New York Pedestrian Safety

How safe are New York pedestrians?

According to an end-of-year report from the New York City Police Department, 1,306 pedestrians were hurt or killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2012, with 16 deaths. It turns out that this is actually positive news for the city.

According to a January 2013 Department of Transportation report, the number of pedestrian fatalities and serious injuries was down significantly since 2001 – by 28 percent. And the reduction becomes more significant if one looks at earlier numbers.

For example, the worst years for pedestrian fatalities were between 1920 and 1940. In the decade 1920-1929, the number of pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents was 11.7. In the next decade, 1930-1939, the number declined slightly, to 9.6 pedestrian fatalities per 100,000 residents.

And the number has been declining ever since. In the decade 2000-2009, pedestrian fatalities were at their lowest number ever, with a fatality rate of 2.0 per 100,000 residents.

In short, the overall picture looks good. New Yorkers can be confident that their streets are getting safer. However, not everything is wonderful, and the city cannot afford to relax its efforts to improve pedestrian safety. For example, pedestrian accidents continue to be the most frequent cause of child injury fatalities in the city. More statistics tell this story:

  • Transportation – motor vehicles, buses, subways and trucks – was the biggest cause of child injury deaths in the city from 2001 through 2010. In this period, 144 children were killed.
  • Of the children killed in transportation accidents, 93 (63 percent) were pedestrians.
  • The most common contributing factors were driver inattention and children running into the street from between parked cars.

The situation is even worse for seniors than it is for children. Statistics from Transportation Alternatives show that Manhattan seniors are 40 times more likely to be killed in pedestrian accidents than children. Put another way, seniors make up only 12 percent of the overall population, but accounted for 39 percent of New York City pedestrian fatalities between 2002 and 2006.

The city is working on several initiatives to improve pedestrian safety for children, seniors and everyone else who uses the sidewalks and streets of New York. One effort, unveiled in January 2013, is a plan to reduce left-turn options at intersections with the worst pedestrian fatality records.

Why? It turns out that pedestrians are far more likely to be seriously injured or killed in accidents involving vehicles making left turns – three times more likely than in right-turn accidents, in fact. Drivers tend to speed up when making left turns in the face of oncoming traffic. They are more likely to be distracted by oncoming traffic and less likely to see pedestrians in the crosswalk. The city has implemented several pilot projects to eliminate left turns. After eliminating left turns on Allerton Avenue in the Bronx, pedestrian injuries fell by 48 percent.

Other initiatives include re-engineering the worst streets and intersections and testing the pros and cons of reducing the city’s speed limit to 20 mph in some neighborhoods. Fixing the problem of pedestrian deaths and injuries in New York is complex. Many competing needs, including the need for bike lanes, the need to provide and maintain curb cuts, the cost of big engineering projects and other issues must be factored into any large-scale solution to the problem of pedestrian accidents.

The civil justice system plays an important role in the effort to improve pedestrian safety. When juries hold drivers accountable for violating safety rules and causing harm to pedestrians, they send an important message to everyone in the community: “Unsafe driving will not be tolerated!”

If you see an unsafe condition that could hurt pedestrians, report it. Call 311 or this law firm.

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