Governor Hochul Signs New Laws to Enhance Street Safety, Prevent Traffic Deaths, and Crack Down on Hit-And-Run Crashes
New York Governor Kathy Hochul today signed a legislative package to enhance street safety, prevent traffic-related fatalities, and crack down on hit-and-run incidents. Two new laws will allow municipalities to reduce speed limits to 25 miles per hour and increase fines for leaving car crash scenes without reporting them.
“Every New Yorker deserves to feel safe when traveling on our streets, whether they are driving, cycling, or walking,” Governor Hochul said. “These new laws will help prevent senseless tragedies and injuries by cracking down on erratic and irresponsible driving. Today, we are reaffirming our commitment to keeping New Yorkers safe and using every resource available to save lives.”
Legislation (A.1007-A/S.2021-A) will help prevent traffic-related crashes and fatalities by allowing municipalities to reduce speed limits to 25 miles per hour. Research shows that faster driving speeds correlate to more serious injuries and fatalities for pedestrians in the event of a crash. Under current law, the default maximum speed limit throughout a city, town, or village may not be set lower than 30 mph. By giving municipalities local control to reduce speed limits, this legislation will improve public safety and prevent pedestrian fatalities.
State Senator Rachel May said, “As a cyclist, I know how worrying it can be to use streets where speed limits are sometimes too high. I’m proud we could pass a critical tool needed to give local governments more flexibility to lower speed limits to help reduce traffic fatalities in New York State. Making streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and others is especially important as more people are looking for walkable places to live and work.”
Assemblymember Amy Paulin said, “Public safety improves when speed limits are lowered. A number of communities throughout the state have expressed a desire to lower their speed limits, including several in my district. Municipalities must be granted the authority to take this proactive, effective step to decrease fatalities and the severity of injuries that can result from speed-related accidents.”
Legislation (A.3964/S.9163) will deter hit and run incidents and enhance public safety by increasing fines for leaving the scene of a car crash without reporting it. Hit and run incidents are particularly dangerous when an individual is hurt, and the driver at fault fails to report it since that person may not get the proper care when they need it. This legislation will increase the fine range for leaving the scene of a personal injury crash to $750-$1,000 and increase the fine range for a repeat violation to $1,000-$3,000.
State Senator Andrew Gounardes said, “It is reprehensible to hit another person with your car and then flee the scene. Today, my bill makes it a lot more expensive to be a hit-and-run driver by raising the fine up to $3,000. Thank you to the advocates, legislators, and community members who supported this bill, and thank you to Governor Hochul for signing this into law and keeping New Yorkers safer on our streets.”
Earlier this year, a report issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that traffic fatalities during the first half of 2021 had increased 18.4 percent since the first half of 2020, even as many New Yorkers worked from home. Additionally, New York City data shows that traffic fatalities increased by 44 percent during the first three months of 2022, the deadliest start to any year since the start of the City’s Vision Zero program in 2014. By imposing greater penalties on hit-and-run incidents, this new law will help address increases in traffic-related deaths and reduce accidents on streets across the state.
Daniel Flanzig, Advocacy Chair for New York’s statewide bicycle advocacy organization, New York Bicycling Coalition, said, “Giving municipalities the flexibility to lower vehicular speed on their streets is a huge milestone in vision zero strategies and in reducing traffic violence. We are thrilled that Governor Hochul recognizes the importance of this long needed change. New York has seen an unprecedented increase in hit-and-run crashes in our state over the last few years. By increasing penalties, it will deter misconduct and increase safety for our members in every corner of the state.”
Amy Cohen, the mother of 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein, who was killed by a speeding driver in 2013, said, “Slower speeds save lives. That is why the NYS Safe Streets Coalition has been fighting for Sammy’s Law to let New York City set slower speed limits. While we continue this fight, we are very pleased today that Governor Hochul is signing a related measure to allow other Empire State localities to set safer speed limits on their streets. We know that this will save lives, and we thank Assemblymember Paulin and Senator May for their partnership in the legislature to get this done. Next year, we look forward to passing the entire Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act, including Sammy’s Law.”
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