In just one night two weeks ago, three New Yorkers were killed while walking on New York City streets. This, tragically, was not unusual. In the past year, 291 of our neighbors were killed in car crashes, and 15,465 pedestrians and cyclists were injured in collisions with motor vehicles.
In New York, one person is killed in a car crash every 30 hours. Every 10 seconds, a New Yorker suffers a traffic related injury, and every two hours a traffic injury results in dismemberment or disfigurement. From 2001 to 2010, more New Yorkers were killed in traffic than were murdered by guns. The consequences for New York families is tragic: being struck by a car is the most common cause of injury-related death among children 1-14 years old, and the second most common cause among those aged 15 and older.
Enough is enough. There is no level of death or injury that New Yorkers should accept on our public streets.
The City must take decisive and sustained action to reduce street fatalities each year until we have achieved “Vision Zero” – a city with zero fatalities or serious injuries caused by car crashes on the streets of New York.
In Chicago, City officials have set a goal to eliminate all pedestrian, bicyclist and motorist traffic fatalities within ten years. In New York, we can do the same. What we need is a bold, comprehensive approach that balances smart design choices, sweeping expansion of 20-mph “slow zones,” expanded enforcement of reckless driving like speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians, and a camera-based deterrent and enforcement system that is free from Albany politics.
Improve At Least 50 Dangerous Corridors and Intersections Every Year: Smarter Street Design Discourages Dangerous Driving
If a road feels like a highway, people in cars will drive fast, no matter the speed limit. The City’s Department of Transportation has made progress reducing fatalities on our roadways by redesigning some of the city’s most dangerous intersections — but much more work remains to be done. Communities across the city are clamoring for these changes, and we need to meet the demand for safe streets. This means narrowing excessively wide streets that encourage reckless passing and speeding, widening sidewalks and medians to make streets easier and safer to cross, and adding dedicated bicycle infrastructure to create a safe space for New Yorkers on bikes.
The City must invest in dramatic safety improvements targeted towards the most dangerous intersections and thoroughfares, particularly around schools, in neighborhoods where elderly New Yorkers increasingly reside, and in low-income neighborhoods where death by being struck by a car too often goes unremarked.
We must ensure that Department of Transportation expands its capacity to bring safety improvements to at least 50 corridors and dangerous intersections each year.
Embrace a Sweeping Expansion of 20 mph Zones across New York City Neighborhoods, Quadrupling the Current Number in Four Years
A person hit by a car at 40 mph has an 85 percent chance of dying; at 30 mph, the likelihood of a fatal crash drops to 45 percent. When the car is traveling at 20 mph, the odds of a fatal crash fall to just 5 percent. New York communities have embraced a City Department of Transportation program to create 20 mph “slow zones” in residential neighborhoods across the City. The DoT recently introduced 13 new slow zones after receiving over 100 applications from neighborhoods across the City.
The City should work closely with communities to quadruple the number of slow zones – to 52 – over the next four years. Expansion of these zones will help create a new standard for safe conduct on the streets of our residential neighborhoods.
Prioritize NYPD Speeding Enforcement and Crack Down on Drivers Failing to Yield to Pedestrians
Speeding is the number one cause of car-related fatalities, and yet, in the Bloomberg years, the NYPD has not prioritized enforcement of speeding and reckless driving. In 2012, four times as many tickets were written for tinted windows (81,126) than for speeding violations on neighborhood streets(19,119). In some precincts, speeding tickets are strikingly rare – in Bushwick last year, the policy precinct wrote just eight speeding tickets. In 2012, only 10 of 74 police precincts in New York City wrote more than one speeding ticket per day.
This is not because New York drivers do not speed. Speeding and reckless driving on many New York City roads is widespread, making the roads more dangerous for law-abiding drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians alike. A recent study by Transportation Alternatives found that 88 percent of observed Brooklyn drivers were speeding, almost one third of which were driving 10 miles per hour or more over the 30 mph speed limit. In another 4-day study along 23rd Avenue in East Elmhurst, Queens, 80 percent of all recorded drivers were exceeding the speed limit. Speeding is the cause of 40 percent of all traffic fatalities.
In addition, drivers routinely fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and yet this deadly behavior is seldom enforced. Failing to yield to pedestrians who have the right of way accounted for one in four crashes that killed or seriously injured pedestrians between 1995 and 2009.
New Yorkers deserve better. The NYPD should track and prioritize the enforcement of speeding, failures to yield to pedestrians, and reckless driving on particularly deadly roads and streets.
Demand Home Rule on Traffic Cameras
This year, the City won a hard-fought battle for state legislation allowing the installation of 20 mobile traffic cameras at locations near schools. But this does not go far enough. Traffic cameras have been shown to substantially reduce speeding and make streets safer. We need to expand the use of cameras to increase our ability to enforce traffic laws. New Yorkers deserve them on more streets – in school zones, around senior centers, and in neighborhoods prone to dangerous driving.
That’s why the City needs to take control over speed cameras from legislators in Albany and demand the ability to determine for itself the appropriate number and locations of cameras.Endnotes