On Feb. 3, 2022, the Senate Transportation Committee advanced “Sammy’s Law” (S.524-a), a bill sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman that would allow New York City to independently establish and control its own speed limits.
In 2021, New York City saw 273 pedestrian fatalities, the highest number since 2013.
“Statistics show that even just a one mile-per-hour decrease in a car’s speed can result in a 17 percent decrease in fatal crashes,” Hoylman said. “Sammy’s Law will give New York City the authority to lower its own speed limits and save lives.”
Studies by the American Automobile Association found that vehicle speed has a major impact on pedestrian injuries and deaths. They estimated that 30 percent of pedestrians struck by a vehicle going 25 mph will sustain serious injuries and 12 percent will die. By decreasing vehicle speed to 15 mph or lower it was found that only 9 percent of pedestrians struck sustained serious injuries and even fewer died.
The law is named after Sammy Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year-old boy who on Oct. 8, 2013, was struck by a motor vehicle on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn and died. Within the next year, two more of Eckstein’s classmates, 12-year-old Jodie Sellers and 14-year-old Mohammad Naiem Uddin were also killed in traffic incidents in the immediate area.
New York City’s “Vision Zero Initiative” is based on the nonprofit Vision Zero Network. Their goal is to provide safe road conditions and decrease pedestrian fatalities to zero. Beginning in Sweden in the 1990s and sweeping across Europe, it has proven to be successful in changing traffic safety conditions and its initiative has begun making an appearance in major American cities.
According to the bill memo, giving New York City the authority to reduce speed limits to as low as 20 mph citywide or as low as 5 mph with the implementation of traffic calming measures will give the City a flexible tool for making further progress toward the important goal of Vision Zero.
Other cities across the U.S. have also taken an initiative against pedestrian deaths. These cities include Washington D.C., Seattle, and Minneapolis.
The Senate bill has moved to a third reading. The Assembly version of the bill, (A.4655) is in the Assembly Transportation Committee.