioned new law still cannot stop the frequent crashes that end in death or serious injury caused by hit-and-run drivers in Queens. The borough has a heartbreaking record of motorists who have fled the scene of an accident and left victims to die.
Just this week a pedestrian was run down in Middle Village by a motorist who callously drove off. And in a hate crime case, a Sikh man was dragged 30 feet two weeks ago by the driver of a pickup truck in South Ozone Park who disappeared. Police arrested a suspect this week.
In many of these cases, the drivers have had multiple traffic violations or are on the road with suspended licenses. Their first instinct may be to flee after they cause an accident.
The only solution, it would seem, is more cameras to track errant drivers. These cameras already are generating many of the tickets city motorists are getting for running red lights and other infractions.
Even though the 25 mph speed limit will frustrate Type A motorists navigating the borough, the trade-off will be worth it if we can protect pedestrians, particularly the elderly and children.
And if cameras can hunt down the moral losers who kill and maim pedestrians without taking responsibility for their actions, then we’ll be even better off.