Confusing legislative intent with legislative effect

It is hardly a secret (at least among anyone remotely serious about the study of politics) that the fact that a piece of legislation is well-intentioned does not go very far towards guaranteeing it will have good results. But I heard a particularly blatant example of confusing intent with effect on the radio today.

Governor Cuomo has proposed legislation in New York allowing municipalities to lower their speed limit from 30 to 25 mph. The goal is to prevent pedestrian deaths.

This is a worthy goal for which I have some personal feelings: since my son began kindergarten nine years ago, he has had two classmates killed by vehicles on the streets of New York City. So I strongly support the intention of this legislation.

But on the radio I heard some legislator arguing for its passage as follows: "When the speed limit of a car is reduced from 30 to 25 mph, the chances of a killing a pedestrian strikes are reduced by half."

Oy vey! Cars don't have a "speed limit" with which they strike pedestrian; they have a speed that they hit them at. And all the law can do by itself is reduce the speed limit, and not the speed. For the law to have its desired effect, it must be combined with some means of actually producing lower driving speeds. Ticketing is one way, but a better one is traffic calming devices and mixed use roadways. But putting those in place costs money; it is a lot cheaper to just talk and pass legislation.



1 comment:

  1. It is hardly a secret (at least among anyone remotely serious about the study of politics)...

    ... But putting those in place costs money; it is a lot cheaper to just talk and pass legislation.


    And thus is the economic core of the problem exposed.

    Good post.

    ReplyDelete