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Bicycle Safety

Speeding Kills, and 39 Percent of New York Drivers Are Doing It

alg_drag_body.jpgCould speed have caused yesterday's pedestrian fatality? We'll probably never know. Photo: New York Daily News

A new report from Transportation Alternatives confirms what New York pedestrians and cyclists have been forced to accept as a fact of life: A high number of drivers speed through city streets, regardless of the potentially deadly consequences for those around them.

"Terminal Velocity: NYC's Speeding Epidemic" [PDF] shows that 39 percent of observed motorists were driving in excess of the 30 mph speed limit. Using radar guns and speed enforcement cameras at 13 locations, TA volunteers clocked speeds in excess of 60 mph in school zones and other areas with heavy pedestrian traffic.

Most speeding drivers were traveling between 31 and 40 mph. While a pedestrian struck at 30 mph has a 60 percent chance of surviving a collision, the likelihood of survival drops to 30 percent when the vehicle is moving at 40 mph, TA notes.

The release of the study was coupled with calls for Albany to permit the installation of speed enforcement cameras -- are you listening, Assemblyman Gantt? -- and for NYPD and the city to keep speeds down through monitoring and improved street design.

Reading the report, we couldn't help wondering if speed was at play in yesterday's gruesome dragging death, when an as-yet-unidentified pedestrian was struck by two motorists in Queens. While the Times provided a highly detailed, almost graphic account of what police say happened, there is no mention of either driver's speed -- only that the first driver to strike the man "swerved to try to avoid him" before hitting him "pretty hard."

As Ben pointed out yesterday, the obligatory "no criminality was suspected" line normally means only that the driver was cleared for alcohol and drug consumption. The data in Terminal Velocity leads to the troubling conclusion that speeding -- which is, after all, against the law -- kills many more pedestrians than police reports or press accounts let on.

Traffic violence claimed the lives of 289 New Yorkers last year. When will lawmakers, police, and prosecutors crack down on this deadly hazard?

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