The New York City Council has officially approved a new bill that will change the maximum driving speeds on New York’s streets for the first time in 50 years. Once the change occurs, NYC drivers will have to take extra caution on the unmarked streets of the city.
When the law goes into effect on November 7, 2014, the maximum speed for cars, trucks and taxis driving on residential stress will be reduced from 30 miles per hour to 25 mph. However, New York City residents should not expect a new fleet of signs warning drivers about the change: Signs will continue to indicate other limits for specific streets and should be obeyed. The new regulations will apply to any streets that are unmarked. New signs announced the broad change would only appear at points of entry into the city…and most likely receipts from parking meters, which will be used to spread the message.
The bill is part of an ongoing effort adopted by Mayor Bill de Blasio called “Vision Zero,” which was started to help increase traffic safety in Sweden and has been used as the inspiration for new laws in NYC ever since traffic fatalities saw a spike in negative publicity in 2013. New York has been seeing similar changes in other areas, as well. Last summer, state lawmakers decided to repeal a decades-old law that required all speed limits to be at least 30 miles per hour, laying the groundwork for the Vision Zero change. The changes have already helped reverse negative traffic trends in the city: According to the NYC Transportation Department, pedestrian deaths have fallen by 25 in 2014 compared to this time in 2013.
The new driving laws are being met with responses from organizations around the city. For example, in order to help increase awareness and encourage drivers to follow the new laws, the Taxi and Limousine Commission is making an effort to notify all cabdrivers about the new laws and what penalties can be expected for violations.
However, some organizations do not think that the new laws go far enough in preventing traffic accidents. Notably, the Transportation Alternatives group has been lobbying for even lower, 20 mph limits within the city. While the group was pleased to see the current changes, it admitted worries that these new regulations would depend largely on the ability of the New York City Police Department and related agencies to enforce the new rules. “The safety benefits of this new speed limit will be very much dependent on the willingness of the NYPD to enforce it,” commented Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
The Police Department has already taken steps to focus more on traffic regulations and violations. Traffic tickets issued in 2014 currently number 86,576, a total increase of 35 percent from 2013 and a sign that the NYPD will be taking future violations even more seriously.
The NYPD could receive help from future developments. If Vision Zero continues in its success, it may address other traffic issues in the city. The entire 42-page plan seeks to prevent all traffic deaths through widespread changes. In addition to supporting greater activity from the NYPD, Vision Zero also encourages the city to embrace modern solutions to traffic problems. Future developments could lead to wider parking lines and more advanced, automated taxicab systems that created fines when a taxi goes beyond the required speed limit. New York City residents can also expect other technology to enforce traffic laws, including new speed-tracking cameras.
Interestingly, it could be tourists who see some of the greatest impact from the changes. The taxi-oriented culture of New York City is frequently associated with harrowing rides through Manhattan and other regions. If the laws are successful, this image of NYC – and the related experiences of tourists – could soften significantly, creating a new, friendlier New York brand.