Life in the fast lane: 70% of NYC drivers recorded speeding, study finds

speeding car downtown
A speeding SUV driver fatally struck a woman before crashing through a construction site in Downtown Brooklyn on Dec. 4, 2019.
File photo by Alex Mitchell

Seven in 10 drivers were speeding on New York City streets in April and May, according to data recorded by advocates at Transportation Alternatives.

The June 3 report by the street safety organization, dubbed “Too Fast, Too Furious,” shows that out of 1,670 drivers they recorded with speed guns in all five boroughs, 70% of motorists broke the speed limit, and a leading advocate called on the state Legislature to hand over control of municipal speed limits to the city.

“Believe it or not, but Albany has control over the speed limit on New York City streets. Vision Zero is in crisis, yet state law prevents city officials from lowering the speed limit on roads across the five boroughs,” said Marco Conner DiAquoi, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives.

Staten Island and Queens showed particularly high numbers of lead-footed motorists, with 94% and 73% of drivers speeding in those boroughs, respectively.

TA also found 52% of drivers blowing the limit in the Bronx, 46% in Brooklyn, and 30% in Manhattan.

Some 14% of drivers barreled down the roads at speeds 10 mph faster than the limit and the advocates caught speeds as high as 63 mph.

They recorded data at thoroughfares in each borough known for speeding or with high crash data for at least two hours each, according to the report.

Those streets were Slosson Avenue at Martling Avenue on Staten Island; Skillman Avenue at 32nd Place in Queens; 135th Street at Willis Avenue in the Bronx; Remsen Avenue at Avenue N in Brooklyn; and Ninth and 10th Avenues at West 45th Street in Manhattan. 

The study comes as the city’s streets have seen the deadliest 12-month period since Mayor Bill de Blasio launched his signature Vision Zero initiative in 2014 designed to bring traffic deaths down to zero.

More than 240 people were killed in crashes in the Big Apple in 2020 and 21 people died on the roads in just the last two weeks.

TA and fellow advocates Families for Safe Streets renewed their call on Albany politicians to immediately pass legislation known as Sammy’s Law, which would give the city power to lower its own speed limits in order make them safer.

“Every mile of road with a lower speed limit is a safer mile for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers,” said state Senator Brad Hoylman, the bill’s sponsor.

The law is named after Sammy Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year-old boy killed by a driver on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn in 2013.

The proposed legislation is part of the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act, a package of eight bills currently before state lawmakers aimed at making the streets safer, according to Sammy’s mom.

“We need state legislators to pass the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act so no other New York families face the anguish of burying a child, spouse or parent due in a preventable act of traffic violence,” said Amy Cohen, who co-founded Families for Safe Streets after her child’s death.

Driving speeds have a big impact on whether or not people survive a collision. A 2015 study out of San Francisco found that 10% of crash victims die with drivers at 20 mph, 40% with motorists going 30 mph, and 80% with speeds of 40 mph. 

When Albany lowered New York City’s speed from 30 mph to 25 mph in 2014, traffic deaths dropped by more than 22% and pedestrian fatalities were reduced by more than 25%.

In so-called Neighborhood Slow Zones where the city’s Department of Transportation has worked with community groups to lower limits to 20 mph, crashes with injuries were reduced by 14%.