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Pedestrian-Car Accidents: Preventable with Speed Limit Change?

As part of Mayor de Blasio's Vision Zero initiative, an effort to eliminate pedestrian accident fatalities in New York City, the 30-miles-per-hour default speed limit has been lowered to 25-miles-per-hour. The change went into effect on November 7, and a piece in New York Magazine, summarized below, tells the story of the change and its hoped-for effect on the number of pedestrian deaths - a number that almost equals that of murders in the city.

Some issues and facts around the change include:

This is the first reduction in the speed limit since 1965.

It will take longer to get anywhere by vehicle if the need speed limit is followed. According to the magazine, it will take an additional 24 seconds to cover a mile if driving the new speed limit. And that doesn't include the usual impediments to reaching one's destination - road work, traffic jams, outside events, broken traffic lights and horse-drawn carriages.

The cost of a cab ride will not increase because cabs will travel more slowly.

If you are hit by a car traveling 25 mph rather than 30 mph, your chances of survival are improved. According to the mayor's office, reducing speed to 25 mph doubles a pedestrian's chances of survival in an accident.

The new default speed limit will apply on around 90 of streets in the five boroughs. However, the default speed limit will not be lowered to 25 mph everywhere. On parkways, expressways and arterial roads such as Queens Boulevard where the posted speeds were previously above 30 mph, the speed limit will continue to be higher. Other roadways will have speed limits lower than 25 mph if they were previously lower than the 30 mph default.

The new speed limit applies to bicycles, motorcycles and other motorized vehicles.

Speed cameras are only installed currently in school zones, where the default speed limit is lower than the default. This means that cameras will probably not be an issue in catching speeders who violate the new limit.

Police are probably not going to begin cracking down on drivers who are clocked traveling at 26 mph. However, if they are weaving through traffic or violate traffic laws, an officer can and should stop them, according to the story.

Whether the change reduces the number of pedestrian fatalities is yet to be seen. The number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths so far this year is 131. The goal of Vision Zero is to change that number to zero, and the 25 mph speed limit is supposed to be an important part of achieving that goal.

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