The rate of injuries and deaths in vehicle-related accidents in New York is approximately one every two hours. In fact, the mayor of New York City has worked to make conditions safer for pedestrians as well as motorists by signing a law that reduced the default speed limit to 25 miles per hour. The initiative in the city is known as Vision Zero, which is dedicated to street safety. The wisdom in reducing speed limits in areas with extensive pedestrian activity is supported by a recent study that shows a major connection between speed, age, and risk of death for a pedestrian.
The data used in this study comes from a federal compilation of data gathered between 1994 and 1998. This data shows that when a vehicle strikes a pedestrian at a speed of approximately 22 miles per hour or less, the risk of death for the average person is less than 10 percent. However, the risk of death for an individual who is 70 or older is nearly twice as high as a car travels at 22 miles per hour.
At 25 miles per hour, the average person’s risk of death in such an incident is 12 percent, and the aged individual’s risk is 23 percent. With Vision Zero in place, New York City experienced its lowest level of traffic deaths in a given year since 1910, and the new default speed may be a significant factor in this outcome. While reduced speeds don’t completely remove the risks for pedestrians, they may represent a key strategy for leaders in other cities with serious pedestrian fatality statistics.