New York City drivers are in the middle of a sticky situation right now, as the city starts enforcing its new 25 mph speed limit.
Starting on Friday, November 7, any vehicle caught driving over the 25 mph limit — lowered from the standard 30 mph limit that NYC has used for quite some time — will be charged with a minimum fine of $150 if caught and pulled over by a law enforcement official in person (although the fine could run as high as $600, depending on the speed).
A speeding car caught by one of the city’s numerous traffic cameras would incur a fine of $50. Additionally, drivers could receive anywhere from three to 11 points on their license for violating the new speed limit.
The reduced speed limit is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” program, which aims to reduce the number of deaths caused by traffic accidents in NYC. The speed reduction reportedly affects about 90% of city streets, and has been strongly supported by multiple advocacy groups in the region.
Although safety is the first priority, and it’s the primary reason for the speed limit reduction, the Wall Street Journal recently analyzed the financial impact of the speed limit change — and the gravity of the change may be a bit surprising.
Between 2007 and 2014, the city reportedly dealt with more than 1,200 pedestrian injuries caused by city-owned and city-operated car accidents, including 22 deaths. (These statistics only took into account crashes that involved city vehicles, like police cars and garbage trucks.)
The cost of these injuries over the eight-year-period, according to city Comptroller Scott Stringer, clocks in at around $90 million worth of settlements — paid by NYC residents, of course. Not only did the city have to cover damages inflicted upon the victims, but city vehicles that were damaged also had to be repaired or replaced.
Although the speed limit and the hefty fine will likely be very unwelcome to most drivers, it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind. Breaking the speed limit is often a primary offense — and one that gets many drivers pulled over — but numerous cases also involve secondary offenses that are significantly more dangerous (like driving under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs). As police officers begin catching more of these dangerous drivers, the overall safety of NYC will certainly increase.
Ultimately, safer city streets will mean less money being funneled into unnecessary lawsuits — whether involving city vehicles or involving privately-owned cars. It may take some time for the results to come in, but NYC residents might just find that Mayor de Blasio is onto something.