How Do Municipalities in New York Establish Speed Limits?

How Do Municipalities in New York Establish Speed Limits?

A speed limit is a maximum speed you can legally travel on the road by motor vehicle. If you’re caught going over it, you could face a hefty fine. If your speeding causes a fatal car accident, the losses are even greater.  

However, as much as residents in New York City love to debate the speed limits, few know exactly how they are established in the first place.  

Who Chooses The Speed Limits In NYC?  

Who exactly has jurisdiction over setting speed limits in New York State can be confusing. With a balance of county, town, and state roadways, multiple parties can play a part.  

In New York State, the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law are the ones who give the authority for villages, towns, and cities to set speed limits. Towns with populations exceeding over 50,000, or who are defined as “suburban towns” may be granted authority to set their own limits on county roads within the town limits. Any roads or highways that do not meet these requirements are monitored by the New York State Department of Transportation (D.O.T.)  

Roads and highways in New York City are regulated by the NYC Region 11 office of the D.O.T., who has jurisdiction of the following roadways according to the Traffic Engineering Directive 

  • State highways and highways on Indian Reservations; 
  • County roads and town highways; and 
  • Roads on the grounds of state department buildings, institutions of the State University of New York, state hospitals, and other state institutions.  

Additionally, the D.O.T. has the authority to establish minimum and maximum speed limits in special situations such as on controlled access state highways, bridges, and elevated structures, rest and parking areas, as well as place special traffic regulations and restrictions in these areas.  

The D.O.T. does not, however, ignore the authority of local governments who have the capability of establishing their own speed limits. They often share dual jurisdiction, in which D.O.T. often favors the decision of the local authorities.  

Exceptions to dual jurisdiction practices apply to controlled access state highways outside of New York City. In these cases, D.O.T. will step in to set speed limits on bridges, elevated structures, and other stretches where these roads run through towns exceeding 50,000 in population. On bridges or highways that cross state lines, the jurisdiction then switches over to the authorities of the neighboring state.  

Even with authority to set speed limits, D.O.T. has its own restrictions to follow. Maximum speed limits were first restricted by the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act from 1973, stating no highway limit could exceed 55 miles per hour. Since the legislation was enacted in 1995 to establish a maximum speed limit of 65 miles per hour in New York on rural freeways and interstate look-a-like roads.  

How Are Speed Limits Chosen?  

There is a lot of research that goes into setting a speed limit. According to the Federal Highway Administration, some of these factors include:  

  • Types of vehicles sharing the road; 
  • Traffic volume; 
  • Number of pedestrians and bicyclists; 
  • Weather patterns and visibility; 
  • Roadway designs (purpose of the road, narrow or lack of shoulder space, available sight distance, driveways present, etc.);  
  • Pavement conditions; and  
  • Crash risk frequency and severity.  

Why Might Speed Limits Change? 

Areas in NYC are continuously changing. Populations increase, road conditions worsen, and new construction is constantly changing the landscape. Speed limits must be reevaluated and adjusted in these cases to accommodate the elevated risks to motors, pedestrians, and cyclists. Other factors leading to speed limit changes include:  

  • High rates of crashes on certain roads or interactions; 
  • Public complaints;  
  • New schools;  
  • New developments and commercial districts; 
  • More traffic lights or crosswalks; and  
  • High areas of traffic congestion. 

Most recently, the NYC D.O.T. reduced the speed limit on the West Side Highway from 35 to 30. The move was sparked by the rise in pedestrian accidents and cyclist fatalities across the city, in the hope to reduce the number of accidents leading to these preventable tragedies.  

Why Do We Have Speed Limits?  

Speed limits are set to warn motorists of the maximum speed you should be driving on a road or highway. These speed limits are not suggestions. Vehicles traveling over the speed limit elevate their risk of accidents and the severity of injuries sustained in a crash.  

Across roads nationwide, it’s far too common for drivers to frequently drive 10 to 15 miles over the speed limit, part of the reason why traffic accidents have continued to rise over the years. When authorities such as the D.O.T. enact a speed limit, they do so with the intention that all drivers will at least be going five miles over the posted limit. But drivers can rest assured- you are allowed to go slower!  

Avoid Speeding and Speeders 

Speeding-related accidents are 100 percent preventable. You can help reduce speeding accidents in your community by slowing down on the road and encouraging others to do the same. 

Unfortunately, not every motorist will adhere to the speed limit, no matter how often you encourage them. If you notice a driver speeding around you on the road, do not engage. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests the following safety measures drivers should be taking to avoid collisions with aggressive drivers: 

  • Let aggressive drivers pass you if you are driving in the left lane; 
  • Drive far from speeding drivers to give them plenty of room to maneuver; 
  • Try to move over safely if a speeding driver is tailgating you; 
  • Do not try to compete with a speeding driver or go slower to make them slow down; and 
  • If you believe a driver is purposely trying to harass you, call the police for assistance. 

New York City and Long Island Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys 

There is no good excuse for speeding and putting the lives of others at risk. If you or a loved one has been injured in a traffic accident caused by a reckless driver, our winning team is here to stand up for your rights. 

The attorneys of Siler & Ingber are committed to working with our clients to help them get the compensation they deserve. With a 98% success rate, we have the experience and the know-how to help our clients achieve a favorable outcome. Contact us today at 1-877-529-4343, or schedule an appointment online anytime. We never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. 

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