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Bill proposes increasing New York state speed limit to 70 MPH

The bill would allow the thruway authority and State Department of Transportation to raise the speed on select highways by 5 MPH.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A state lawmaker from the Southern Tier is proposing that New York raise the speed limit on certain sections of expressways to 70 miles per hour.

The proposal would allow the DOT and the State Thruway Authority to raise the maximum speed limit by 5 MPH in areas where it sees fit, primarily in those sections of expressways that are already posted at 65.

The bill was introduced by NYS  Senator Thomas F. O'Mara (R-C 58th District) whose district encompasses several counties along the state border with Pennsylvania and parts of the Finger Lakes Region.

In the justification portion of the bill, it states: "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."

Indeed, 42 states in the country have speed limits of 70 or faster. New York is one of a handful of mostly northeastern states (along with Alaska) where the maximum speed is 65. Only Hawaii has a lower maximum speed limit (60 MPH).

However, that's not a bad thing according to Chuck Farmer, Vice President of Research for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

"If New York is thinking about raising speed limits my advice is not to. Just stick with what you've got," Farmer told WGRZ-TV.

IIHS has concluded that raising speed limits leads to more accidents and more deaths. According to Farmer, research also indicates that drivers often drive faster than the posted speed limit.

"So if you raise the speed limit up to 70, everybody is going to be doing 79 maybe 80 because they figure that's the new unofficial limit."

While it may be universally accepted that crashes at higher speeds are more severe, there is some disagreement as to whether raising speed limits, particularly on limited-access highways, will result in more of them.

The Automobile Club of Southern California found that higher statewide speed limits did not lead to more accidents.

"And when  New York raised highway speeds to 65 mph, crash rates actually dropped," said NY State Senator Patrick Gallivan (R, C 60th District) a member of the state senate's transportation committee, where the bill now sits. "I would be supportive of raising the speed limit to 70 MPH," said Gallivan, who spent a career in law enforcement as a member of the New York State Police and as Erie County Sheriff prior to being elected to the state senate. "The places where this would be done are on sections of limited access highways which are built for these types of speeds, and cars are much safer than they've ever been."

The chair of the Transportation Committee where the bill currently sits, Western New York State Senator Tim Kennedy (D- Buffalo), was unavailable to speak with 2 On Your Side on Tuesday. However, a spokesperson offered that he would be reviewing the legislation, for which there is currently no companion bill in the New York State Assembly.

It is important to note that even if the bill were to be passed and signed into law by the Governor, it would merely authorize the state DOT and the Thruway Authority to increase the speed limit to 70 MPH and only where those agencies see fit.

A spokesperson for the Thruway Authority said the agency has no comment at this time, and the DOT did not respond to our request seeking comment.



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