Sen. Gounardes in City & State: "Serial speeders are killing New Yorkers. It’s time to slow them down."

Andrew Gounardes

Originally published in City & State on .
An image of a car speeding down Central Park West.

A proposed bill would require “speed limiter” devices to be installed on serial speeders’ vehicles, stopping them from going more than 5 mph over the speed limit.

By Andrew Gounardes and Emily Gallagher

On a cold night this January, the driver of a 5,000-pound Dodge Ram pickup truck with an “NDERTAKER” license plate made a sharp left turn onto Bay Ridge Avenue in Dyker Heights and slammed into a 52-year-old mother named Xiaohong Chen, killing her. 

The truck had been ticketed by speed cameras 27 times since 2018, including seven times just last year. But the driver faced no consequences beyond a fine. 

On the other end of the borough, 49-year-old Greenpoint resident Danielle Aber was killed while walking home from the supermarket in February when the driver of another pickup truck crashed into her in a crosswalk. The driver had received 28 speeding tickets since 2018, including nine in a school zone over the past year. 

These are just two examples of the hundreds of tragedies that occur across New York each year. Excessive speed is a contributing factor in about one-third of all traffic deaths, roughly the same percentage as crashes involving drunk drivers. A person hit by a car traveling 35 mph is five times more likely to die than a person hit by a car traveling 20 mph.

New York State requires an “ignition interlock device” in the vehicle of anyone convicted of drunk driving, a law passed after an 11-year-old was killed by an intoxicated driver. These handheld breathalyzers connect to the vehicle’s engine, and prevent someone from starting the car if they’ve been drinking. 

It’s time we take a similar approach with repeated, reckless speeding. That’s why we introduced legislation requiring Intelligent Speed Assistance technology for drivers that repeatedly put New Yorkers’ lives at risk.

Also known as “limiters” or “governors,” these devices do a simple, life-saving thing: prevent vehicles from speeding. They’re already standard-issue in new vehicles sold in Europe, and the National Transportation Safety Board – the independent federal agency charged with improving transportation safety – has recommended the same in the United States. 

Our legislation, which the NTSB has endorsed, would require the installation of Intelligent Speed Assistance devices on the vehicles of drivers who either accumulate 11 or more points on their license in an 18-month period or receive six speed camera or red light camera tickets within a single year. The devices would prevent drivers from traveling more than 5 mph over the local speed limit.

That represents a small fraction of total drivers on the road – the repeat offenders who are disproportionately responsible for carnage on our streets – but it would have an outsize impact on safety. The mandate would last for one year, ensuring serial speeders with long track records of dangerous driving change their behavior to be in line with a vast majority of other drivers.

We know this technology works. One report found such speed limiters reduced traffic deaths by 37% in the UK. In fact, we’re already using this technology on our own streets: when New York City instituted an Intelligent Speed Assistance pilot program for municipal vehicles, hard-braking incidents dropped 36% and vehicles followed the speed limit 99% of the time.

We represent Brooklyn communities on different ends of the borough that have been devastated by deadly crashes. But this problem extends far beyond our own neighborhoods: 262 people were killed in traffic crashes in New York City in 2023. And the ever-quicker acceleration capacity of electric vehicles makes it important that we implement this common-sense technology now.

When people drive drunk, we put a device in cars to prevent it from happening again. When people repeatedly speed, we should use similar technology to stop that, too. Our legislation will impact relatively few drivers, but it has the potential to save countless lives.

Read this article at City & State.