New York Is Debating Raising Highway Speed Limit to 70 MPH

Supporters of the bipartisan bill say modern cars can handle higher speeds—and most people are going faster than 65 mph regardless.
Photo | Getty Images

New York, like many northeast states, has a maximum speed limit of 65 mph on all of its major highways. However, that’s something some New York lawmakers want to change. Senator Thomas F. O’Mara (R-C 58th District) introduced a bill that would bring certain highway speed limits up to 70 mph but it’s facing opposition.

The bill’s justification for a higher speed limit is to match what other states are doing: “The majority of States across our Country have State speed limits that exceed 65 MPH. New York has failed to keep up with the rest of the Country by not adopting a more efficient speed limit. This bill would correct this inefficacy by allowing for a 70 MPH speed limit where appropriate.”

According to O’Mara, the bill has been mostly popular with his constituents, as it would make large stretches of open rural highway faster to traverse legally. The bill also has at least some bi-partisan support, as Democratic assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara agrees with the idea of an increased speed limit. According to the New York Times, Santabarbara, who used to work as a civil engineer, cited the increased capability and safety technology of modern cars as one of the reasons speed limits could safely rise.

Photo | Getty Images

However, the bill is facing some opposition from AAA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). According to the NY Times, AAA’s director of traffic safety Jake Nelson said that this bill is not “data driven policy and it’s poor for safety.” And Chuck Farmer, IIHS vice president of safety research told WGRZ-TV that if New York legislators are thinking about raising speed limits “my advice is not to. Just stick with what you’ve got.”

Most of the opposition to the bill revolves around safety. IIHS data suggests that higher speeds result in both more accidents and more deaths. While it’s true that more modern cars have advanced safety systems—such as lane departure warnings, blind-spot monitoring, and active braking systems—not everyone drives newer cars. So drivers of older, lower-cost cars could be at higher risk.

Even if the bill passes and is signed by Governor Kathy Hochul, speed limits won’t instantly rise. All the passed bill would do is authorize the New York Department of Transportation and Thruway Authority to increase speed limits to 70 mph on highways of their choosing.

New York is far from the only northeast state to have 65 mph speed limits. New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Rhode Island all have maximum speed limits of 65 mph. So if this bill were to pass in New York, it would be interesting to see if any other northeast states follow.

The Drive reached out to the New York DOT for a comment and will update this story if we get one.

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