Drivers speed across city with tragic results, new study finds
BY Pete Donohue
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, February 12th 2009, 2:21 AM
Speed kills, and drivers are ignoring the limit at an alarming rate, a study obtained by the Daily News reveals.
Nearly 40% of drivers ignore the 30-mph city street limit, says the Transportation Alternatives study, “Terminal Velocity, New York City’s Speeding Epidemic.”
“While driving 40 mph might not feel fast to a driver, it all but assures that a crash will be fatal to a pedestrian,” said Wiley Norvell, spokesman for the bicyclist and pedestrian safety advocacy group.
Using a radar gun and speed-detecting camera, the nonprofit recorded the speeds of 15,000 cars and trucks across the five boroughs.
It’s believed to be the largest survey of its kind conducted in the city.
The report – to be released today – urges the NYPD to crack down on speeders. It calls on Albany to authorize use of speed cameras, similar to those used on red-light runners.
Michael Needham will never get over the loss of his 10-year-old son, Michael Jr., killed last summer by an allegedly speeding van while riding his bike.
Needham hopes other parents are spared the agony he and his wife, Dornell, experience daily.
“It hurts,” he said of his son’s death. “It’s not something that’s going to go away as far as I’m concerned.”
Needham said police enforcement of traffic rules needs to be increased and then held constant.
“We’re hoping the authorities will do something,” he said. “I don’t want another family to go through what we’re going through now.”
Most of the speeders recorded in the survey were going between 31 and 40 mph.
A pedestrian struck by a car going 30 mph dies 40% of the time. At 40 mph, such crashes are fatal 70% of the time, the report said.
The top speed recorded was 66 mph on Webster Ave. near 195th St. in Bedford Park, the Bronx.
Street fatalities are near historic lows but the death count is still sobering.
On average, about 300 pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and passengers were killed each year over the last five years, statistics from the mayor’s office of operations and the Transportation Department show.
A pedestrian or cyclist is killed just about every other day.
Traffic fatalities have decreased steadily in New York City since 1997 when there were 494 fatalities, compared with 289 last year – a decrease of 42%, said a police spokesman.
The NYPD issued more than 70,000 summonses for speeding last year and it has consistently favored legislation to permit cameras to capture speeders, he added.
“New York City can’t keep looking the other way while speeding takes the lives of children, grandparents and neighbors by the dozens,” Norvell said.
“Speeding contributes to three times as many crashes as drunken driving, and yet Albany has denied New York City the one tool needed to enforce against this crime: speed enforcement cameras.”