After three years of a tireless campaign by grief-stricken mother Amy Cohen, “Sammy’s Law” might be passed before the end of this year’s session on June 8th. This legislation would grant New York City the authority to decrease speed limits to 20 miles per hour.
“Sammy’s Law” is named in honor of Sammy Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year-old boy tragically struck by a vehicle near Prospect Park in October 2013. His untimely demise prompted his mother to advocate for street safety. Reflecting on the three-year struggle for this bill, first introduced in 2020, she remarked, “It’s a long-overdue measure.”
State lawmakers are indicating promising signs of passing the bill before adjourning on Thursday. Last year, the absence of a formal request from New York City lawmakers hindered its progress, a step that has since been remedied.
State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal, the bill’s sponsor, shared optimism about the prospects of the bill passing but cautioned that “nothing is done until it’s over the finish line.”
Over the past decade, the city’s traffic fatality rates have seen a decrease with the adoption of the “Vision Zero” approach, although the trend has regrettably reversed in recent years. However, this trajectory could change with lower speed limits, which research shows can significantly decrease fatality rates. ProPublica reports a 70% higher chance of death when a pedestrian is hit at 30 mph compared to 25 mph.
As the citywide speed limit is currently set at 25 mph, this bill offers a tangible solution to the rising fatality rates. Hoylman-Sigal argues against the trend of legislators from outside the city influencing decisions on local street matters. He stated, “Senators in Massapequa shouldn’t set the speed limit for Manhattan — or the reverse.”
Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, also sponsoring the bill, expressed her confidence about the proposal, considering its growing support among colleagues.
The proposed legislation, while allowing New York City to establish a 20 mph speed limit, would not prohibit higher speed limits where appropriate.
This legislative victory, should it materialize, would undoubtedly be bittersweet for Amy Cohen, with Cohen saying, “It’s a loss no parent should ever have to endure.” Despite the pain, she draws inspiration from Sammy’s courage and fervor, hoping his legacy will protect others from a similar fate.