Speed Limit Fact Sheet ( PDF )
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March 9, 2000


Overall Accident Rate, Fatal Accident Rate Decrease

Governor George E. Pataki today released a State Department of Transportation (DOT) report that found that the safety record on New York’s highways with the 65 mph speed limit have improved significantly.

The report found that overall on the 65 mph system the fatal accident rate decreased by 29 percent, the total accident rate decreased by 4 percent and the injury accident rate decreased by 5 percent. The report compared statistics of the three years prior to the speed limit change with the three years after the speed limit changed in 1995.

“We knew that changing the speed limit in certain places was simply a matter of common sense,” Governor Pataki said. “This report clearly demonstrates that New York’s highways continue to get safer.”

The report provides “before and after” statistical information on speed, traffic volume, accidents and percentage of commercial traffic on 1,181 miles of highways around the state where the limit was raised to 65 mph. It was written by DOT in conjunction with the New York State Thruway Authority, the Division of State Police, and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

New York State Police Superintendent James W. McMahon said recent investments in highway safety technology, as well as new enforcement initiatives have contributed to increased safety for the motoring public.

“With the support of Governor Pataki, we have added high-tech radar and laser instruments to limit excessive speeding in these 65 mph areas and throughout the state,” Superintendent McMahon said. “We have also instituted targeted programs to combat aggressive driving and promote compliance with safety restraint laws. Safety belts are the single most effective means to avoid serious injuries or death in the event of a crash, and it is estimated that three of every five fatally injured crash victims would have survived had they been buckled up.”

“New Yorkers can be proud of our safety record,” State Transportation Commissioner Joseph H. Boardman said. “DOT will use this report as other segments of the state interstate highway system are considered for the higher speed limit and to continue to ensure that the safety of New York’s highways continues to improve.”

Louis R. Tomson, Chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority, said, “While the 65 mph speed limit has been in effect, the Thruway Authority has experienced its safest years ever and a decrease in fatality rates over the past three years. Our exceptional safety record and low fatality rate can be largely attributed to State Police enforcement, superior engineering, skilled maintenance forces and educational efforts geared towards safe driving.”

Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Richard E. Jackson Jr. said, “New York State in 1998 had the lowest number of traffic fatalities since 1920. The report shows the decrease in recent years has been most significant on highways with the 65 mph system. Under Governor Pataki, increased seat belt usage and tougher enforcement is keeping New York in the forefront of providing motorist safety, despite the increased number of vehicles being used on our highways.”

Other findings in the report include:

Travel Speeds
The average travel speed on 65 mph highways under DOT jurisdiction increased from 64 mph to 67 mph. Because speed data just prior to the speed limit increase are not available for 65 mph highways under NYSTA jurisdiction, speed data comparisons for this same period are not possible.

Traffic Volumes
Average traffic volumes for highways under DOT jurisdiction that had a speed limit increase from 55 mph to 65 mph increased by an average of 13 percent. For the same period, traffic volumes for highways under NYSTA jurisdiction increased by between 6 percent and 21 percent.

Percentage of Commercial Vehicles
The percentage of commercial vehicles using highways under DOT jurisdiction that had a speed limit increase to 65 mph increased from an average of 22.5 percent to an average of 30.5 percent. For the same period, the percentage of commercial vehicles using the New York City Albany portion of the Thruway increased from 17.5 percent to 19.4 percent, while the percentage of commercial vehicles using the Albany Buffalo portion of the Thruway (I-90) increased from 23.2 percent to 23.9 percent.

The total number of speeding tickets issued by the State Police decreased by 2,996 (from 800,847 to 797,851), or 0.4 percent, between the three-year “before” period and the three- year “after” period. This is likely because some drivers who were speeding when the speed limit was 55 mph are now considered to be in compliance under the new limit. While the speed limit increased by 10 mph, the average speed for which a speeding ticket was issued on New York State’s 65 mph highways increased by 3.85 mph (3.6 mph on the Thruway; 4.1 mph on other interstate highways) between the “before” and “after” periods.

Motoring Public
An estimate of motorists’ travel time savings, using average speed data and traffic volumes in this report, indicates that approximately 4.4 million vehicle hours per year of total travel time are being saved on highways in New York where the speed limit was raised to 65 mph.