Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Speeding Cars: ‘Brooklyn’s Got the Worst of It’
Have you ever been walking or bicycling and seen a car hurtling past you, nearly hitting you? Did you know that a 10 mph difference in the speed of that car could mean the difference between life and death for you?
Pedestrian and bicyclist advocacy group Transportation Alternatives (T.A.) is all too aware of these issues. Last year, the organization conducted a survey of more than 15,000 cars in 13 New York City locations. The results of this survey were released last week. T.A. found that 39 percent of drivers regularly speed.
The locations were chosen based on two criteria: complaints about speeding and reckless driving from the community, and the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed or injured in the area based on data from the Department of Motor Vehicles. Of the 13 locations T.A. surveyed, eight were in Brooklyn.
Using radar guns (pictured above) and automated speed cameras—the same equipment used by the NYPD—T.A. employees and researchers visited the locations between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Each person recorded speeds for a minimum of 30 minutes or until a sample size of 100 cars was reached.
Surveyors were careful to place themselves in positions that wouldn’t be dangerous while being inconspicuous to drivers so as not to influence their behaviors.
To obtain the most accurate account possible, other factors were included in the surveys, such as weather conditions, traffic congestion, a crash, or illegal double parking. In some cases, there were too many motorists to record them all, so surveyors recorded in detail how they chose which cars to study, such as every car in one lane or every third car in one lane.
The speed limit in each of these locations is 30 mph. With 39 percent of city drivers going over that speed, T.A. spokesman Wiley Norvell noted, “What we found was pretty shocking.
“From a driver’s point of view, the difference between 30 and 40 miles per hour isn’t that much,” he explained. But for pedestrians or bicyclists, he said, “it could be the difference between life and death.”
While this is a citywide problem, “Brooklyn’s got the worst of it,” Norvell said.
Locations surveyed in this borough were: Flushing at Tompkins avenues, Franklin Avenue at Monroe Street, Bedford at Myrtle avenues, Bedford at Flushing avenues, Bedford at DeKalb avenues, Flatbush at Washington avenues, Flatbush Avenue at Empire Boulevard, and Rogers Avenue at Maple Street.
Compared to the citywide average of cars driving above the speed limit, the majority of the Brooklyn locations surveyed were around or below 39 percent. The number of cars driving above 30 mph at Flushing Avenue and Tompkins Avenue was the city’s lowest recorded percentage at 6.29 percent.
However, three Brooklyn locations had alarmingly high percentages of speeders. At Flatbush Avenue at Washington Avenue, half of all motorists drove above the speed limit.
Seventy-eight percent of cars driving through Flatbush Avenue at Empire Boulevard drove over the 30 mph speed limit, while 88 percent driving through Rogers Avenue at Maple Street exceeded the limit. Even scarier is that one in four cars surveyed here drove over 40 mph.
In the entire city, these two Brooklyn locations had the highest percentage of speeding cars.
According to T.A., this speeding study is the city’s largest ever. And it only addressed 13 locations.
Norvell explained that T.A.’s goals in doing this study are three-fold. First, the organization wants the state Legislature to pass a law allowing New York City to implement speed-enforcement cameras, something it has turned down four times, he said.
T.A. would also like the NYPD to continue gathering as much data as possible. As of right now, the only way to gauge how many cars speed in the city is by the amount of summonses given out.
The third goal for T.A. would be redesigning city streets to make pedestrian and cyclist safety a top priority. This would include slowing down traffic. According to T.A., when a car drives at a speed of 30 mph, 40 percent of pedestrians who are struck will be killed, while at 40 mph, the likelihood of a fatal crash jumps to 70 percent.
Photo courtesy of Transportation Alternatives
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