New York Wants To Increase Its Speed Limits But Not Everybody Is On Board

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The IIHS and the AAA think it's a bad idea.

Republican Senator Thomas F. O'Mara has just introduced a new bill (Senate Bill S2209) that seeks to increase the New York state speed limit on certain highways from 65 mph to 70 mph.

"The majority of states across our country have state speed limits that exceed 65 mph," reads the justification for the bill. "New York has failed to keep up with the rest of the country by not adopting a more efficient speed limit. This bill would correct this inefficacy by allowing for a 70 mph speed limit where appropriate."

Democrat assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara agrees, saying that cars are more capable and safer than ever in human history, but the IIHS and the AAA feel that this could make the roads more dangerous.


Chuck Farmer, IIHS vice president of safety research, told WGRZ-TV, "My advice is not to. Just stick with what you've got." Farmer argues that, if the limit is raised to 70, people will do 79 or 80 "because they figure that's the new unofficial limit." The New York Times reports that the AAA's director of traffic safety, Jake Nelson, said this bill is not a "data-driven policy and it's poor for safety."

On the one hand, the IIHS says higher speed limits lead to more crashes and fatalities. On the other, some studies, like one conducted by the Automobile Club of Southern California, have found that higher statewide speed limits did not result in more road accidents.

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"When New York raised highway speeds to 65 mph, crash rates actually dropped," said New York State Senator Patrick Gallivan, who is a member of the state senate's transportation committee where the bill currently sits. "I would be supportive of raising the speed limit to 70 mph. The places where this would be done are on sections of limited access highways which are built for these types of speeds, and cars are much safer than they've ever been."

In an age where some cars are getting heavier and more dangerous (ahem, GMC Hummer EV), increasing the speed limit may seem risky, but there is no consensus on what is actually best. The US Department of Transport has an 85th percentile rule, which involves measuring traffic over a 24-hour cycle and taking the speed at which 85% of the population drives at or under. But various studies offer conflicting results, so how much chance does this bill have of being passed?

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The bill has no co-sponsor; it does not have a companion bill, so the chances of this being passed are slim. Even if the bill is passed, this would only give the Department of Transportation and the State Thruway Authority the ability to increase the speed limit to 70 where the agencies see fit. There's no guarantee they will do so.

Interestingly, New York has also been looking into mandating speed limiters in new cars as standard equipment. If the two ideas were to be approved, perhaps the potential risks associated with an increased speed limit would be reduced.

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