By Bill Parry
Teams of city Department of Transportation officials, and even Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, took to the streets last week to spread the word that a new law lowering the default speed limit across New York City was taking effect this Friday.
The DOT teams took their Day of Public Awareness public outreach campaign to Queens Plaza North and several intersections along Roosevelt Avenue to warn motorists that the new speed limit of 25 mph, down from 30 mph, will affect all streets which do not have a posted speed limit.
“Going from 30 mph to 25 mph is not just a speed reducer — it is a lifesaver,” Trottenberg said at the Oct. 30 event.“We are embarking on a broad public awareness campaign in order to establish 25 mph into New Yorkers’ minds. Our leaders and communities are united in putting the breaks on the culture of excessive speeding and reckless driving in the city.”
Trottenberg said the DOT will be adding or replacing 3,000 signs across the city, including at spots where drivers exit highways, to inform them of the new law. The DOT and NYPD will further educate motorists using electronic signs and by handing out fliers. In addition, the DOT has been in close contact with elected officials, community boards, community-based organizations, religious institutions and non-profits to help alert their constituencies and audiences.
“As the ‘Safest Big City’ in the nation, it’s time to extend that safety to our city’s roadways,” NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said. “Speed is a leading factor in traffic fatalities across our city. Adhering to the speed limit will decrease both the probability and severity of injuries and damages.”
The NYPD has increased enforcement since 2013, he added, with speeding summons up 36 percent and failure to yield summons up 147 percent.
Traffic safety advocacy groups are applauding the lower default speed limit.
“This common sense change is an essential part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White said. “If properly enforced, the new speed limit could prevent more than 6,500 traffic injuries in the next year and cut the annual number of pedestrian fatalities in half. As part of a comprehensive effort to transform our mindset along with our urban landscape, the new safer speed limit can help New York City end the preventable carnage on our streets”
There were 291 traffic fatalities in the city last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio pointed out last week.
“That’s almost as many people lost to traffic fatalities as were lost to murder last year in New York City,” he said. “Approximately 4,000 people were injured last year in traffic incidents. Being struck by a vehicle is the second leading cause of injury-related death for seniors and is the leading cause for children under 14. So it’s unconscionable to let this status quo continue.”
The mayor pointed out that pedestrians stuck by cars traveling 25 mph are half as likely to die as those struck at 30 mph.
“This change in just 5 mph makes a fundamental difference in people’s lives,” de Blasio said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.