By Elizabeth Crotty, a criminal defense attorney barred in New York.
Last year resulted in some disturbing news, especially for New York City pedestrians. A preliminary report recently released by the New York City Department of Transportation, shows that, although overall traffic fatalities decreased, both pedestrian and cyclist fatalities increased last year.
According to the data in the DOT’s report, there was a total of 229 people killed in the city last year from traffic accidents, a record low that points to the success of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.
The goal of Vision Zero is to completely eliminate traffic deaths completely by the year 2024. Despite the initiatives and the multiple safety projects the DOT completed last year, the number of pedestrians and cyclists increased last year.
Even more alarming is that the trend for 2017 appears to be continuing. In the first 10 days of the New Year, there were 10 people killed in traffic accidents. Eight of those deaths occurred in neighborhoods that Vision Zero has designated as priority due to the higher rate of incidents, seven of them in just one of those areas, Brooklyn.
Brooklyn has been one of the hardest-hit areas of the city when it comes to traffic injuries and fatalities. Over a five-year period, there were more than 5,100 traffic injuries reported from the area. Another 25 people died from their injuries.
One of the recently reported fatalities was the tragic death of an 85-year-old man who was crossing the street when he was struck and killed by a delivery truck. The driver of the truck drove off, apparently unaware he has struck someone. He was located the next day.
Two other separate crashes that occurred within the first few weeks of 2017 also left two children seriously injured as they were each walking to their destinations. Assemblyman Joe Lentol, whose district includes one of those crash sites – Nassau Avenue and Russell Street – requested the DOT install a traffic light at that location because of the amount of traffic and danger the area exposes pedestrians to.
Some of the initiatives the DOT worked on last year included installing 400 new speed bumps and 775 Lead Pedestrian Intervals (LPI). LPIs give pedestrians a three- to seven-second head start at traffic signals.
Studies show LPIs can reduce pedestrian accidents by almost 60 percent. The DOT also worked on more than 100 intersections where left turns caused high car crash rates.
Recently, the mayor announced $400 million to be allocated for new street designs, lighting, marking, and other improvements. The DOT report also revealed that 70 percent of the pedestrian deaths that happen in the city are caused by reckless and dangerous driving behaviors.
The funds will also be used to increase the number of crossing guards, as well as allow additional police on the roads to crack down on reckless drivers.