Lower Speed Limit Laws Are Popping Up Throughout New York

June 18, 2024

By Jill K. Sanders, Esq.

New York is always trying to get drivers to slow down. Whether it be a cop giving you a traffic ticket, warning signs on the highway, or speed camera tickets received in the mail, there are many ways that drivers are told to pump the brakes. Now, cities throughout the state are lowering their speed limit laws. It’s another effort by the state to make drivers go slower.


New York City Lowers Its Speed Limit

In May 2024, New York State Governor Hochul signed legislation as part of the 2025 budget allowing New York City to lower its speed limit to 20 miles per hour. The legislation is called “Sammy’s Law,” named after 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year-old child who died in 2013 after he was hit by a driver in Brooklyn.

The new legislation takes effect June 19, 2024. However, it will be some time before the new speed restrictions impact New York City drivers. First, City Council has to vote on the reduction. Thereafter, there will be a six-month period during which drivers would receive warnings instead of tickets. On some streets, the city’s Department of Transportation may also lower speeds if the local community board is given 60 days’ notice.


Lower Speed Limit Laws in Other Municipalities

Beginning in August 2022, municipalities in New York were permitted to lower speed restrictions to 25 miles per hour. Prior to that, the default maximum speed limit in cities, towns, and villages was 30 miles per hour.

Since then, cities including Albany and smaller towns like East Greenbush and Lewiston have considered lowering speed restrictions. In February 2024, the City of White Plains approved an ordinance reducing the speed restrictions throughout the City of White Plains from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. While a few roadways are excepted, the remaining streets in the city are impacted by the new ordinance, which took effect May 1, 2024.

Image: City of White Plains


Why Lower the Speed Limit?

When a car is moving slower, it has less force. As such, if a car is driving faster and comes into contact with something or someone, serious injuries or fatalities are more likely. According to the AAA Foundation, the average risk of severe injury or death to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle decreases with a car’s speed.

Risk of severe injury Risk of death
90% risk of severe injury at 46 mph 90% risk of death at 58 mph
75% risk of severe injury at 39 mph 75% risk of death at 50 mph
50% risk of severe injury at 31 mph 50% risk of death at 42 mph
25% risk of severe injury at 23 mph 25% risk of death at 32 mph
10% risk of severe injury at 16 mph 10% risk of death at 23 mph

While age of the pedestrian can impact the risk of severe injury or death, it is clear that a slower moving car – and thus a lower speed limit – a can save lives.




Image: Public Domain CC0 License