New York State Senate Bill S524 was advanced through the chamber’s Transportation Committee last week, according to a report by 1010 Wins. The bill, also known as Sammy’s Law, “Relates to establishing speed limits in cities with populations in excess of one million people,” according to its listing in the Senate’s website.
If passed by the Senate and Assembly, the law would give New York City the authority to reduce its own speed limits to 20 miles per hour, and even to 5mph on certain streets, “like those participating in NYC’s Open Streets program,” according to 1010 Wins. Sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Richard Gottfied, the bill is informally named after Sammy Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year-old killed in a reckless driving crash in 2013.
Eckstein’s mother, Amy Cohen, is the co-founder of advocacy group Families For Safe Streets. In a statement about the law’s advancement through the Transportation Committee, she said in part: “Lower speed limits save lives and Sammy’s Law will save lives in New York City. On behalf of the entire NYS Safe Streets Coalition, we thank Senator Hoylman and Senate Transportation Committee Chair Kennedy for advancing two critical pieces of the Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act passage. Speeding is a major factor in about 80 percent of all fatal car crashes in New York City. Fatal crashes decrease 17 percent for every one mile-per-hour reduction in driving speed. Alongside Sammy’s Law, Albany must strengthen and expand the life-saving speed safety camera program this year.”
As Cohen and 1010 Wins both note, reckless driving incidents spiked when the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, and continued rising into 2021. Data released by the US Department of Transportation last week showed that in the first nine months of last year, 31,720 died in car crashes—approximately 12% more than died during the same period last year.
In a statement about the bill’s committee passage, Senator Hoylman said, “Statistics show that even just a one mph decrease in a car’s speed can result in a 17% decrease in fatal crashes… Sammy’s Law will give NYC the authority to lower its own speed limits and save lives.”