DOT Launches Speed Limit PSAs; NYPD to Target Speeding, Failure-to-Yield

NYC DOT and NYPD jointly announced some new street safety initiatives today. Harking back to the release this summer of DOT’s Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan, Janette Sadik-Khan and Ray Kelly came out with plans to increase awareness about the dangers of speeding and to target more police enforcement on speeding and failure-to-yield violations.

The centerpiece of DOT’s education campaign is a series of PSAs called “That’s Why It’s 30,” which inform New Yorkers about the 30 mph speed limit and why it exists. According to DOT’s pedestrian safety report, most New Yorkers don’t know the citywide speed limit. The video ads repeat this straightforward explanation:

Hit someone at 40, there’s a 70 percent chance they’ll die. Hit someone at 30, there’s an 80 percent chance they’ll live. That’s why it’s 30.

The PSAs will be distributed on TV, radio, and on billboards, but the announcement doesn’t go into detail about the budget for getting them out to the masses. According to the press release, “DOT is also developing a series of public service announcements targeting cyclists ride on the sidewalk, ride against traffic or fail to yield to pedestrians.”

NYPD, meanwhile, has received a $150,000 grant from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to direct traffic enforcement resources toward speeding and failure-to-yield. DOT’s safety report had revealed that failure to yield to people in a crosswalk is a factor in 27 percent of motor vehicle crashes that injure or kill pedestrians, and that speeding is a factor in more than 20 percent of such crashes.

Some portion of the same grant will also go toward ticketing “bicyclists who disobey traffic laws by biking on the sidewalk, riding against red signals or riding the wrong way down city streets.”

While it’s encouraging to see the police commissioner himself attend a press event about street safety, Kelly seemed to thumb his nose at the idea that pedestrians and cyclists have a common interest in streets where the most hazardous traffic violations are reined in.

“While New York City has an enviable safety record, there’s always room for improvement,” he said in a statement. “Through a combination of education, enforcement and common courtesy, we think we can do even better in protecting pedestrians who are put at risk by motorists and bicyclists alike.”

Transportation Alternatives released the following statement in response to today’s announcement:

Transportation Alternatives welcomes today’s announcement by Commissioners Kelly and Sadik-Khan. We support their message to New Yorkers to slow down. We’re all neighbors, and exercising courtesy and respect will prevent crashes and save life and limb. It will also help to rein in NYC’s chaotic streets and make the city a more welcoming and desirable place to live. While the DOT has done a lot of work to design safer streets, only the Police Department can enforce the rules of the road.

Transportation Alternatives urges the Police Department to employ data driven traffic enforcement to identify the most common dangerous violations and the worst locations. The Department has famously used this strategy for years to reduce crime (CompStat), and now it’s time to apply it to our roads. T.A.’s report From Chaos to Compliance demonstrated how the police can use data to strategically deploy their resources to reduce the most dangerous traffic behaviors. We also believe the Police Department should deploy more officers on bikes to lead by example and demonstrate civic cycling on the roads and for any bicycle enforcement they undertake.

The DOT’s Pedestrian Safety Study and Action plan found that 27 percent of fatal pedestrian crashes involved drivers failing to yield to pedestrians while T.A.’s report Executive Order found that a driver could fail to yield every day and get ticketed only once every 1,589 years.   With funding from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) grant of $150,000 in federal funds for increased enforcement against motorist speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks will hopefully begin to curb the dangerous behaviors that cause the most harm.