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Vehicle fatalities spike in New York State despite fewer drivers on the roadways

Three police officers standing next to a crash involving two cars, one of which is on its side.
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A startling rise in the number of people killed in motor vehicle accidents in New York has occurred in the last 5 years. Statistics from State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli show between 2019 and 2022, deaths on the roadways jumped 25.8%. That’s at a time when there are fewer drivers on the road, as well. DiNapoli reports there were 7% fewer miles travelled during the period.

Almost two-out-of three traffic fatalities were among people not wearing either seatbelts or helmets. About a third were related to speed, and another third involved a driver with a blood- alcohol level above the legal limit.

DiNapoli suggests New York consider other states’ policies of letting localities reduce speed limits on dangerous sections of roads and highways.

According to the report:

  • Other states have advanced policies to improve traffic safety that New York could consider. For example, in 2017 Utah became the first state to lower their blood alcohol limit from the federal and NYS limit of .08 to .05. According to a 2022 study by NHTSA, Utah’s change had a demonstrably positive impact on highway safety in the state. Fatal crashes and the fatality rate in Utah dropped by nearly 20 percent and 18 percent respectively in 2019, the first year the legal limit was changed.20 A bill introduced in New York State in 2022, if enacted, would make New York the second state to implement the .05 BAC limit.21
  • The recent passage of Sammy’s Law highlighted interest on the part of New York City to have greater control over its own speed limits. Policy makers should consider if allowing other local governments, not just New York City, to be able to make similar adjustments to their minimum speed limits would help reduce the number of traffic fatalities in the State.
Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.